In Vindictus there is a mild aversion with some of the boss fights, as some bosses will occasionally go into a stun state for no apparent reason by a chance improved by having low health. It is mainly played straight though, and there is actually a bonus in one battle for finishing the the first area's That One Boss using kicks
In Goldeneye 007, enemies have invisible hitpoint scores, and any weapon (including an explosive one) drains hitpoints. A sufficiently-durable enemy standing inside a fireball will show no signs of taking damage — until reaching 0 HP, at which point the corpse will go flying.
Addams Family Values averted with in the form of Fester's main weapon, a lightning attack much like the force lightning Sith use in Star Wars. The lower your health, the less damage the lightning did and the shorter its range was.
The Battlefield series plays this straight while on foot. You can be down to literally one hp point, but you will be able to function perfectly until you fall two feet and die. The vehicles on the other hand play this mostly straight, although damaged vehicles will smoke as they take more damage. If they catch on fire, they will only function for about ten more seconds before exploded.
The Project Reality mod averts this, damaged vehicles won't function well, and infantry will start to bleed out after taking so much damage. Bleed out enough, or take a lot of damage, your character vision will blur, and you have about a minute or so before becoming incapacitated.
Battlefield 3 averts this with vehicles, as they become disabled before being destroyed; this can happen even at relatively high HP values. Slight aversion for infantry too, as the vision of players at low health becomes black and white, making it harder to see, and that you lose accuracy... Though you still run just as fast with three bullets in the gut.
Played more than straight in The World Ends with You. The way HP works allows a partner to have less than 0 HP but all they'll do is complain and change their idle animation. Furthermore, some threads will even give you hefty stat bonuses while in this state. However, take enough damage and you lose the right to exist.
The Ratchet & Clank games do this, rather unfairly; Bosses show no signs of damage until they die, but Ratchet does. Ratchet's ears will droop and (when standing still) he will pant with exhaustion when he's low on nanotech, yes, but the effect is purely cosmetic and does not materially effect the player's control over him.
Half-Life: You can leap off cliffs, walk through corrosive agents, withstand nuclear fire, and take enough bullets that the lead alone should have rendered you immobile, but you can run around with 1hp left without penalty. Should you then walk through a puddle of too-hot coffee, you die a horrible death. Another example is that anybody who dies from crushing damage explodes spectacularly, even if the "crushing damage" is from a ceiling dropping to the point where even hunching slightly would have rendered it a non-issue.
Possibly justified by the HEV suit, if we're talking about Gordon Freeman. It's like mini-power armor and administers its own first-aid. As long as Gordon has the strength and the will to keep his body literally up and moving, it's supposed to keep him combat capable.
A clearer example might be that if a living entity and a dead entity are equally distant from an explosion, then the living one will be flung backwards injured but completely intact, while the dead one will be gibbed.
This is even more jarring with Half-Life 2's ragdoll physics: For example, if a rebel is being fired at by a gunship's high-powered machine gun, they will simply absorb the bullets until their health hits 0, at which point they die and are suddenly sent flying several dozen feet.
This was fixed in Team Fortress 2, where things like turrets, explosives, and the Heavy's minigun among others all have a great deal of force.
... And then un-fixed in the Left 4 Dead series; killing a special infected (especially the Hunter) often results in a comical flying body.
Then mostly re-fixed in the sequel, where most special infected just slump over when killed. Hunters, Chargers and Jockeys still tend to fly about when you kill them, though, likely due to how fast/jumpy their primary attacks are.
Subverted in Dystopia where getting hurt does not affect you performance at all until you lose all your armor. At that point, any damage results in significant knockback.
One example which isn't really as extreme but nonetheless especially noticeable would be the Hunters from Half-Life 2 Episode Two, because their health is such that they have exactly enough to just barely survive being hit by an RPG. Once they are hit by one, they can be killed by a single shot from the magnum.
A non-living example, both in the original and in Half-Life 2: Explosive crates and barrels, like many other destructible objects, have hit points. You can inflict all sorts of damage on them, and as long as their HP doesn't reach zero, they remain completely intact aside from looking a little marred. But so much as scratch one that's too close to zero and it suddenly explodes. They did, however, make it slightly more realistic in Half-Life 2 by allowing the barrels to catch on fire (usually from a nearby explosion) and explode in a delayed manner. Of course, seeing a barrel made of metal burn raises another issue, but that's a different trope.
Enemies in Parasite Eve melt into puddles of goo upon death. Nobody in game seems to realize the implications of this, as they're caught completely off-guard whenever a very non-melted boss gets back up. This could have been explained away by invoking Everything Fades for technical reasons, had it not been clearly visible in cutscenes. Oops, Plot Hole!
Averted and played straight in Resident Evil 4. Enemies can hit you with everything from explosives to 3' spiked claws without injury, unless the hit would kill you, in which case you get an "execution scene". However, you move slower, your aim is less focused, and clutch your abdomen when low on HP, and there is one enemy that will instantly decapitate you, no matter how healthy you are. Also, like Parasite Eve, enemies melt when they die, and everybody finds it strange when an enemy that didn't melt gets back up.
There are at least two enemies that can instantly kill you. One of which is the infamous chainsaw users (which come in both male and female flavors) and the other being the later stages of the parasite.
Likewise in Dead Space to a degree. It doesn't affect your speed too much but a game like this warrants not moving too quickly anyway.
Resident Evil plays the trope straight. You can run at full speed, even when your health is in the red, but the minute a zombie bird pecks at your last sliver of health, you die. The remake changes the health mechanic to be more like the more recent Resident Evil games where you move slower as you are more hurt. All of the games in the franchise still allow you to move heavy objects or jump across gaps regardless of your health.
Crashing the player ship in Wipeout XL/Wipeout 2097 causes the message "Critical Shield Failure" to appear. Also, the ship explodes, even if it was only grazing the wall at the time.
Averted in Resident Evil 2 and the Dino Crisis series, which instead use Game-Breaking Injury. When your health is about halfway depleted, your character will slow down slightly and start clutching his/her ribs or arm, when it gets a certain amount lower, they will be reduced to limping, and in Dino Crisis, Regina starts losing blood and can bleed to death.
The aversion becomes even more obvious (though still not perfectly realistic) in Resident Evil Outbreak, where your characters can be so crippled that they can't do anything except crawl feebly on the ground, only able to move properly once picked up by a teammate and healed up; they can't defend themselves when grounded, and the virus gauge sees a big jump in accelerated effect.
Resident Evil 6 plays with this. For the most part it averts this; any character whose health is completely depleted goes into a "dying" state, whether it is a zombie bite or an explosive round going off point blank(they automatically recover to standing in about 15 seconds, though not in good shape unless they heal). Then there are some attacks that can bypass the dying state and instantly kill no matter how much health the character had, for example the Ubistvo's moveset in general(chainsaws strike again!) and the Rasklapanje's grab. It also plays with this in vehicle sections, most notably in Chris's campaign. Chapter 3 ends with him riding a jeep hot in pursuit of a target. It plays out like a standard chase: if the vehicle is shot up by enemies rockets or bullets, it goes up in a blaze of glory; however the vehicle never takes any visible damage until it goes up. Scraping against walls depletes the gauge too, so there's nothing quite as hilarious as gently bumping a wall at 5 mph while navigating through a dark garage and seeing the pristine vehicle flip and explode.
Left 4 Dead had similar incapacitation up its sleeve, since it's also a game reliant on teamwork.
Silent Hill series: your character can get sliced and diced by demon children or bludgeoned or shot by demon nurses many times without external injury or disability, but when you're low on health, they keel over and die from being bitten by a bug or flicked by a mannequin. Pyramid Head has his One-Hit Kill overhand knife attack, which just has to miss James by a few inches to register (bad collision detection programming). And when James' health is low, PH just needs to administer a Touch of Death (which is normally a stranglehold attack).
In Silent Hill 4, Eileen will become slower, show more injuries and will walk faster into the giant blood blender at the end when she's injured by enemies.
Mega Man is completely fine with only one hit point left, even though the next hit will cause him to explode violently.
Note that in later series, the characters (who are robots, mind) actually show that they are injured while standing still if they are low on health, usually in the form of holding one arm as if it were injured and breathing heavily. This doesn't make them perform any worse, of course.
Can make some sense if you look at health as the containment field integrity for his power source.
In an in-game mix of this and being Stalked by the Bell, Grey/Ashe comes across a pair of capsules with associated timers - these are Prometheus and Pandora's capsules. The two are set to die if they aren't maintained at regular intervals, and Albert uses this as a sort of blackmail to keep them in line with his plot. The two are still standing despite the abuse Grey/Ashe give them after the fight against them, but Prometheus barely has enough time to voice how he'll resort to omnicide before he loses his shit. Pandora, as expected, times out about the same moment.
In the Battle Network games that had the Navi Customizer, you were always given a program called Under Shirt that would let you survive one fatal hit, leaving you with 1 HP. Get hit after that and you're instantly deleted.
