Spoiler WarningIn all of the great stories throughout time, the protagonist seems to be doomed to suffer some sort of adversity in which they are powerless to prevent destiny from striking down a friend, mentor, sidekick, or companion. It's no surprise that in story-driven games, players now have to suffer the same misfortune and stand impotently by as characters they have grown up with or fought alongside, are subject to an irrevocable twist of fate.
The title of this week’s Top Five should give a clear hint that all of the characters featured have met some sort of fate that the player was unable to prevent. In describing the circumstances, and the ultimate fate, it will be necessary to give away some of the details of each of the storylines. We will be revisiting Halo: Reach, Crysis 2, Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, Batman: Arkham City, Mafia II, Portal 2, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Therefore, SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned.
In this list, we have decided to look at those characters that, despite everything, the player was always powerless to save from whatever fate ultimately befell them.
In putting the list together, it would have been easy to re-visit some of the past tear-jerker moments as a number of those involved characters meeting untimely ends. However, to avoid repetition, we have decided to stay away from those titles and stories, and come up with a list that is little different.
#5. Sgt. Paul Jackson - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Achievements
In the usual blockbuster style CoD mission, the player was given the assignment to rescue a downed pilot. After the mission was completed, there was a mad rush to make it to the safety of the evacuation helicopter. As the chopper takes off, the player turns just in time to see a nuclear explosion behind them. The ensuing blast wave shocks the chopper into a terminal spin and sends it crashing. In the final moments, the player can only crawl from the wreckage with the sound of ragged breathing in the background, control is relinquished, and the screen fades to black as Jackson finally succumbs. No act of god, and no last minute reprieve. This time the player's character is KIA. For most, encountering the demise of Sgt. Jackson it was a defining and memorable "what the … ???" moment.
#4. Joe Barbaro - Mafia II Achievements
Without Joe Barbaro there wouldn't be Mafia 2. Joe's role was pivotal throughout the game in a number of key moments. It was Joe that introduced the players character, Vito Scaletta, to a life of crime after returning to a debt-ridden family towards the end of WWII. Vito and Joe rise through the ranks, and together become "made-men" in the Falcone family. Whilst Vito is a thoughtful and careful character, Joe is the hot-headed character living his mafia lifestyle to the fullest. Inevitably, Joe's rashness instigates a war between the local triads and mafia families and leaves the pair caught up in the midst of it all. This one moment seals Joe's fate and after the completion of the final shootout, Joe and Vito are driven away to celebrate their success with Vito in the limousine and Joe in the car behind. During the closing cinematic, the player is powerless and can only watch as the car carrying Joe turns off on a different route. Vito is simply told that "Joe wasn't part of our deal". Although Joe's fate is not actually seen, given that the car is heading to a previous burial ground and the dramatic way that the message is delivered, it can be assumed it was not going to end well for Joe. Having lived a Mafioso life, Joe ultimately suffered a typical Mafioso death.
#3. Spartan-B312 aka Noble Six - Halo: Reach Achievements
In Halo: Reach, the Spartans of Noble squad were making a stand for the sake of not only one planet or colony, but the whole of the human race. Whilst the fate of the planet Reach was well known to fans of Halo, the exact details were not, and players took the role of Spartan-B312 aka Noble Six in a mission to save Dr. Halsey and the precious cargo that is the key to the future survival of humanity. Over the course of the game's campaign, the members of Noble squad pay the ultimate price as one by one they fall in combat. In the end, the player is left as the only remaining squad member on the planet, making a desperate last man stand against the ever increasing numbers of covenant troops. Despite the best and most gallant of attempts, the player is overrun, eventually falling under a multitude of Energy Sword blades. The end scene shows the soldier’s battle marked helmet on grass with a brief eulogy reminding the player of the importance and significance of their sacrifice.
#2. The Joker - Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360) Achievements
In the final showdown of Batman: Arkham City, the fatal disease that Joker contracted through the abuse of Titan finally catches up with him. His plan to save himself using a Lazarus Pit has been foiled by Batman, and the remaining vial of serum is broken when Joker himself attacks Batman. Cleverly written, it is the Joker's own actions that condemn him to his fate. The player (as Batman) is not given the chance to save him. In the final scene, the last dialog between the age old adversaries is reminiscent of the comics and the film, highlighting the strange relationship between hero and foe. Watching Batman carry Joker's body left many fans in denial, waiting for the next caper, waiting for a punch line that never came. For a title that many gamers and fans considered integral to the franchise, to kill off the arch-nemesis was seen as a bold and surprising storyline.
#1. Wheatley - Portal 2 Achievements
Wheatley stole hearts and stole the show when he burst onto the scene in Portal 2. The lovable little robot provided the comic relief and some of the most memorable moments throughout the game. However, over the course of events, Wheatley takes over the system that had been vacated by GLaDOS and begins to succumb to her latent influence. In a case of absolute power corruption, Wheatley loses his affable bumbling character and becomes a new GLaDOS inspired antagonist. The player remains powerless to prevent the corruption and can only watch as Wheatley descends into a homicidal overseer, subjecting Chell to new "Wheatley Science" tests. In the final battle, Chell manages to pry Wheatley from GLaDOS’ system and the two are ejected through a portal to the moon’s surface. Removed from the core influence, we see the former personality return. Sadly, before the player has a chance to welcome back the restored Wheatley, GLaDOS knocks him from Chell's hands and sends him spinning into space. For those that hung around after the credits, we see a truly repentant Wheatley floating helplessly in space, fully back to his old self and yet sadly beyond salvation from the player.
Dark Ones - Metro 2033 Achievements / Metro: Last Light Achievements
At the end of Metro 2033 the player is faced with the choice of saving or wiping out the colony of the aliens known only as 'The Dark Ones'. Those that had already read the book knew the correct decision to make, saving the aliens. However, at the start of Metro: Last Light the decision had been taken out of the players hands, and the story continued with the alien community having been decimated through a nuclear explosion.
Alcatraz - Crysis 2 Achievements / Crysis 3 Achievements
At the start of Crysis 2 the player takes on the role of a stricken soldier, Alcatraz, who is rescued and subsequently sealed into the game's iconic nanosuit by the character, Prophet. Eventually, as the story reaches its climax, the player realises that they were not quite who, or what, they thought they were.
So these are the top five and the honorable mentions, but who did we miss? Who were the ones that you couldn't save?
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!