Destined to die
You know those characters in games that exist for the sole purpose of getting murdered (often in unimaginably horrible ways)? Like the Red Shirts in Star Trek, their involuntary sacrifice typically marks that pivotal moment in a game when shit's about to get real. And you know what? Those characters don't get enough recognition.
How often have we saved the world without giving a nod to those felled along the way? Basically never. We thought it nigh time to pay tribute to gaming's Red Shirts--those sideline characters destined to meet an untimely end for the betterment of the hero. This one's for you, fallen champions. Thanks for all your, uh... dying.
Richard L. Jenkins (Mass Effect)
Poor Richard Jenkins, he never stood a chance. Little did he know that his mission on Eden Prime, the very colony in which he was born, would kick off a series of events that would oh so very nearly lead to the extinction of all life in the galaxy. Jenkins was unquestioning in his duty and loyal to his superiors. He had a bright career ahead of him as an Alliance marine, too--until Commander Shepard accidentally positioned him in front of some Geth drones.
Their lasers made quick work of the poor sap, ripping through his shields and zapping the life from his body. What a waste. We've been kept up nights wondering what could've been had Shepard commanded Kaidan to take point instead. But fate is a cruel mistress--the horrible sort that would let a good man fall and Kaidan survive. Tragic.
Brad Vickers (Resident Evil 3)
You know that helicopter pilot that abandoned the S.T.A.R.S. members at the onset of Resident Evil? That's Brad Vickers. While he's basically the Biggest Coward Ever in the original, he plays the sought after part of Guy Who Gets Owned By Nemesis in Resident Evil 3.
Seriously, his sole purpose is to be the pinata that Nemesis stabs through the face hole with razor-sharp body tentacles. Brad may have been a huge jerk (and he had already been bitten by a zombie anyway), but we have to give him a nod. If not for him, Jill would've been the one to eat that nasty tentacle sandwich.
Tutorial squad (XCOM: Enemy Unknown)
Anyone who played 2012's Game of the Year finalist XCOM: Enemy Unknown is likely familiar with the gut-wrenching sting that comes with losing squad members in battle. This is permanent death we're talking about here; there are no take-backs, especially when playing on Ironman mode.
But losing a squad member is always the result of a tactical error on the player's end. It's entirely possible to play through the game without losing a single soldier--except for the tutorial squad. Three of your four starting troopers are guaranteed to eat alien plasma, a death we wish upon no one. Even a perfect game will always end with three randomized names etched into the memorial that celebrates the loyalty of those felled in battle. Chilling.
The Carmine Brothers (Gears of War)
Alright, so calling the Carmine Brothers of Gears of War fame Red Shirts is a bit of a stretch. We think they deserve some recognition, though, considering they're possibly the unluckiest bunch to ever walk the ravaged streets of Sera. We first met Anthony in Gears of War, where the enthusiastic but amateurish soldier took a sniper bullet to the dome. Fitting, considering he'd been voted "most likely to get shot" after graduating from the academy.
Then we met his younger brother, Benjamin, in Gears of War 2. Upon realizing he was Anthony's brother, we hoped the young prodigy could exact revenge for his sibling's death. He had a couple close calls, but just when we thought he was finally in the clear, he fell into the gaping maw of a Rift Worm and was murdered by parasitic Nemacytes.They used acid to melt him to death. It was awful. At least Clayton Carmine survived, if only because gamers voted he should in a contest.
Franco Delille (Dead Space 2)
Some recognize Franco Delille as the main character of Dead Space Ignition, but most know him as that guy at the beginning of Dead Space 2 who gets impaled through the back by a Necromorph. The dude only survives for a whopping 36 seconds before getting a cork-sized section of his forehead ripped open--and all you can do is watch in horror as he begins to transform into an awful monster.
Franco is a textbook example of a Red Shirt, as his only role is to make players aware of the harrowing fate of those caught unaware by scary space alien things. Brief though his existence may be, those first 36 seconds are crucial to Isaac's survival. You can pretend to mourn Franco's demise all you want, but we know what you were thinking while he died a horribly painful death: "Better you than me, sucker."
UNSC Marines (Halo)
Master Chief is often given credit for saving the universe. Rightly so. But he didn't fight the war against the Covenant alone. How many countless UNSC Marines gave their lives to ensure the survival of mankind? How many Orbital Drop Shock Troopers rocketed into the middle of a firefight to reinforce dwindling numbers of allies, even in the face of certain defeat?
These forces played an instrumental role in humanity's continued survival. And while they occasionally down a Grunt or two, their presence on the battlefield often serves only to make virtual firefights seem larger in scale than they actually are. Indeed, they're fodder for Covenant artillery strikes--and a great source of ammunition and supplies for Master Chief.
Maverick Security Cyborgs (Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance)
Raiden and his fancy suit-wearing cyborg pals were on a routine protection assignment in an African country when they ran into rival PMC Desperado Enterprises. For Raiden (and the player), that encounter resulted in a wonderful combat tutorial in which enemy combatants were reduced to swiss cheese. But for Raiden's allies, that encounter meant a brutal death that showcased Sundowner's fearsome power.
The two cyborgs (who looked an awful lot like Morpheus from The Matrix) discovered the hard way that dual swords are no joke. Morpheus Number One got his arms sliced off before getting cut up into multiple chunks, while Morpheus Number Two got his head chopped off in one nasty strike. It's a shame both were killed before either of them could say "stop trying to hit me and hit me." That would've been pretty sweet.
Scientists and guards (Half-Life)
Oh, Mr. Scientist, did you ever predict that your dedication to the laws of the universe would someday lead to death by alien? Could you have possibly known that you were coded into being only so that Gordon Freeman would know where military turrets had been placed without running into them himself? Did you even have a name?
And poor guardsman (not you, Barney, you escaped)--your life, however brief, was appreciated in that moment you put down a headcrab. You faced your fear, looked death straight in the eye, and fired and fired and fired until your clips ran dry. Goodbye now, blue guard, and scientist in white. You are gone but never forgotten for your role in this fight. We suck at eulogies.
Everyone (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
A dangerous mission
Who would make your list of gaming's overlooked Red Shirts? Are there any you feel are obvious omissions from ours? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more, check out How eSports is shaping the future of gaming or The Top 7... Most disturbing things about the Zelda universe.