Metroid: Samus Aran can stand in molten lava without permanent harm as long as she has energy left (and with the proper suit upgrade, without temporary harm), and can suffer shocks that would kill an ordinary woman... but once she's down to one point, bumping into a little spiked bug is lethal. This is possibly justified, however, as her health seems to equate to the life of her suit — in Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, it explodes when she runs out of health, and in every game it starts beeping an alarm when she's in critical condition. Given the environments she traverses in most of the games, losing her suit would be fatal (if not instantly so).
A better explanation is that after her suit is damaged it breaks (like we see in Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion). We're then left to assume that the Space Pirate who was just shooting her will take this chance to finish her off.
Note that the Captain N comics hang a lampshade on this. Samus gets damaged, and explains that her suit's power core has been breached, and it is about to explode.
Also note that in the final boss battles of both Super and Fusion, taking hits from the Big Bad in question causes Samus to drop to one knee for several seconds, panting painfully. That Power Armor can be quite heavy if the power is drained.
Also remember that Samus and the suit are connected at a fairly high level. If the suit runs out of power, it'd probably drain the life out of Samus as well in the process.
Metroid: Other M is the first to not have the suit explode if it runs out of energy. Instead, Samus simply falls over as the suit vanishes and leaves Samus' exposed body to her killers or environment. You can hear Samus breathing heavily if her energy is low but she can still perform lots of amazing feats, even with one energy point left.
Despite the "vivisection point" in the appropriately named Vivisector: Beast Inside, none of the enemies seem to really notice small things like huge chunks of flesh flayed from their torso, their entire skull exposed, or missing limbs until that final, decisive shot, and will keep on fighting like new until then. In fact, the German version of the game (currently the easiest to find through file-share, and which, due to German standards, is Bowdlerised) extends this further by not allow you to blow off any part of a human enemy, only the non-human ones, even when you take a nuke to their head.
Averted in the Fallout series of RPGs. One can target various locations on the enemy's body (such as the eyes and the groin), and crippling one of these areas has a direct and notable impact on gameplay. NPCs are also capable of getting scared and running away. Their deaths are still incredibly violent, though.
The Bloody Mess trait in those same games can be seen as a straight example of this trope, as it ensures everyone around you dies in the most gory way possible. (Technically speaking, every single death executes the animation for death by extreme overkill via that source). Just for fun.
The Bloody Mess trait is especially applicable in the more recent releases. Your enemy is about to die, you shoot them in the shoulder with a pistol or hit them in the face with a shaving blade and their limbs/head will violently explode into giblets (potentially the torso as well for absolute giblets). This is a great way to loot their bodies from even an eyeball if they're in inaccessible areas but bad if you have a head collection bounty.
Averted in Dwarf Fortress, as every creature works off a surprisingly complex wound-handling system, in that every hit does a certain amount of damage to a certain part of the body. Many of the kills are done with blood loss, usually either from severed limbs or hacked out chunks. This means that even if the creature is comparatively healthy, it could take a random gash and die rather slowly, or that a creature missing most of its limbs, eyes, and internal organs can still take a few hits if it hadn't bled out already. Not to mention (most) creatures feel pain, and thus a single wound in the right spot (like a broken leg) can effectively cripple a creature and make it almost completely defenseless in a fight.
Played straight in the case of the game's undead. Since they lacked most of the components (including, most importantly, a circulatory system which would let them bleed to death) of the game's ridiculously complicated combat system, they tended to be both buggy and invincible, so they were patched to have hit points.
Averted in the Carmageddon series, where the damage system indicates damage on different parts of the car - the chassis, engine, drive shaft etc. A critical level of damage to the engine would cause the car to explode, while damage on the drive shaft would cause the vehicle to simply stall. At the same time the vehicle gets visibly and functionally shaken up starting with the bodywork and windows, and with the help of only a few land-mines it will become so mangled up the only direction you will be able to drive in will be a circle. How a vehicle takes damage also depends on the shape of the car. A long and narrow vehicle like a drag racer is less likely to survive a high speed head on collision as the damage would directly transfer along the body to the engine. It doesn't help that naturally the drag-racer in the game has the highest acceleration stat and even the slightest mistake will cause its front wheels to lift off the ground rendering it uncontrollable. Also if pushed into a sharp edge like the corner of a building an opponent's vehicle can be split in half.
Metal Gear Solid is legendary for a particular use of this—Solid Snake has cigarettes, which allow him to see hidden laser traps and keep his hands steady while sniping, at the cost of his HP bleeding down slowly. It's impossible for Snake to smoke himself to death—a small blip of health will always remain—but then, if he gets so much as touched, he dies (presumably of spontaneous lung cancer).
In Snake Eater, one of the big promoted features was that Snake could be injured, and would have to patch himself up to continue, with such injuries including bleeding, and broken limbs. However, as far as gameplay went, the injuries only affected Snake's health bar, so theoretically Snake could still run and fight as normal even if all four of his limbs were broken, there were bullets lodged in his head, and he was poisoned. (He'll limp if he gets a broken leg, but that's about it.)
Metal Gear Solid 4 uses this for a plot point later in the game. Naomi Hunter uses nanomachines to keep her cancer from progressing, but it doesn't appear to impair her ability to function in the slightest. She 'kills' herself by repeatedly injecting herself with an agent that temporarily neutralizes the nanomachines... allowing her cancer to continue as normal. Considering that the injections only last for a few hours, the cancer would have to be explosively violent in order to kill her before it the agent wore off.
It wasn't just that the nanomachines were holding back the cancer, but that they were the only thing keeping her alive. She mentions she's essentially already dead, the nanomachines being the only reason she's still up and breathing at all.
But wonderfully averted in the final battle of MGS4. Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot face off in hand-to-hand combat atop Outer Haven. As the fight progresses, two of the greatest warriors the world has ever seen get slower and slower, until they're just two old men, barely able to stand. It's scripted rather than based on actual damage, but it's certainly an effective conclusion
Aversion: In the card-based Lost Kingdoms series for the Gamecube, the protagonist (in each case, a mage-princess) would noticeably start limping, slowing down, and otherwise losing efficiency as her HP went lower. So, then, when you happened to get down to that 1 HP, your character was visibly on the edge of death and could barely move. Death was not so much exploding as collapsing from the sheer wound trauma and blood loss.
Aversion: In the Advance Wars series, damaged units effectiveness would drop noticeably as they get whacked around. For units composed of groups, this was shown by having more of its members missing when called to fire or be fired at. For units composed of a single large vehicle, this was shown by having it fire less ordinance in a single volley (presumably because of the structural damage having disabled parts of it).
Somewhat more subtly, injured units can't use terrain cover as effectively as healthy units, so they take more damage while in defensive terrain than a healthy unit would.
Averted in Jagged Alliance. The more injured you are, the faster you tire and the worse you get at everything. Additionally, if you're not wearing enough body armour there's a good chance of bullets or explosives inflicting critical damage to a body part, causing a massive permanent reduction to the appropriate stats.
Untreated wounds would case the merc to bleed out and lose health. In Jagged Alliance 2, if the merc's health decrease to under 15, s/he loses consciousness and becomes unable to perform any actions. If this happens, you have less than 15 turns to treat his/her wound by ordering another merc, otherwise s/he bleeds to death. Did I mention there is no respawn in the game?
Even if the victim takes no permanent HP damage from attacks(i.e. plated EOD/Spectra vests against hollow point ammo), repeated hits cause the victim's stamina to decrease, making the victim less effective in combat. If stamina drops to zero, the victim falls to the ground and cannot do anything.
Most deaths in Jagged Alliance 2 consist of the unfortunate victim simply slumping over to lie in a pool of blood. However, if you shoot someone in the head at close range, there's a good chance of their skull exploding. This can be awkward if you're trying to retrieve their head for the local bounty hunter.
Averted in the Spiritual Successor to Jagged Alliance, 7.62mm High Caliber. Wounds and nearby explosions will put a character into shock, which can delay them for as long as ten seconds, and even the weakest gun in the game can cause a fatal wound to a merc loaded down with armor as long as it hits the right spot. Characters can quite rapidly bleed out without immediate medical attention and injuries to limbs can slow their movement speed or prevent them from using their weapons.
Averted in the Front Mission series (with the exception of Gun Hazard): damage can fall on one of four parts of the unit—left arm, right arm, legs, and body—each with its own hitpoints. Losing an arm will remove your ability to use weapons or items on that arm, losing your legs reduces you to one square movement per turn (Your legs aren't truly destroyed, but ripped to skeletal structure) and loss of the body itself kills the unit. However until a part is destroyed it works perfectly. Also, simpler units like tanks and attack choppers have only one "body part."
Oddly enough, in the Super Nintendo game Metal Warriors (which has extremely similar gameplay to Front Mission: Gun Hazard), your mech and that of others will start deteriorating as it loses (invisible) hit points, first losing its luster and taking cosmetic damage before its ability to use accessories is lost (signified by sparking from the shoulders) and, soon before it explodes, loses its arms and/or the ability to use its built-in weapons anymore.
Played straight and averted rather oddly in Armored Core: Last Raven. An AC will operate at optimal capacity even at ridiculously low amounts of AP, but that will only happen if the AC in question was only hit in the chest. If it was hit anywhere else, the arms, legs, or head could break off and really hamper your AC's ability to do things.
