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At this point you may have noticed something as retarded as it is awesome: Both the gun fight and the fist fight have exactly the same sound effects! This can only mean one of two things: Either the Pakistani punch out bullets (which would account for the solitary gun. It's just superfluous; when your fists are firearms, pistols are little more than condoms for your deadly intentions) or else literally every sound in Pakistani--from the crying of a newborn babe to the sizzling of a hot pan on a quiet Sunday morn--is gunfire.—Cracked review of Lollywood movie 'Kalka'
Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. In videogames, both the constraints of space and simple practicality mean that there's a limited number of sound effects available, and this number is less than the number of actions a player can perform. So one sound effect will often be triggered by multiple actions. At its best, this is barely noticeable. Sure, the sound isn't exactly right, but it's close enough. Sometimes, though, this can get a little blatant.
For instance, if you're driving a car around, crashing into a metal warehouse could give you a "hitting hollow metal" sound effect. Which is perfect. Then, hitting a wooden building gives you the same effect. Not quite right, but close enough. Next, you hit a dirt cliff. Same sound. At this point, the Limited Sound Effects have become noticeable.
This trope is present in almost every videogame, and is generally an Acceptable Break From Reality. Space constraints mean that it would be impossible to have every possible sound effect a player could make in the game. And even if it were possible, the time it would take to do so is probably better spent doing something else. Besides, as games become more complex, and allow the character more actions, especially those of the Die, Chair, Die! variety, it's harder for the designers to even guess what sound effects a player might need during a game. The only real way to avert this trope entirely is to make a game incredibly simple (how many sounds can you make in Pac-Man, anyway?) or so linear the player can only carry out certain actions. (Well, you could use a sound engine where sounds are procedurally generated, but nobody's even managed to do that in sufficiently universal fashion with scientific supercomputers... Yet.)
There are two broad categories of Limited Sound Effects: First, sound effects that are reused even in places where the sound may be inappropriate, and sound effects that are reused so often, (such as enemy taunts), that they become annoying and threaten to break the player's Suspension of Disbelief, as the same exact sound would never occur that often in Real Life. Possibly the most pervasive form of this trope is NPC voices, especially Mooks and their pain/death sounds or generic taunts and such. Even in the most advanced games each type of Mook tends to has a single set of stock sounds, so they all sound the same when they get shot.
Out of Place Sound Effects
- Hitting things with your sword in The Legend of Zelda games will usually only produce two different sounds: A clanging, "metal-on-metal" sound for stiff walls, and a lighter "clink" for hollow walls you can bomb down. In some games, wooden objects will get their own sound (a kind of hollow whump), but that's still the same whether you hit a tree or a crate.
- Later Legend of Zelda games do similar things with the Hookshot and other weapons. ('Clank'? It's a leaf.)
- Blocks in Wild Arms puzzles always make the same sound when you push them, regardless of what type of material you're pushing them over. One would expect that futuristic glossy tiles, old stone floors, and dirt would all make different sounds, but no.
- Castlevania uses the same whip noise no matter what object they're hitting, fleshy zombies, armor, walls, skeletons, ectoplasm, etc.
- City of Heroes does this to varying degrees- regardless of whether you're hitting a zombie or a giant robot, you get the same sound effect for your attack. What's more noticeable (because it's limited) is the sound of walking. While there are several different sounds (metal, carpet, and a generic hard surface) these appear to be less granular than the floor detail: you can find yourself suddenly running across a linoleum floor to the muted thuds of carpet, or dashing through a particularly large planter while listening to hardwood flooring.
- And then there's the Arachnos Fliers (huge transport gunships) in City of Villains that, to this day, still use the creaking wooden door sound for its access hatches.
- In Beyond Good and Evil, crashing the hoverboat into other boats, building and land all gives you the same metal sound. I suppose you could argue the boat is making that sound, but the boat has a large rubber bumper that should protect the metal from impact.
- In Sam and Max games, shooting random objects always gives the same pinging bullet sound. Lampshaded at one point in Chariots of the Dogs, if you shoot the right thing: "An iron pinata? I think someone is missing the point."
