Follow TV Tropes


Tank Controls

Go To
Even in a Zombie Apocalypse, you can't move and turn at the same time.

Controls in a video game (usually from the Fifth Generation) that don't allow you to turn and move forward at the same time, much like a tank or a tractor.

At one time, turning a tank meant putting the treads on one side in neutral or reverse while the other side continued forward. Because of this, tanks couldn't really move forward while turning — they had to stop completely, rotate, and then continue on their way. Modern tracked vehicles have largely overcome this with gearing that allows the treads to run at slightly different speeds, which allows for graceful turns, but sharp turns typically still require the tank to stop moving forward.

Humans, obviously, do not need to do this. We can go any of 360 degrees while going forward, backwards, sideways, whichever way we please. In early three-dimensional third-person videogames, developers had to deal with the camera for the first time. While directional motion seems simple enough, if the camera is locked in the direction that the character is facing, then a problem develops. Pressing left on the D-pad causes the character to face left, which causes the camera to face left. Since the user may still be pressing left, what left means now has changed, which will cause the character and camera to face left again.

The alternative is to have a camera that is somewhat independent of the character's facing. But then the user would need some way to express control over the camera as an object, since it would be possible to have the character's facing (and therefore any firearms the character has) pointed decidedly off-screen.

Tank-like controls made it possible to have control over a character without having the character face a different direction from the camera.

Another reason this came into being was with games that had fixed cameras which changed position and orientation as the character moved from room to room. These were generally games with rendered backgrounds with 3D characters on top. If controls were camera-relative, then the direction that pressing "left" took you would frequently shift, sometimes radically. However, if the controls were tank-like, then "up" is always the character's forward. If you leave a room pressing "up", then "up" will still move the character away from the room on the next screen.

Because many Survival Horror games used prerendered backgrounds and a fixed camera, they were among the first to adopt this style. This led some to believe that this trope applies specifically to that genre.

This may also include games where you CAN turn while moving, but moving forward and backward are still noticeably separate from moving left and right. Compare a game like Grand Theft Auto III to a game like Resident Evil 4. The controls in the latter are very distinctly more tank-like than in the former.

Tank-controls were mostly phased out of full-3D games after Free Rotating Camera gained traction, particularly with dual-analog gamepads.


    open/close all folders 

    Action Game 
  • Inverted in an obscure tank shooting game Assault Rigs where the tank can strafe and generally the controls resemble a First-Person Shooter despite some levels has the choice of playing 20th century looking tanks.
  • Inverted in World of Tanks, of all places, with many tanks unable to turn in place. However, slower tanks may act like they obey this trope, coming almost to a complete halt while turning.
  • Likewise in its competitor War Thunder, many tanks turn horrendously slowly when stationary due to the brake-based steering; if you're stationary, you only have low-RPM torque to move the opposite tread. You can actually manually control the tank's clutch, transmission, and brakes.

    Action Adventure 
  • Mega Man Legends used these controls. Mega Man could turn while moving, but only barely, which put him two generations ahead of the Resident Evil games on the same console. But he still had trouble with free movement. Mega Man Legends 2 had Dual Shock support, and using the default control setting (A), movement and camera controls were basically the same as any other third person or first person shooter today. Mega Man is still a little stiff with the controls though.
  • Onimusha started off with this control scheme, with the first two games requiring movement to be done this way. Due to the fact that its combat was Hack and Slash-oriented, many players found this to be a problem, and in response, the third game had the option of using analog control included, while Dawn of Dreams eliminated it entirely. The 2019 remaster of the first game adds in free movement as well.
  • The Last Ninja has a variation of this; pushing the joystick in a cardinal direction moves you that way independent of your orientation, while to rotate, you have to circle the stick.
  • Grand Theft Auto (Classic) had tank-like controls even when on foot. Since aiming is based on where you are facing, this becomes most apparent when being chased by cops and you need to turn around to shoot them.
  • Tomb Raider stuck with its fairly sluggish tank controls for five games. These controls made gunfights awkward since there's no easy way to strafe around enemies, but they still have their defenders due to them being pretty precise for the platforming sections. This became apparent when Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness moved away from the tank controls and actually made platforming far more difficult due to how slippery Lara's movement was.
  • Hard Edge was very much made in the same vein as Resident Evil, complete with the prerendered backgrounds.
  • Omikron: The Nomad Soul has tank controls until you get into a gunfight, when it shifts to more standard FPS-style controls.