Averted in most of the BattleTech games, especially prior to the dissolution of FASA. This is at least partly because it reflects the original paper and pencil tactical sim they are all based on.
Although the trope is used straight with battle armor infantry in the tabletop game, with the justification that the last point of armor represents the trooper inside, and at that point, even the weakest weapons in the game are powerful enough to invoke the Chunky Salsa Rule on a squishy human body.
A notable example of this trope can be seen in the Sonic the Hedgehog series of games, where Sonic's health is dictated not by a health meter, but by having rings on hand. When he is hit, all the rings go flying, disappearing after a few seconds if they're not picked up; another hit kills him. However—and this scenario comes up much more often than you might think—no matter how many times he is hit, as long as Sonic can keep recovering that one ring, he is safe.
Various comics and even the early Genesis games tried to Hand Wave this as the rings having some sort of shield energy or otherwise being directly tied to Sonic's powers and life energy, but nobody really bought it. In addition, in the later games, rings aren't explained in the slightest, even their protective properties; the designers assume that everyone knows already.
Deus Ex averts the trope; you can be damaged in the arms, head, legs, and chest. Enough head and chest damage kills you; arm damage affects accuracy and prevents you from using weapons or equipment that require both arms; and leg damage slows you. If both your legs are reduced to black, you have to crawl, although you are strangely in no danger of bleeding to death. (If you've taken enough damage to lose both legs, though, you're probably gonna be killed soon anyway.)
The lack of risk of bleeding to death could easily be explained with a bit of handwavium to which the player is exposed early on; JC Denton, like his brother Paul, is one of about three people possessing nano-augmentations, which would logically be engineered to keep the user alive to the extent possible. Since one of the installable augmentations is one that replenishes health, (at the cost of gradual consumption of the player's finite bioelectrical energy) this theory gains more weight. It's not a huge stretch to assume that even the most basic level of augmentations is made to eject foreign bodies and seal wounds, even if bloodloss could only be catered for by a more specific augmentation.
The implementation is not quite ... perfect, which (given enough efforts) can lead to such wonders as head, hopping around without rest of the body.
A slightly disturbing example of this being played straight is how post-incapacitation gibbing works. Hack up an unconscious person and they'll slowly darken, but still be considered alive, before suddenly hitting the threshold where they explode into dogfood. There is no way to go from "unconscious" to "dead but intact".
This is averted in the sequel and The Nameless Mod. Beating on unconscious bodies will kill them. A bug in the game engine for Deus Ex can kill bodies that have a door close on them. This can be annoying in the DXE mission in The Nameless Mod. You cannot kill anyone in the mission, and if you knock a guard out in a doorway, and the door closes on them, it kills them and causes you to fail the mission.
One interesting side-effect of this trope is games in which you get EVEN STRONGER when your health is critical, either due to a Limit Break or some equipped item, learned ability, or innate character trait which unleashes an automatic power-up to compensate for critical HP loss.
In RuneScape, wearing the complete "Dharok the Wretched" armour set provides you with magical strength the lower your hitpoints get. A common Pv P strategy is to deliberately damage oneself by drinking evil potions, allowing monsters to pummel oneself, or dropping nitroglycerin at one's own feet - and then going on a Wretched Strength rampage.
In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the Rubicant (Lubicant in-game due to a silly translation error) soul increases your stats the fewer hit points you have. One of the best ways to speed through the Boss Rush mode is to deplete HP to 1 and equip the soul, thus doing ridiculous amounts of damage.
In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the Arma Custos back glyph fuels your STR stat with Cerberus, increasing it as you lose HP (as long as the glyph is active, of course). At around 1 HP, you gain a STR boost equal to your maximum non-boosted STR plus one. Oh, and you can activate the Dominus Agony back glyph to drain your HP, or you can use some items. Also, the Ring of the Devil increases status as HP lowers, and the Ring of Death grants you insane power in return for being reduced to a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Lucario also gets stronger as it becomes more damaged, 200% at the limit. One of the Events focuses on this, as do some webcomics.
This 200% cap is sad, since he can easily go all the way up to 600% in a certain room aboard the Halberd...
Several Pokémon abilities and berries that activate when a Pokemon of a certain type is damaged to a certain point. The anime has shown Overgrow, Blaze, and Torrent.
Also in Pokemon, there are several attacks that increase in power at lower HP. There are a few that decrease.
One popular strategy in the Paper Mario is called Danger Mario, which has the player lower his HP to 1 and equip many badges that increase attack and defense when your HP is critical.
Often handwaved by the explanation of adrenaline, but I don't think anybody is buying that (although, story-wise, it was better implemented in Final Fantasy IX, where plot elements would cause people to enter Trance based on surges of emotion, regardless of where their meter was beforehand).
In Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics there is a Perk called Adrenaline Rush which increases your Strength by 1 when you drop below 50% of your max hit points.
In Fallout 3 there is a Perk called Nerd Rage. When your health drops below 20%, your Strength is raised to 10, and your Damage Resistance increases by 50% (to a maximum of 85%).
The stark realism of Fallout 3 was significantly ruined by the fact that you can shoot an enemy five times in the face at point-black range with no visible effect at all, until the sixth shot cleanly decapitates them sending their intact head spinning to the floor. Especially frustrating if it's at a key point in an otherwise extremely dramatic scene.
By Fallout: New Vegas you can be (deep breath) on your last hit point, absorbed 999 rads of radation, starving, massively dehydrated, have all five body sections crippled, concussed, suffering from withdrawal symptoms from several different drugs and be really tired without dying, for a few minutes at least.
Inordinately common in Super Robot Wars with the Prevail skill. In most games nearly all the pilots learn it at a certain level & in games that use the Pilot Points system it's possible to give it to anyone, which makes a bit of sense, considering most Humongous Mecha pilots are Hot-BloodedDeterminators. In practice it usually isn't all that useful for most characters aside from those who come equipped with it from the start, as by the time most pilots earn it their ability to evade is already high enough that they won't be taking much damage anyway.
In World of Warcraft, protection-specialized paladins receive "Ardent Defender", which not only increases defense when health is low, but also grants a significant heal instead of damage if the blow would have killed the paladin. Limit Break indeed.
In League of Legends, the Champion Tryndamere will have his Attack Damage increase the lower his health is. His ultimate ability allows him to live through anything with 1 HP for several seconds, allowing a capable Tryndamere player to initiate a suicide dive, amplify his Attack Damage, cleave his target to death and then attempt an unlikely escape. Played straighter than straight in that as long as you are invulnerable during the ult's duration, you cannot die. The instant it goes down, you need to heal or the slightest tick (often a spite-driven Ignite spell) of damage will kill you.
Olaf's entire strategy is almost based around this. He gains more attack speed the lower his health is. A good Olaf will let you lower his health a bit before popping his abilities and chopping you to bits.
In Monster Hunter, there is an armor skill called Adrenaline that increases attack and defense when your health falls below a certain point. Often used as a strategy against bosses that will kill you in one hit anyway, such as the Fatails family.
In Team Fortress 2, the Soldier's Equalizer gives him damage buffs as his health goes down. At one hit point, the Equalizer is twice as strong as any other melee weapon.
It also used to give him a speed boost, but this was removed and put into a different weapon called the "Escape Plan". This weapon retains the ability to make you almost as fast as a scout at 1 hp.
In Agarest Senki, there's the skill called Unleash All where at 25% of your HP, you get an immense increase in attack, defense, and accuracy. There's also Parry and Magic Barrier that makes any Physical or Magic attack miss it's target.
The Fire Emblem franchise plays this trope straight the majority of the time; the rest have it like this section: When a a low enough level of health, specific skills, if possessed, will come into play, with them being a variety of abilities: increased evasion, increased critical hit ratio, or being able to attack first no matter what, in one case. The only pking where this could come close to being averted is in FE 4's Chapter 5, with a heavily injured unit possessing low in-game stats to show how injured he is.
Kingdom Hearts has the Defender and Striker abilities that boost defense and attack respectively, when in critical health.
In X-Wing and TIE Fighter, once you started taking hits to your hull, various systems would fail or short out, including targeting, sensors, power management, and even weapons, shields, and more rarely, flight control or engine power. Oddly, though, never life support.
On the first B-Wing simulation mission, enemies actually attacked you with Ion cannons, disabling your craft without destroying it.
TIE fighter pilots wear fully sealed space suits. X-Wing pilots, on the other hand (and all Rebel pilots, really) wear something called a "Magcon" suit—a smaller version of the magnetic containment convenient energy shield that contains atmosphere and some body heat, which activates if the pilot encounters vacuum. It's the kind of shield you see on those big docking bays that are open to vacuum. The X-wings do have life support, because the suit can only shield them for so long, but life support is probably ignored in the game because given the game's repair time scales (about 5 minutes for your R2 to fully patch up your nonfunctioning engines), the magcon would invariably keep the pilot alive until the life support was repaired.
