Welcome to a special edition of D-Pad’s Joystick Reviews. This time I’ll be taking a very different approach to my usual reviews. Instead of a game, I’ll be talking about a control scheme found in many games from yesteryear. Tank Controls. This is also written in a more professional manner, so it is easier to understand. I hope you enjoy this issue of D-Pad’s Joystick Reviews.
Over the years there is one control-scheme that is constantly brought up, only to be bashed…tank controls. I’ve really never understood the hate towards them. In fact, for me at least, I find tank controls as some of the most precise controls in gaming.
For those of you who do not know what tank controls are…let me explain:
In game that uses tank controls, say…Resident Evil, the player is moved in what we’ll refer to as nontraditional standards. In traditional standards, the following rules apply…
If the player presses towards the screen or away from the screen, the character will move accordingly. If the player pressed left or right of the screen, the character will progress in those directions as well. This is often the case with games that are either on a two-dimensional plane or when the player has full/set control over the camera angles.
In games with tank controls, however, players are usually given stagnant images to represent their playing field. These images are known as“prerenderd backgrounds“. Years ago, developers would use this technique to make games appear to have a higher graphical quality, when in reality, they were just as strong as any other game on the console. Over time, many companys would learn how to use preredenered backgrounds, but still allow traditional control schemes.
In the beginning however, games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill would take a nontraditional approach to the controls. I will now explain exactly how tank controls work and how they differ from more traditional control schemes…
In a tank-control game, you character’s movements never change, regardless of the camera angle. For example pressing UP on the d-pad will always make your character progress forward. While pressing DOWN on the d-pad will always make your character move backwards.
This tends to be simple enough for most players. The problem really arises when trying to move your character on screen to the left or right. Under traditional standards, this would require you to press LEFT or RIGHT on the d-pad. However, players will find that pressing LEFT or RIGHT on the d-pad while playing a tank control style game, does not move the character in either direction. It instead turns the character towards that direction.
This can be confusing to some and may take some getting used to. Often, the player is expecting to turn to the left side of the screen when pressing LEFT on the d-pad. However, the pictures above are a clear example that this is not always the case. Notice how while pressing LEFT on the d-pad, the character turns towards the right side of the screen. That is because the character is turning to their left, not yours. So in order to progress to the left side of the screen, you would want to turn your character by pressing RIGHT on the d-pad & then UP to move in the desired direction.
Many bash this control scheme as “over-complicating things” or “being too difficult to move around”. This perception was changed drastically with the release of Resident Evil 4.
Whether the bashers at hand realized it or not, RE4 actually uses the same exact control scheme. However, by placing the camera in an “over-the-shoulder” view, it hid the difficulty some faced when attempting to turn.
There are many games, mostly on the Playstation 1 & 2, that practice this control scheme. I find it extraordinarily precise. For me, this is my preferred way of playing games. It may take some practice to master, but being able to turn & swirve past enemies comes fairly easily with tank-controls.
I was curious what everyone here feels about tank controls. I know there are many who aren’t fans, but…care to elaborate? I’d also love to hear from those who do enjoy the control scheme & share with us why.
Thanks for reading.