    Adventure Game 
  • Grim Fandango was probably the first "old-school" graphical adventure game to use this control method, with Escape from Monkey Island (which used the same engine) following suit. Not being action-intense games, the somewhat awkward controls were not quite as much of a hindrance as they are in other titles, but the transition from traditional point-and-click movement was still rather jarring. The Remastered version lets you turn it off, and you can get a Trophy by playing the whole game with the tank controls on.
  • Shenmue could never quite decide if it wanted to have tank controls or not. Unusually for a 3D game, you don't use the analogue stick to move around, as it controls the camera, so you're stuck with the D-Pad. Pressing up makes you walk forward, while pressing left or right has you walk forward a little bit as you slowly turn around to face the direction you pointed the D-Pad in. The same idea of having to turn around and then move forward is still there, but it feels a little bit smoother, though less precise.

    Arcade Game 
  • The Arcade Game Battlezone, which is fitting since the thing being controlled is, in fact, a tank. The original arcade cabinets have a one-dimensional analog stick for each tread; most rereleases used simpler controls.

    Beat Em Up 
  • Used in God Hand, made by Clover and published by (guess who?) Capcom. Gene cannot freely walk and right, but his ability to turn 180 degrees instantly and his sideways dodging helps make the controls feel a lot less painful than you'd expect in a Beat 'em Up. (He can also turn while running.)
  • The Sword Beam and One-Hit Kill Dark Side modes in the first No More Heroes give Travis tank controls for the duration.
  • The video game adaptation of The Crow: City of Angels has these. Up always makes you go forward, while you use left and right to turn your character. It's one of many reasons the game was hated.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Old FPS games such as Doom, GoldenEye and Perfect Dark have tank controls as the default movement system due to hardware limitations. Strafing is possible, but it's its own separate button command - most often a toggle for the turn keys, meaning it's impossible to circle-strafe.
  • Back in the days when the mouse controls in FPS weren't a norm (see above), Russian gamers called those preferring the old-style controls "tractorists".
  • Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on the GameCube originally used tank controls, only allowing strafing when targeting an enemy, but they were replaced with more modern FPS controls in the Wii Compilation Rerelease, using the Nunchuck stick to move forward, backward and sideways while aiming with the Wiimote like in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

    Mecha Game 
  • Brigador is an isometric game where all the vehicles operate on tank controls. Vehicles take increased damage when attacked from the side or back, making mastering these controls important. Agravs can strafe unlike other vehicles, making them more mobile, but are still subject to damage multipliers from side and back attacks. The game received updates that let you change controls to screen-based directional inputs which you can set per vehicle type, though this can get tricky with non-agravs because some vehicles can't turn their guns 180 degrees. According to some dev talk, it was added in response to people mistaking Brigador as a twin-stick shooter.

    Platform Game 
  • Bubsy 3D utilized this control style, very much to its detriment.
  • Croc: Legend of the Gobbos has tank controls when being played with a D-Pad. If you play it using the analogue sticks however, the tank controls are gone and Croc simply moves where you point the analogue stick, yet he still moves as if he's controlled by tank controls, so if you want him to go left, he still has to turn around slowly before he's facing the direction you want to move in. Given that the game featured loads of very Tomb Raider-esque jumping puzzles, this was probably a deliberate design choice.
  • Rascal, released in 1998, suffered heavily from these, which combined with the poor camera, made the game difficult to play. In an unusual variant of this, if the player pressed the left or right directional buttons before the character came to a complete stop, the character would keep moving forward long after the player released the forward button. The game was not originally meant to use these, but the publisher forced the developer to use them at the last minute for reasons basically amounting to "Look at this! It's called Tomb Raider! Isn't it ace?!", and the developer had no time to optimize the game for its new control scheme.