The same is true of the Freespace series. While your Hull strength has no direct bearing on the capabilities of your ship, by the time it gets dangerously low chances are you're going to have lost a subsystem. And individual subsystems do gradually degrade as they're damaged (the more damage your Weapons system takes, for example, the greater the odds are of a weapon failing to fire when you pull the trigger). All systems can be repaired automatically from anything down to 1%, but once it hits 0 it's gone until the end of the mission. Assuming you can still finish the mission in that state.
The Wing Commander series averts this: Once your shields are gone, different ship systems can take damage, and will affect things such as navigation, gun recharge rate, and of course exploded/non-exploded state of said ship.
Especially hilarious where your communications could become so damaged you could no longer transmit landing requests, essentially meaning you could never land, in the games that didn't just automatically land you (like Privateer). With patience (and not being in a timed retreat mission, like for example the last Loki IV mission in Wing Commander III) one can wait for the auto-repair to fix the comm system, so they can request landing clearance.
Of course, if the auto-repair system is also dead, you're kinda hosed.
Super Smash Bros. is a partial example, in that increasing the characters' damage "percentages" doesn't affect their speed, power, or any other abilities, but does make it easier for other characters to smack them off the screen. The trope is played completely straight in the Stamina mode from Melee and Brawl, as well as for Master Hand and some other bosses.
Also, at low percentages, when your character is dangling from a ledge, their 'Climb back up' animation is quick and fluid. At higher percentages, they struggle as they try to climb back up (but always manage to), and it takes slightly longer.
Except for Mewtwo, who, while taking longer, doesn't struggle, and he instead chooses to calmly walk up the ledge, standing perfectly horizontally.
Aversion: In Outlive nuclear power plants and uranium mines will begin to release radiation, damaging themselves and their surroundings until repaired or totally destroyed.
Command & Conquer generally plays this straight, but averts it with most buildings. For instance, damaged power plants will provide less energy.
Handwaved in the lore, buildings are designed to be larger than necessary and shift their critical components around until the last possible moment.
Tiberian Sun also has the Nod Cyborgs, who were able to lose their legs when taking enough damage. Oddly enough, they can regenerate back to full health in tiberium fields (since they are mutants) without regaining them.
There's also Short Game mode for Skirmishes, in which the player can play so long as they still have a chance at having a base. No MCVs and no buildings means they lose, and all units/tech structures/garrisoned buildings they owned explode, no matter their health.
While all RPGs with Hit Points feature this, Chrono Trigger has a particularly amusing example with a certain enemy, the Nu, who only has two moves: one which reduces a character's HP to 1, and one which does exactly 1 HP damage. Basically, the RPG equivalent of almost beating you to death and then killing you with a finger poke.
Even more hilarious, there's actually two different versions of that enemy (the Nu). The first has the "all but 1 HP" attack, the second has the "only 1 HP" attack. For shits and giggles, you only encounter the "only 1 HP" version with the "all but 1 HP" version twice. But you encounter the "all but 1 HP" version many, many more times throughout the game, essentially making it an impossible to lose battle.
Grand Theft Auto series: You can smash up your car and not suffer a decrease in performance (unless the tires are blown, but only the tires), but one tiny bump too many, and it catches fire and explodes, taking you with it if you don't get away fast enough.
In Grand Theft Auto IV, due to a better damage modeling system, it is possible for the body of the car to come into contact with the wheels (hampering performance) or for the axles to become bent (ditto). Also, cars with a damaged engine become slower (more noticeable by entering a health cheat, which also repairs the car, in a very damaged car) and might take more time to start, even getting to the point of not starting anymore, but without exploding.
GTA IV is also the only game in the series where a car, any car, regardless of condition, won't explode just because it is flipped over. Apparently a collapsed roof meant self destruct in the older games.
Cops and pedestrians usually won't die unless they are shot in the head or repeatedly beaten/shot after they lose all their health. They will remain unconscious on the ground for a while until the paramedics arrive or they get up and limp away.
It applies to your character too. Never mind that you had just raided a mob hideout alone, got caught in a crossfire against about 20-30 enemies and your health meter is now flashing red after one too many shots, you can still run around and hang on to things like it was nothing.
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you can extend your HP so high, that you can fall from any height (without a using parachute) and survive perfectly intact, but with only 1% of your HP left. Get punched by an angry pedestrian afterwards, and you're dead.
Halo has a rather amusing exception for Combat-type Flood. Shooting their infection form in their chest will destroy them, but they can get their arms shot off and rise again. With a bit of creative shooting, you can create a "pet Flood"—a Combat Form missing both its arms, which can't hurt you but just follows you incessantly, gleefully becoming a flesh shield. Also, the sniper rifle cannot kill or injure a flood at all (the reason given in the book 'The Flood' is that the bullet goes straight through the flesh without damaging the one important part of the Combat Form). The pistol is highly effective though.
All the human vehicles use MC's own shields as their life meter, even though they appear to take physical damage in 2 and 3. So if your own health bar hits zero and you die, the vehicle explodes as well, no matter what shape it is in.
In the latter two games, if an Infection form touches you with your shields down, you die instantly, unlike in the first game where they only drained your health and you could shake them off before they killed you.
In the Syphon Filter series, the character has both armor and health. Certain enemies can One-Hit Kill with headshots regardless of the player's armor level, and although the health bar depletes much faster than the armor, it still suffers from the Critical Existence Failure syndrome, in that it doesn't affect the player's mobility.
In Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, health is shown abstractly by a circle — either filled (healthy), half-filled (injured), or empty (incapacitated or dead). When "injured", your accuracy is much worse and you walk more loudly and with a limp. The game doesn't make any distinction on where that bullet landed, or if you got hurt because of fall damage.
In the SNES version of UN Squadron, taking a hit causes your ship to go into Danger mode, at which point one more hit will kill you. After a little while, your ship would repair itself, albeit with some life lost, and be able to take another hit. But if your life meter gets too low, your ship will permanently remain in Danger mode until you either die or get a health refill.
There is a small aversion for Terran structures in Starcraft. After taking enough damage to turn their hit point counter red, Terran structures slowly lose health, even if they are no longer under attack. This health loss will continue until the structure either destroys itself or is repaired. This is explained in the manual that due to the relatively haphazard, ramshackle, and—this is both the strength and weakness of the faction—interconnected nature of Terran structures, they are susceptible to internal damage like fires and malfunctioning machinery.
Reversed in the campaign of Starcraft II, where you can buy an upgrade that always auto-repairs buildings to half of their max HP.
But still played straight with all units and structures, which once complete function at perfect efficiency until they lose their very last real hit point, at which point they explode spectacularly whether they were killed by a Hydralisk's spines or a Probe's cutting laser or a Battlecruiser's laser batteries. Is the reason for the most basic and important micro trick of moving damaged units away from the battle and sending them back in once they aren't targetted.
Don't forget the zerg Plague spell. It leaves units with 1 hp, so you can kill a battlecruiser or carrier by shooting one bullet at it.
Also kind of adverted/inverted with the Zerg and Protoss factions. With the zerg, damaged units and buildings will gradually heal themselves due to being strictly biological. The shields for Protoss buildings and units gradually recharge, but not the health.
Particularly humorous in later 2D Castlevania games, which generally have a 0 HP character reduced to a spray of blood, even if they just lost their last 2 HP to a flying femur to the forehead.
Although such an attack will cause Shanoa to simply drop dead — if she's standing on the ground at the time.
Early The Legend of Zelda games suffered from this. Link's could be down to half a heart and be walking along fine. Accidentally bump into an Octorok, and he twirls around and blinks out of existence.
In the 3D games, losing health does not impede your movement, but standing still does show Link bending over and panting.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword plays the trope straight where Link won't pant from exhaustion in a critical state and is quite capable of doing many amazing feats. Should he get smacked by a cactus that takes off his remaining energy, he falls over and dies.
The Earthworm Jim games justified this by establishing that Jim himself never takes any damage, but his suit does, and his health is represented by how much energy his suit has (which goes all the way up to 200%). If the suit runs out of energy, it suddenly malfunctions and fries Jim as he sits inside it, even though the suit itself is virtually indestructible. The second game's "life lost" screen has the suit short out and violently eject Jim from it, leaving him laying helpless on the ground. (He is a worm.)
Soul Calibur IV averted it. You don't function any worse with damage, but the damage is actually taken by your armour which you can lose making the areas it protected more vulnerable.
In the NES adaptation of Predator, Arnold explodes into smithereens when his life meter runs out.
Gears of War plays this incredibly straight with its health system, in which you accumulate detail to a center red skull-and-gear icon, and at critical you will sometimes explode in showers of abrupt gore. You can also regenerate damage over time. Before you get to critical, however, you can take ten thousand rifle bullets, so long as you space it out so you have time to regenerate.
However, after reaching that critical state, you will frequently go into a 'downed' state if not gibbed or headshotted, similar to the Dungeons And Dragons' 3rd edition '0 hp' state, as your character is not yet dead at that point, but essentially incapacitated and will bleed to death without aid.
In Gears of War 2, some will drop dead instantly, others will drop to the dirt and start crawling away or toward friendlies—who can and will revive them back to full HP.