- In One Must Fall 2097 punching or kicking another mecha causes a clanging metal sound. Burn it with your Pyros, and you hear the same CLANGG.
- This a bit jarring when you realize that custom hit sounds were implemented for various stages, as well as some of the other robot's special attacks.
- Flying units in the Amiga version of Lords of Chaos make the same clip-clop sound as walking units when they move. This kind of stands out when it's otherwise more complex than the Commodore 64 version, which has different sounds for walking and flying.
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has many such limited sound effects, for example, the sound for water spraying from a fire hose, water spraying from a fire hydrant, a boat skipping on water, and even the sound of a car scraping against a wall are one and the same.
- Superman for the Nintendo 64 has the sound of a bullet ricocheting that plays when Superman takes a health pick-up.
Overly-Repetitive Sound Effects
- The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion contains a vast open world populated by hundreds of people. There's a total of about 5 voices among them, aside from the one character voiced by Patrick freakin' Stewart. (Whose death is the impetus for the beginning of the game. Oh well.)
- And the other one voiced by Boromir.
- NPCs in Mass Effect have about three combat taunt: ENEMIES EVERYWHERE! GO GO GO! I WILL DESTROY YOU!!!!. They like to say a taunt about once every... 2 seconds? So you will hear those three sound clips A LOT. Strangely, they recorded multiple voices saying the same three taunts.
- Mass Effect 2 isn't nearly as bad about this as its predecessor, but it still has some sound effects that repeat way too much, especially since your allies now call their attacks. Yes, Jacob, I understood that gravity was one mean mother the first fifty times you used Pull, you asshole!
- I KNOW THIS HURTS YOU, SHEPARD
- If you think recycled sound effects within a single game are bad, imagine sound effects being re-used across multiple games. This is exactly the case with Act Raiser, Soul Blazer, and Illusion of Gaia. Enix re-used numerous sound effects in two or more of those games, such as taking damage, dealing damage, projectiles being fired, thunder, life bars being refilled, menu selection confirmations, cursor movements, and probably more.
- The Gameboy Advance version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets uses the same cry for both the half-dozen trolls scattered throughout the various levels and the basilisk.
- Almost every piece of machinery (especially lifts) in Tales of Symphonia makes the same whirring noise while running. It's a little jarring for the amusement park train to have the same sound effect as the conveyor belts of doom.
- Somewhat justified in any Fighting Game, as they usually don't have the space on the disk to make a battle cry for each attack.
- In Jade Cocoon every single Minion has the same death scream.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 has the same voice clip of "Hey." for more than half of the male townspeople in the game.
- "Heavy Rain" uses the same three "Jason!" and "Shawn!" voice clips at random.
- The SNES version of the original Killer Instinct, like most fighting games of that era, announced the name of whatever fighter chosen at the character selection screen. However, this particular game used the same sound clip for both Cinder and Thunder. (It sounded like a constipated "UHN-derrrrrr".)
- Averted in the Half Life series, where every texture is associated with a material, and every material has a different set of sound effects for things like crowbar impact, bullet impact, and footsteps. Other forms of the trope, such as limited NPC voices, are still present, however the variety of the lines and background chatter is quite large and well thought through, often giving hints to what's really going on.
- Ditto for Myst IV, in which every single thing within reach of your character produces a distinctive sound when rapped with your virtual knuckles or trod upon by your virtual feet.
- The original Alone in The Dark came as close to averting this trope as technology could allow at the time. Footstep sounds changed depending on whether the character was walking on wooden floorboards, rugs or tiles, sounds echoed when in the underground tunnels... while most of this is taken for granted nowadays, back in 1992 it was a remarkable achievement.
- Both (optionally) averted and played straight in the indie RPG Mount and Blade. There is an option to turn on 'variable sounds', which means that exactly the same action (firing a crossbow, say) can produce a slightly different sound each time, seemingly by simply altering the rate of the playback. NPC voices, however, are pretty repetitive.
- The Freeware and Independent game scenes (both Eastern and Western) use the sound libraries of popular development suites so often that they are no longer disparaged (even in titles that are otherwise of triple A presentation value) and custom effects of sufficient quality are treated as works of art in themselves.