    Puzzle Game 
  • "New Adventures" levelpack in Baba is You featured "3D" property that makes a single object controllable. Left and right will turn the object while up moves it forward. Since the game is turn-based, turning and moving does not happen simultaneously.
  • Katamari Damacy. Although unlike most of the examples here, the controls for Katamari feels like controlling an RC car.
  • Stephen's Sausage Roll allows you to move forward or backwards, or steer but not both at the same time. This plays a key part on solving many puzzles.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • The controls in the NES port of Ikari Warriors were butchered so that you move in a circular motion towards instead of directly facing the direction you push.
  • Vindicators
  • An Older Than the NES example is Combat for the Atari 2600.
  • Defender, a game set in gravitationally oriented 2-D Space, uses two buttons to control horizontal movement: Thrust and Reverse. This control scheme is practically unique to this game and its arcade sequel, Stargate; many ports and clones replace it with more straightforward directional controls.

    Simulation Game 
  • While not controlled directly, the titular Sims from The Sims distinctly often can't move and turn at the same time. Often they make awkward 180 degree movement in response to turning into opposite direction to the object they want to use.

    Strategy Game 
  • Defense of the Ancients and Dota 2, despite being isometric games, have a subtle form of this: making tight turns results in slight lag of a fraction of a second while your character stops moving forwards and accelerates backwards or sideways. This minor delay will get you killed, either by delaying you just long enough after you run into the entire enemy team and hurriedly click the other direction to let them get into stun range and crush you, or by preventing you from moving altogether when you run into some creeps and your character attempts to meander around them.

    Survival Horror 
  • Alone in the Dark appears to be the progenitor of this trope and, combined with its use of pre-rendered backgrounds, inspired lots of other action-adventure games to follow in its footsteps, particularly those in the survival horror genre.
  • Resident Evil popularized this trope, due mainly to the prerendered background style that they also popularized.
    • Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, and Resident Evil 0 all use stop-and-turn tank controls.
    • The N64 port of Resident Evil 2 included optional 3D-style controls, which nicely demonstrated to all the people clamoring for them why they weren't used for the classic Resident Evil games in the first place: Your point of orientation constantly shifts as the fixed camera angles change, making it harder to avoid and dodge enemies when a perspective shift suddenly means you're now moving in an unplanned new direction, and likely smack-dab into the zombie you were trying to juke.
    • Resident Evil 4 also uses them, to an extent. You can turn while moving, but moving "back" does not make you run towards the camera, but rather makes Leon walk backwards. It's still very tank-like. It feels a bit better because of the integration with the shooting controls. You can turn while moving, but not very well. There is no strafing. You must stand in place to shoot. Regardless, the return of tank controls was not very popular.
    • Resident Evil 5 uses the same controls, which were even less popular due to the game being on newer consoles, and therefore supposedly warranting more modern gameplay innovations. Although strafing has been added, you still can't move and shoot at the same time.
    • Resident Evil 6 has finally done away with tank controls (although you can tinker around to get them back).
  • The Capcom-developed Dino Crisis series also had tank controls, though given it's basically Resident Evil with dinosaurs, it's expected.
  • Evil Dead: Hail to the King also had tank controls.
  • Silent Hill protagonists also tend to have tank controls, though, thanks to 2D controls, it's on a much lesser scale from 2 and onwards.
    • Silent Hill: Origins averted this by having only 3D controls, like the N64 version of RE2, this combined with the dynamic camera angles made dodging enemies a nightmare, since Travis would almost always pivot back and run right into them as soon as the camera switched perspective.
  • Galerians, being a Resident Evil-alike, uses the variation on this control scheme in which the main character can do some limited turning while moving.
  • Parasite Eve 2, in the wake of the survival horror craze of the late 90s, followed in Resident Evil's footsteps by using fixed camera angles and this style of control, which was a huge departure from the first game's play style.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64, to an extent - pushing the joystick to the left or right caused Dash to rotate rather than just face that direction. Strafing was only possible while holding in the use button, which made left and right strafe instead. Aiming while shooting was likewise set on a different button that repurposed the movement controls for it, so aiming while moving was only technically possible in the PC version, where you could aim in a direction and then freeze your point of aim in that direction while you moved.
  • The Syphon Filter series used these up until Dark Mirror.