Averted but not for you in Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria. The PCs can keep fighting without penalty as long as they have that one hitpoint, but enemies are composed of different parts, and on some enemies breaking a piece off will render them immobile for the rest of the battle (for example, slicing the wing off a bird leaves it laying on the ground, still alive, but unable to move or attack). Some enemies, if you remove their main attacking limb, will even retreat. And with nearly all living monsters, breaking the Head part results in an instant kill, regardless of their total HP.
Drakengard. Sometimes the life meter serves other purposes under specific circumstances. Whenever a party member is summoned to take your place, it instead becomes a time meter. When fighting the final boss it seems to just be insane.
Classic shoot-em-up Blue Max also avoids this. Unlike the usual game of its type from its era, a direct hit would—rather than simply blowing you up—instead damage your gun or controls, or cause fuel to leak.
In Star Raiders, your ship could endure multiple hits... at least until your shields were destroyed.
Averted in Bushido Blade. Only a deep wound to the head or torso will kill you. A deep wound to a limb will disable it; shallow wounds anywhere will only slow you down no matter how many you take (although it gets wonky after a while, because you start looking overcranked rather than staggered with pain and bloodloss).
Averted in Kartia, where attack strength is directly tied to HP.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura plays this straight but has a small subversion: certain wounds can leave nasty scars, which can reduce your stats (usually Beauty). The scar can be removed magically and this restores the lost Beauty points.
Averted in X-Com: UFO Defense. There is not only limb damage that affects stats, but any hit can inflict Fatal Wounds that drain the hit points of units hit every turn (which doesn't affect aliens), and a stun meter that causes the target to faint should it ever exceed that unit's HP (which does affect aliens, and is in fact required to beat the game). Early-game, if a shot doesn't kill a soldier, they'll probably fall unconscious within a few turns and then just bleed to death. Played straight with Cyberdisks. When they die, they promptly blow up real good, taking out anything in roughly a 10-square radius... potentially even other Cyberdisks!
Sometimes a group of cyberdisks gets destroyed because the one in the back shoots one in the front, which promptly causes a chain reaction destroying the whole group and pretty much everything in quite a large radius.
Handwaved in the Total Annihilation manual by the introduction of "Heavy Armor" that makes the unit behave like one giant molecule.
World in Conflict's infantry squads subvert this: As the squad loses health, its members die one by one and the squad loses firepower accordingly. Since each member of a squad has a specific role to play, loss of certain members can lessen or eliminate the squad's ability to attack certain types of units (eg. a regular infantry squad cannot attack helicopters if it loses its AA soldier). The trope is still played straight for all other types of units and buildings.
Company of Heroes also averts this with their infantry squads like World in Conflict above, but also can have certain areas of vehicles get damaged, such as the main gun being disabled, the gunner getting killed, etc., disabling that specific area on account of the damage to that area. However, a vehicle with a engine explicitly stated to be destroyed can still move, though a very slow pace, and it is still possible for the vehicle to be damaged in a way in which it has had no functions disabled, meaning Critical Existence Failure is in full effect when it goes down. It's rather impossible to fully avoid such a thing happening though, and it doesn't happen very often on its own, especially since the game encourages flanking the back of armoured vehicles.
This also applies to Dawn of War; not surprising given they're both Relic creations. As your squads get hit, the individual troopers die, and they can take their heavy weapons with them, meaning you need to retrain them and requisition more heavy weapons. On the other hand, up until they die, they will still fight at full power, and neither buildings nor vehicles lose power as they get hit.
Also averted in End War, where units are generally groups of four (four squads in the case of engineers and riflemen). After shields are lost, individual vehicles/squads begin to take damage and explode/die, causing the unit to decline in effectiveness. When the unit has lost 3/4 of its vehicles/squads, it will send up a flare, recharge its shields, stop fighting and call for evacuation. As keeping your men alive for the next mission is a very, very important part of the game, it's generally a good idea to try to cover their evacuation.
Same for infantry units in Halo Wars, which are squads. Interesting in that the Covenant Grunt squads are led by an Elite, who always dies last. Apparently, it's much easier to shoot at a small, two-foot target than an 7-foot guy who doesn't bother hiding. This is done for the sake of not having the Grunt squads disperse as soon as their leader is dead (which they are known to do in the FPS Halo games).
Played straight in the Crusader games by Origin, where it states right in the manual under the description of your health bar, "As a Silencer he can continue at peak efficiency up to the point of collapse and death." You're just that Bad Ass.
Crysis potentially averts this with vehicles; a number of vehicles can have their windows shot out and through, and may have means of movement which can be specifically damaged and hampered.
Heavily averted with a fan-made "Ultra Realism" Mod. Take a bullet in the leg? You will limp on that leg. Take one to the other leg? You now slow to a literal crawl. Shot in the arm? Reduced accuracy. Low health? Reduced vision, accuracy, mobility... You're fucked.
Averted in the Freespace space sim series. Fighters hit in the relevant spots can take damage to a subsystem (communication, targeting, etc.) or lose one without exploding. Capital ships having many such spots, they can have all their subsystems disabled, their engines stopped and all their turrets stripped away by weak lasers fired by a single fighter also armed with patience.
Doubly averted in the sequel. Capital ships, even on their last HP, will not fall to anything short of an asteroid impact or an anti-capital beam or torpedo. This also means that while a torpedo-less lone fighter can entirely disable a capital ship, it can never finish it off.
And averted even more in the Independence War space sim, where the ship has dozens of onboard systems. Each and any of them can (and will) be damaged by enemy fire, with corresponding effect on the ship's handling and fighting abilities. There's an entire control screen dedicated solely to prioritization of inflight repairs.
Virtually every Beat 'em Up game suffers from this trope. Get a character to the bottom of their health bar, and the slightest touch will knock them out or kill them (depending on game), including (in some cases) a perfectly blocked attack, or a kick in the ankle.
In Die By The Sword, you wouldn't lose efficiency from damage, but could lose your limbs before going. Losing a shield arm could be bad, losing a weapon arm was worse. Still, the legs didn't seem to affect you till you lost both of them.
If you don't fall into water when you die in Worms, worms reduced to zero health blow themselves up. The death explosion can even harm other worms to the point of death too, or otherwise set off a hilarious chain of Stuff Blowing Up.
But at the same time faux-averted in the game, as when a worm starts to run low on health, they will cough, moan, have trouble breathing, and other extreme pain symptoms. This has no impact on their performance however.
Similar to the Worms example, in the RPG Shining Force characters would fight fine upto 1 HP, but when killed would spin around and explode. Though in this case they did no damage to nearby characters.
Left 4 Dead averts this quite thoroughly. As you lose health your character is noticeably clumsier and slower, with their remaining health beginning to bleed out while downed or after being picked up. If you run out of health you go into an incapacitated state where you can do nothing but fire your sidearm and must be helped by another player before you die from bleeding out or enemies pounding on your incapacitated form in order to finish you off. If you're downed twice, the next time will kill you unless you get first aid. Getting hurt after taking painkillers or adrenaline (temporary health boosts) damages your regular health first as well.
However, played straight by the special zombies and you can't go below 1 hp if you're bleeding out but still standing.
Adrenaline also temporarily removes the speed loss from health loss when used, along with a general speed boost.
Lower-level mooks in the DOOM series explode into gory chunks if their HP goes a certain amount below zero, which means something as casual as a punch can trigger it under the right conditions. In Doom 3, their corpses quickly disintegrate and disappear.
In the PSX version of Doom, the Doomguy's head explodes when he is killed with explosives or his health goes a certain amount below zero.
In Descent, once your shields are down, one tiny ding causes your ship to explode. That includes being hit by a flare (which always does 1 damage) or running into a wall while moving too fast. One of the most anoying ways to die is to be bumped by the Guidebot when shields are low.
The Lord of the Rings Online has at least one ability where shouting at your enemies damages them very slightly, debuffs them and buffs you. It's fun shouting wounded wargs to death...
Averted in The Getaway. Cars that take enough damage will have handling and performance problems, and taking too much damage will cause your character to start limping.
Averted in the TOCA Race Driver games, where cars will take damage realistically, suffering performance hits with increased damage.
In the first two Soldier of Fortune games, most irritatingly in the second, where The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, explosives instantly gibbed the player if he was in the blast radius. Oddly, in Pay Back, even on Hard difficulty getting hit directly by a rocket is not always lethal. Poor damage randomization programming, I guess? This game was thrown together in only three or so months, shovelware style. So unless it causes your life bar to go below zero and therefore Critical Existence Failure, you'll be mostly unfazed (other than the obligatory Interface Screw which tints the screen redder as your Walk It Off health gets lower).
BTW, Mullins does seem to suffer true Ludicrous Gibs critical existence failure in the first game if so much as being bitten by a dog causes his life to hit zero.
Mullins suffers more than that. If he shoots a civilian in 2, even accidentally, he'll respond to his act of evil by spontaneously yelling 'WLAAAAAARGH' and falling over backwards, dead. Now that's a guilt trip.
There's a glitch in the second game that sometimes causes otherwise fatally wounded enemies to continue fighting, like zombies.
Rad Gravity explodes when he is killed in space, perhaps due to the Hollywood physics of explosive decompression caused by rupture of his suit.
Trilby's Notes, part of the Chzo Mythos by Yahtzee Croshaw, gives a nod to this at the end when the Big Bad tells a mortally wounded Trilby that he won't die from a mere stab wound because "Men like [Trilby] live by pure will."
Double spoiler: The Big Bad's goading is a hint to the now incapacitated player, who will invariably try every command he can think of to foil the plot. Turns out, all you can do (and all you have to do) is make the decision to "die".
Only partially subverted in Air Rivals, a flight combat MMORPG. There is no penalty for simply having damage, so the trope applies normally. However, while receiving damage, the player's craft loses speed.
Played straight in The Simpsons: Hit and Run, where all vehicles explode violently when destroyed, but function normally until that happens. Given that this is a Simpsons game, it makes sense. Oddly enough, you can then get back in the exploded car and drive it (albeit slowly).
In the Disgaea series, there is a species of monster known as the Prinny — one of the most famous of Nippon Ichi's design. It happens to earn this honor through a combination of being cute, stitched-up penguins that violently detonate when thrown, unless in the Prinny World, or unless they happen to be the main character of the new Prinny PSP game.
Of course, the main character of the new Prinny game happens to have a scarf that saves him from exploding like a Prinny normally would (for about 3 hits)... except on Hard Mode, where he's a One-Hit-Point Wonder all over again. And every time you die, no matter what mode you're on, he still explodes. However, Bonus BossAsagi tries to steal the show again, this time in a Prinny suit... and when you beat her, her suit overloads and explodes furiously with her still in it — but don't worry, she's still (relatively) alive, it seems.
In Vagrant Story the different areas of your body all have different health bars (in addition to your overall HP), and when, for example, your arms take too much damage, your strength begins to drop. With your shield arm, you're less likely to block. The torso, you take more damage. The head, you're magic abilities and defense decrease. The legs, you move at 1/2 speed.
Partially avoided in Metal Warriors. Your mech has no hit bar, and you have to judge your health by its visible condition. When it is fully health, its paint will be bright and shiny, and will become darker, duller, and more bullet-ridden. You know you're in trouble when your arm falls off. Despite all this clever avoidance, your own character out-of-suit looks perfectly fine until he takes that tenth little zap.
Marathon is an interesting case. For both the player and enemies, certain types of damage, such as explosive or crushing, would always trigger a hard (read: messy) death (unless the enemy was set so that they only had a soft/hard death sequence available to them). Most of the other types would cause a soft death, with some exceptions: 1. If the player took enough fatal damage (such as a charged fusion bolt) they would undergo a hard death. 2. If a creature died from a damage type that they were marked as vulnerable to (e.g. a hunter being killed by fusion energy). 3. If the creature had the "die in flames" setting enabled and was killed by lava, fire, or the alien weapon.
In Valve's Day Of Defeat: Source, you can fall exactly 19 feet 11 inches with no penalties whatsoever. If you fall 1 extra inch,you suffer an abrupt death.
Mass Effect tends to avert this for the player character, but not for the NPCs. When Shepard gets down to critical health, he/she can't aim, can't sprint, and the screen turns pulsating red with an ominous heartbeat sound effect. Your other party members, however, can keep fighting at 100% efficiency with only the barest sliver of health. Go figure.
Mercenaries 2 has Mooks which are easy to kill and that have very enthusiastic death animations. Sometimes, if shooting at them with a weak machine gun, they will flinch slightly after the first 9 shots and then scream, throw their arms in the air and leap backwards.
Max Payne suffers this like nobody else. See, Max doesn't ever actually heal himself in any way whatsoever, he just keeps taking painkillers. By the end of the game he could easily have taken enough damage to empty his life bar a hundred times over and be full of so many bullets you'd have trouble finding something to shoot at that was still him, but as long as he can't feel it, he's fine and dandy. But should he suddenly be in a position where he feels actual pain, he falls over in slow motion.
Any installment of the Wizardry series partially averts this trope. The damage dealt by the breath attacks of certain enemies is based on their current HP, so there is a reason to wound them without killing them. However when dealing with anything else it's played straight as an enemy is just as deadly with 1 HP left as fully healthy.
In Wizardry 8, if you hit an enemy with 1 HP left even with the weakest weapons in the game they will explode spectacularly in a shower of gibs. Finishing off a group of wounded enemies with your bard's bagpipes at the lowest power level is hilarious.
Lunia, an MMORPG, does this in an interesting way. You can actually go down to 0 hp, but won't die until you receive a knockdown attack. Your mana stops regenerating (and you can't use potions) at 0hp so your usefulness is greatly reduced but certain monsters or bosses can be beaten by ignoring their (non knockdown) attacks to you and just hitting them over and over again till they die. It also makes for possibly very annoying Pv P fights if the loser decides to just run, not allowing you to deal the finishing blow. And of course, once you're down with 0hp, a healer can still heal you provided they get to you within a few seconds. However, you are still extremely far from invincible.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander is one of the best aversions: you can shoot different subsystems of the enemy ships with different and realistic effects: shooting the weapons will lower the damage output (until they get destroyed), shooting the engines slows down the ship, and shooting the reactor takes away the power from every system. Still, the reactor or the hull are the only "instant-kill" systems: you can easily paralyse and disarm a ship (in some missions, you have to), without destroying it. This also applies to your ship.
Destroying the warp core blows up the ship, which goes in line with the series, as it means all those antimatter particles are suddenly free to roam around the ship, destroying any matter on contact.
One tactic that almost always works involves going for the sensors first. With sensors disabled or destroyed, the enemy is unable to target or even see you, so they won't fire back. However, in some cases, the blinded enemy can run.
Might and Magic series: played straight. However, the characters' gear can break down with enough abuse (dangerous, as the gear makes the man) and hitting zero HP only causes unconsciousness, allowing a quick cleric to Heal the poor saps back on their feet and into the battle. Death occurs only when the counter goes too far into the negatives, but this can be temporarily averted with a soul-binding spell.
Raptor: Call of the Shadows has a partial aversion. While your ship still has hit points and you'll go down in flames only when the last one is chipped away, every single hit you take below 15% hull integrity knocks out one of your precious, precious weapons. Forever. With horrible warning claxons howling all the while.
Averted in Space Station 13. The more damage you take, the slower you start to go. In fact, if you take enough damage (Especially toxic/radiation damage) you'll start to randomly pass out. Taken enough burn or bashing damage to your face? Your very identity could be mangled, a very annoying (Or beneficial, if you want to disappear) thing to have happen in a usually very paranoia driven game. Finally, if you hit 100% damage you go unconscious and suffocate for the last 100% until death finally occurs.
Both used and averted in Star Wars: Empire at War and its expansion. Infantry are always in squads or platoons, and lose members as damage is taken, reducing firepower. Fighter and bomber squadrons also do this. Frigates, Space Stations, and Cruisers/Star Destroyers also have various bits and pieces of them that have to be destroyed individually before the rest of the ship is destroyed. Destroying the engines, for example, slows the ship and prevents it from Hyperspacing away if it tries to retreat, destroying the shield generator permanently disables shields, and so on. Corvettes, land vehicles, and most buildings play this straight, however.
Also, the Death Star cannot be destroyed (or even targeted) by conventional means. The only to destroy it is to win the space battle with the Rebels with the Red Squadron (Rogue Squadron in the expansion) still intact. Then the Death Star automatically experiences Critical Existence Failure.
Standard ship-to-ship (not that kind) tactics usually involve wings of bombers using shield-penetrating torpedoes to take out the large ships' shield generators. This can't be done with the Mon Calamari cruisers, as the shield generator simply doesn't appear as a hardpoint, which is used to balance is out the superior firepower of the Star Destroyers. However, Admiral Akhbar's flagship Home One does have a destroyable shield generator.
Baten Kaitos has a variation of this trope. Even when enemy health is reduced to zero, the enemies don't disappear until the player's turn is finished, flinching/spasming/flailing violently after the last hit in the player's combo. The thing is, though, players can end the turn with non-damaging attacks, such as a camera shot or a taunt. This leads to scenes of monsters flinching only mildly after taking punch after punch, and then exploding after having their pictures taken.
Strife has a minor aversion; critical players lose the run ability.
Civilization (as well as Spiritual SuccessorSid Meier's Alpha Centauri) has a peculiar history with this trope. Civilization 1-3 and SMACjustifiably play it straight in that units with reduced health continued to have the same attack and defense values: hit points are independent of attack/defense value. However, because each unit typically represents at least a division, it makes sense that it would still have the same attack/defense values: the imaginary soldiers on the field are just as healthy, and the difficulty that a half-strength division (for instance) would have fighting is adequately represented by the loss of hit points. However, Civilization IV ran into some serious problems when it combined the previously-independent attack, defense, and hit point systems into a single system of "strength." This implementation required various patches: because "strength" was reduced by taking damage during battle, the developers found it difficult to decide whether to assume that the strength used in determining battle probabilities was the nominal (full) strength of the unit (deemed unrealistic) or the current strength (deemed too disadvantageous to the one with the far-more-weakened unit, and besides, it led to a resurgence of Spearmen Defeating Tanks). In the end, the developers split the difference. It also led to "spearmen defeats tank" becoming much more common, as both hit points and combat strength were reduced together, late game units would get closer and closer to early game strength, and could often be defeated by 2-3 early game units.
Civilization V continues with the Civ IV 'strength' mechanic, except bringing hit points back (Advance Wars style). The Japanese national bonus is specifically to use Civ 1-3 + SMAC mechanics: Their units do not become weaker as they lose Hit Points.
The Punch-Out!! games on the NES and Wii offer a slight correlation between Little Mac's ability to keep standing and his ability to fight back — taking or blocking an opponent's hits will reduce both his stamina and his heart count, and running out of hearts means he can't punch or block. Therefore, it's possible to take a few blows and suddenly be unable to retaliate. Dodge a punch or two, though, and Little Mac is ready to strike back, even if one more hit would knock him down.
Played straight in the MMO EVE Online. You can have no shields, armour, only 1 hp in hull and a ship with an impressive fire trailing out the back but as long as you have that 1hp you're still useful. Averted somewhat and played straight with 'overheating' that slowly damages a module for an extra boost in effectiveness. The module is still fully effective until it loses all of its HP though on the ship as a whole you only lose that module and whatever advantage it was giving you.
All There in the Manual in that your last structure hit point going represents the point where your volatile warp engine loses power and promptly implodes, taking the rest of the ship with it.
In The Godfather: The Game, you as Aldo Trapani can still run around gunning down enemy gangsters and doing other stuff when your health is low enough to be in the red.
Averted in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the penultimate boss is Vader, who slowly becomes more damaged appearing, losing chunks of his suit and helmet as you whittle away at his health bar, to the point where he is actually limping around, throwing off sparks and missing large chunks of life-support armour.
In addition, the lego set for the spaceship in Force Unleashed includes a little Vader with a broken helmet piece, just like in the video game.
Averted in one rather old PC Flight Simulator, A-10 Cuba! where your fighter among other things, under fire could have its systems disabled, from engine fires to breach in fuel tanks, to having landing gear and HUD malfunction. Somehow the system that displayed this damage never failed though..
In Crimson Skies, your plane's "health" was split into 4 parts (engine, cockpit, and both wings), and the plane showing damage as it took hit (the engine sputters, your wings smoke). The parts being Color-Coded for Your Convenience, if all parts of the plane turned red (Critical damage) and you kept taking hits, you would be shot down. That's right. It didn't matter if your engine, cockpit, and one wing was shot to hell. As long as you had one part that wasn't red, you could fly just fine.
Played straight with the title character of Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, but done to hilarious effect with the enemy Mooks. While enemy robots only die (explosively) when they take maximum damage, their bodies become increasingly damaged if you fire at specific limbs, often flailing about uselessly; you can even sever arms or decapitate them, and they'll keep running around helplessly until you deliver the final blow. Justified by the fact that they are robots (the fact that Glitch remains fine until out of energy can be explained by the fact that it is implied he is a piece of Lost Technology left behind by Ancient Precursors).
The opposite of this trope happens in the original F-Zero. If your racer has less than 1/3 of its HP left, it starts going more slowly.
In the MMORPG City of Heroes, taking damage does not impair your character's ability to fight at all. In fact, one of the previous incarnations of the Blaster archetype's inherent ability Defiance, a Blaster would actually do more damage the closer they were to being defeated. The game is also hard-coded with a function that prevents an uninjured character from being one-shotted; the maximum amount of damage a player can take is one point less than their total hit points. You can fall from the maximum height, or take the biggest hit from the most powerful NPC in the game, and you'll be left with one hit point. However, as soon as you take even a single point of damage, you're no longer protected from going down from a single massive hit. This can create some interesting accidental vulnerabilities, as it is possible to take damage running down stairs or a ramp too fast, or even (on occasion) running off a curb onto the street.
Darth Sion, from KotOR 2: The Sith Lords holds his body together with the Force, and so is literally willing himself to stay alive. It's mentioned that he's got thousands of fractures throughout his body, and his skin is one mass of scar tissue. The rest of the cast play this trope straight without justification, though.
Epically Averted in Drop Team, which has 3D armor maps (which allows objects to have more armour on the front than on the back, for instance), and a complete physics model especially for modelling what happens when that armor gets penetrated. Munitions can overpenetrate (fly in one side, and out the other... oops! ), damage subsystems, light an AFV on fire, or cause a catastrophic explosion on the first hit; all depending on the exact munition type, flight distance, angle of impact on armor, etc.
In Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. and its sequel, your fighter jet can shrug off missiles without any hydraulic problems or loss of control, as long as your health gauge is above 1%. After that, pray that you do not even get hit by a FLaK, or your aircraft will explode.
Averted with vehicles in Just Cause 2. Tires can get blown if shot making a vehicle hard to control or crash, damage can cause your steering to pull to one side, and other performance issues happen. Although the vehicle is still drivable until it explodes. Played straight with people.
Actually worked into the plot and played for tragedy in Final Fantasy V. Galuf refused to stop fighting, so he by sheer force of will, kept fighting at 0 HP- and since you can't go below 0 HP, he was more or less invincible. Once he drove the Big Bad back, the fact that he'd taken several apocalyptically powerful spells to the face suddenly caught up to him, and he died; until he collapsed, however, he was right as rain.
In Abuse, as you lose health, a heartbeat sound plays that gets faster and louder, although, playing this trope straight, you don't slow down or anything. When you reach critical existence failure, you explode into bloody kibbles, as do enemies.
In Pokémon games, the player character will "black out" the instant his/her last Pokemon loses its last HP, even if it fainted from poison damage in the middle of town, right in front of a Pokemon Center.
Averted with Archeops. Most Pokemon either maintain full strength until loosing that hit point, or ever get stronger, as shown above. Archeops, however, has the Defeatist ability; when its HP drops below 50%, its attack and special attack stats get cut in half.
Averted in the Forza Motorsport series, where cars take realistic damage that decreases performance.
Subverted with C-3PO in the LEGOStar Wars games, where he will lose limbs (arm, then leg, then other arm) every time he is hit before being killed, and if he needs to use his arms for anything, he'll either use the one he still has, or if he lost both, his head. It's a subversion because his head or one arm both work just as well as both arms, and he moves the same speed either walking or hopping on one leg.
The Call of Duty franchise plays this trope amazingly straight. Players can take bullets and explosives every which way and still run about without penalty. However, if you so much as tap them when they're at their limit they keel over.
Played straight in Baldur's Gate, in that the only penalties to taking damage are a penalty to morale checks. A few spells require that the target be below a certain number of hit points, but these are rare.
Clonk plays this completely straight. Animals and clonks will go from fully-functional to corpse in a blink, buildings and vehicles will catch fire.
Sword of the Stars averts this on a few levels — individual weapon mounts can be destroyed, and Destroyers and Cruisers can still barely function if they lose a ship section (to a degree - lose the engine and they're dead in space, lose the mission section and they lose special abilities ect.). This trope is then invoked with the Dreadnoughts, which are described as having so much armor and system redundancy that they remain completely functional until they explode, making them difficult to destroy.
The sequel tries to avert this even more. Ship's armor is now no longer just extra hit points. Each shot whittles away the armor (depending on the spot hit and the type of weapon) until the hull is exposed, at which point shots deal critical damage. A key system can be damaged, and each critical hit also kills crewmembers. Kill enough crew, and the ship's effectiveness is drastically reduced. Hit the reactor, and the trope is invoked but justified.
Played straight in Scaler, where Scaler can be trundling along merrily with a single hit point, but will fall over and die if he so much as gets jabbed by a cactus, or brushes against one of the (otherwise harmless) fish/snake like enemies that trundle over climb paths.
The Stalker series plays it straight, with some occasional lapses. Regardless of where an enemy is hit, they will continue to function as normal until their health drops to zero. If the player pushes them over the edge, the killing shot will usually throw the enemy across the room and send up a cloud of blood.
Sometimes, though rarely, averted in that the victim will instead collapse on the ground in the fetal position, whimpering and begging for his life (a possible source of Fridge Horror). He will do this despite the fact he was just running around lobbing grenades like a maniac, shouting profanity and curses like a highschool jock.
Anomalies are a perfect example of Critical Existence Failure. Stalkers can and will approach them, even trigger them, without showing any kind of ill effects until their health drops to 0, at which point they might be melted, electrocuted, incinerated, tossed around like a ragdoll, sucked into a gravitational vortex, or explode into a grisly shower of gore and viscera. In later games, it is occasionally all of the above.
Persona 3 averts this to a degree. The more fights your team is in the more tired they get and the more likely they become to take serious damage from the next fight. Over time this becomes less of an issue.
But also plays it straight, in that if the main character runs out of HP, its game over. Nevermind that the rest of the party is at full health, the monster is almost dead, and you have a dozen Revival Beads in your inventory. This is somewhat justified in that if the protagonist falls in battle, the Death that's sealed within him is set free and causes The Fall, however, even after about 3/4ths of the storyline, where that same entity is set free in a controlled manner, it's still a Game Over if the protagonist dies.
Air Force Delta Strike uses a hit point system with regards to aircraft damage. Though it shows damage when your hitpoints go below a certain percentage, your plane will start smoking, this is only a cosmetic effect. You can take repeated missile shots to the same engine(s) and your plane will keep turning and burning, but if you take one last AA bullet that just barely glances the wingtip...fireball.
Naval Ops series was a particularly bad offender. Though it did have potentials for critical hits to rudder, engines, fire, and bilge, your ship can still take loads of hits from artillery shells, missile swarms, laser blasts, torpedoes, etc... and will have nothing more than a purely cosmetic flame image that is roughly in the middle of the ship. However, one little bullet from even the smallest machine-gun will send you to meet Davy Jones.
The Gundam game Crossfire completly averts this. When you get hit, a diagram of your MS in the corner changes color, e.g when you get hit in the arm, it changes from Blue-Green-Orange-Red-Flashin-Destroyed. The effects are quite noticable. For example, if your head is destoryed, you can't use your radar. If your leg is destoryed, you limp or die if both legs are gone. Arms are very important as you lose your weapon and even resort to kicking if both are destroyed. If your main body gets hit, you die.
Averted in Prisoners Of Power: Epilogue. As units receive damage, they deal less and less damage themselves, and also lose morale untill they take to panic and seize to shoot at all. Thus you usually don't even need to finish the near-dead enemies off, unless they can reach a repair shop nearby, or you feel like a few extra XP points.
In Hexen 2, when a certain type of enemy hacks at you, chunks of flesh are actually seen flying away. No effect on combat ability.
Dragon Age II has this in spades, with enemies often exploding in a shower of Ludicrous Gibs even if plugged by an arrow for their last hit points...
Dragon Age: Origins plays the trope mostly straight. So long as your characters have at least 1 HP left, they fight on without penalty, and even if they are taken out, they get right back up once the fight's over. However, those that have recovered from a KO retain injuries that give penalties to the character's stats until they're treated.
While Mortal Kombat wasn't any worse at this than most fighting games for most of the series, Mortal Kombat 9 takes this to ridiculous extremes with its X-Ray Moves, special moves that display an x-ray image of the opponent to show how they're being impacted by the hit. Apparently, in the Mortal Kombat multiverse, people can have their skulls shattered and still not die until the opponent performs the Finishing Move.
Shouldn't my head just fall off with how hard you're hitting my neck?
Yeah, let's talk about logic in Mortal Kombat. Let's do that.
Both played straight and inverted in Final Fantasy X - your party's effectiveness doesn't decrease with damage, but some armours have "SOS" abilities - abilities that only come into effect if you are in a "critical" state (i.e. less than 50% HP)
Final Fantasy XI: During Wings of the Goddess, turns out Atomos couldn't swallow both futures without suffering one. It seems it bit off more than he could chew.
Desert Strike plays this straight with your chopper's hitpoints. It can take massive damage from all manner of SA Ms, rockets and AA Guns and keep on fighting, but one last stray bullet from a rifle and you instantly crash to the ground in a big fireball.
A bit of both in the old DOS game Terra Nova Strike Force Centauri. You and your Powered Armor had three health meters: Armour, which would recover over time when not getting horribly shot, suit systems which could be damaged or destroyed under heavy fire, resulting in effects like your weapons no longer functioning, your sensors or video display glitching out, and health, which generally only took damage in the same way as your suit systems, i.e, if you sustained several hits. Only by losing all your health would you die; the suit was seemingly able to survive the most unholy poundings. It wasn't totally averting the trope however: Certain teammates carried an ASF (auxilliary suit function, basically a special weapon or device) called the PBA Repair Kit which allowed them to fix up your suit systems but not your health. You could be down to your last hit point but have your suit repaired good as new, but one bad hit and you die (and dying always equals your suit exploding and roasting you alive inside regardless of how damaged it itself was). The only way to recover health was through a different ASF called the aptly-named Auto-Doc.
Averted in Betrayal at Krondor and its Spiritual SequelBetrayal In Antara. In those games, characters have stamina points and health points (Which cannot be reduced until all stamina points are gone). Once a character starts losing health points, their base statistics for all skills drop proportionately to simulate the character being wounded. This means that the lower your HP gets in a fight, the less likely that you will be able to defeat your opponents unless you take some action to treat your injuries.
Played straight in Star Control, where the ship's crew is used to represent its hit points. The ship is fine and fully-functional (barring some special abilities that drain crew) until you have one crewmember left. Lose that crewmember, and the ship explodes spectacularly. The Syreen in the first game actually start battles with a half-empty HP bar (justified in-verse due to the Syreen having an extremely low population thanks to their planet being destroyed). During the battle, you can use their special ability to steal crewmembers from the other ship. The Mycon (being fungal lifeforms) can regenerate crew. The top of the ridiculousness of the crew-hitpoint analogy is reflected in the Pkunk ability for their destroyed ships (which are pretty flimsy) to be resurrected 50% of the time thanks to the Pkunk believing in reincarnation (i.e. their crew is resurrected; therefore, the ship must be too).
Averted in X2: The Threat and later games in the X-Universe. Once the shields go down, the ship starts taking damage to the hull. When hull integrity goes below ~85%, the ship starts to lose speed, and upgrades and weapons randomly break.
The Boron-designed Ion Disruptor takes advantage of this mechanic, using its single point of hull damage to maximize the time to strip equipment from the target to clear the way for boarding parties.
Guns of Icarus: If the health meter for either the zeppelin or the rigging reaches zero, the Icarus will be destroyed, but aside from some fire graphics, there won't be any effect until then.
The Elder Scrolls series play this straight, although Skyrim averts it by rendering certain enemies (like humanoid races, Draugr, trolls, giants and the like) immobile and kneeling on the ground when low on health, which makes them regain hit points faster. Dragons are more affected, as when 2/3 of their health are removed, they can no longer fly, leaving them vulnerable on the ground.
Subversion in Escape Velocity. Ships work just fine no matter how much hull integrity they have left ... until they hit either 1/3 or 1/10 max armor (depending on the ship), at which point the ship is disabled and everything stops working at once.
Company of Heroes averts this, when vehicles get damaged enough some of their weapons will stomp working, and when they are finished they explode or run out of control before crashing and blowing up.
Averted in the roguelike Unreal World. If you are hurt, you will take penalty to skill checks, and the worse you are injured, the higher the penalty is.
In extreme flight-sim game IL-2 Sturmovik, this is extremely realistically averted. Bullets can hit controls, lines, or other components, causing them to not function properly or not at all. Losing a wing would cause your plane to not be aerodynamic, leading to problems. Shooting a fuel line will cause you to leak fuel, or possibly, set it ablaze. Even a shot to the engine will probably set it ablaze, eventually engulfing the entire plane. You will not die, however. Even if your plane is in 3 different pieces, as long as the cockpit is in one piece, you can still pilot the plane, although you can't do much. The only way you can insta-die is if you crash high speed into the ground, shattering your plane like a coffee mug, or similarly, by the rare engine explosion, or crashing headfirst into another plane. You can also, technically die by the pilot being fatally shot (it's important to note that the pilot can be shot and not die, it depends on the severity of the wound, and being wounded but not dead will cause your performance to decrease), although the plane continues to operate, although you can't pilot it, obviously, as you're dead. You can also die from your pilot hitting the ground too hard after ejecting.
Averted in Desert Assault, where your character moves more slowly when low on health. In a multiplayer session, you can be carried around by a teammate but can do nothing but shoot.
PAYDAY: The Heist has you being shot by hordes of SWAT and cops, but you will still be able to run and jump without hindrance, even if your health is on a sliver. However, if you are taken down and then revived, you start out with less health and you lose even more health if you keep going down and getting revived. This also reduces the amount of time you can bleed out.
Borderlands2 averts the trope for both the player and enemies. Most enemies will limp and attack slower when their health is low. Players can keep fighting, even at one hit point, until they lose all their health and go into "Fight For Your Life" (aka bleeding out) mode where they can no longer use special abilities or grenades, and all weapons will fire and reload slower than normal.
Minecraft essentially plays this straight. Your character can fall many meters to the point where your legs would be shattered and you're fine, but a single punch and you die. The same goes for mobs, even the bosses. The Wither plays a variation of this; when it gets to half of its health, it's immune to ranged weaponry.
The iOS game Star Command both plays it straight and averts it. Your ship can be hit in random locations, usually damaging the hull or even causing hull breaches it hit near a wall. A hit can also land in a room and, if powerful enough, can render that room useless until repaired. This includes the bridge, engineering, weapons, sick bay, shield booster, and dodge rooms. The enemy will also often send boarding parties that attack your crew and the rooms. Played straight for enemy ships. They're just as effective with full hull and shield points as they are with no shields and 1 HP. However, unlike yours, enemy shields don't regenerate. Also played straigh for your crew. They function normally until their lifebar runs out (or they get sucked out through a nearby hull breach).
Blade Runner plays this straight. There is no noticeable or lasting damage from gunshots, but take too many hits in one sitting and you'll drop like a sack of potatoes.
Averted by Penumbra; when Philip's health gets too low he'll begin to limp and become unable to run.
Thrillville averts this in RC Wars, cars that are damaged are harder to control.