Related to In Space Everyone Can See Your Face, in any work where a hero wears armor, either powered or otherwise, the helmet is never worn, even in combat situations.
The reasons for this are various. Humans are good at recognizing faces, and associate faces with personalities. It avoids dehumanizing the characters (see: Faceless Goons). Actors need facial expressions as a main tool of their performances. Also, less armour equals moreBadass.
Alternately, the armor the main character wears might not be distinctive enough to make him stand out from other people wearing armor; we wouldn't want our hero to just be one of the faceless goons, after all. Writers and artists often try to alleviate this by giving main characters almost, but not quite the same uniform as the Faceless Mooks — or cheat by giving the hero a helmet, but shows their face clearly, whereas everyone else wears a full face helmet.
And in video games where you can customize your character's appearance, wearing a helmet will often obscure it and waste all the effort you put into it.
On a related note, in virtually every superhero movie in which the main character wears a mask, it will be pulled off during the climax of the movie. Usually it's torn off or so badly damaged that there's no point in keeping it on; sometimes the hero just decides to take it off.
Contrast Cool Helmet.
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For someone who wears 24-Hour Armor, Berserk's Guts doesn't seem to like helmets. It's possible he either feels it wouldn't help or has trouble seeing out of them with only one eye. Generally averted, however, as everyone else in armor (including Guts during "Band of the Hawks") wear helmets.
Ironically, one of the few times we ever see him wearing a helmet, it ends up saving his life, albeit shattering in the process.
Whenever Guts does wear his helmet, it somehow comes off in the midst of battle. How else would we see his beautiful battle smile?
Furthermore, everyone who was part of the Band of the Hawk stopped wearing helmets altogether after they won the Hundred Year War for Midland, Guts left, Griffith had a breakdown and got arrested, and the rest of the Hawks became fugitives although they all continued to wear the rest of their armor.
Perhaps terrifyingly averted when Guts obtains the Berserker Armor, which includes a Hellhound shaped Helmet that only appears when Guts is in an uncontrollable fury... Basically, see Guts' face; you may be ok. See the Helmet; kiss your ass goodbye.
However, when he learns to keep it under control with Schierke's help he keeps the helmet on but his face is shown in some scenes by only drawing the outline of the helmet.
It usually doesn't last long in Saint Seiya before the main heroes start losing their helmets early in the battle for the rest of the arc.
In Ronin Warriors the Ronin Warriors avert this by wearing their helmets in battle all the time, though they usually leave their faces exposed unlike the Dark Warlords. Anubis plays this straight after his Heel-Face Turn. Even after he starts using his armor again, his helmet always vanishes.
Erza of Fairy Tail has many, many suits of Instant Armor. Though most have some sort of headwear, only two of them have actual helmets, neither of which cover any of her face.
Zigzagged in Desert Punk: pretty much everyone wears desert suits with Cool Helmets whenever their traveling or are in combat, main characters included. However, Kanta semi-frequently loses use of his entire suit, generally before doing something incredibly badass (like disabling a tank by himself, with a shotgun). Junko, out of shear vanity, wears her suit's helmet only when absolutely necessary.
Justified in a flashback in the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex where Saito shows how he first met The Major, where initially her, Batou and Ishikawa are all wearing the white UN Peacekeeper helmets until he starts sniping them, at which point they remove them. It's justified because the stark white of the helmets is actually endangering them by making them easier to see, the former two are full-body cyborgs, and they find out firsthand that the helmets might as well be tissue paper when faced with a high-velocity round when Saito takes out several of their helmeted comrades.
Generally averted in superhero comics, where stylish head coverings such as masks, cowls, and helmets come standard. The most notable exception is Lex Luthor, whose standard Powered Armor stops at the neck to show off his trademark Bald of Evil. Then again, he's not exactly a hero.
Although it has to be said that most cowls, helmets and masks used in comics tend to leave exposed the lower half, if not more of the face exposed, allowing artists to show some expressions. In some cases, e. g. Jack Kirby's design for Thor, the helmet is more a glorified hat (Thor does not really need it anyway, being functionally invulnerable). It is noticeable however that many superheroes who are far from invulnerable eschew helmets, instead preferring to put on cowls or masks that offer no protection except for their secret identity, e. g. Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Black Panther, Hawkeye and Captain America in most versions of his costume.
The Black Knight manages to go further and completely invert this in the first half of Captain Britain and MI13, wearing an outfit that's completely ordinary clothes except for his signature helmet.
Averted to the level of being a defining character trait with 2000AD's Judge Dredd.
In the well-known X-Men story God Loves Man Kills, Magneto is acting as a good guy at a time it was far from expected of him, though he'd been established as a Well-Intentioned Extremist by this point. His helmet is not worn for most of the story. It's seen in two panels: a distant shot of him attacking the bad guy has him wearing it. The very next panel, a closer shot as he speaks, has the helmet in the process of being knocked away, leaving his face mostly uncovered in that panel.
Also, throughout the Genoshan Excalibur, Magneto wears a less-armored black version of his usual outfit. It's helmetless. He also had a helmetless outfit during much of the time when he was leading the X-Men while Xavier was in Shi'ar space. (These days, though, Mags' outfit doesn't change no matter how nice he's playing.)
In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the hero gets a lot of flak during training for removing his head gear, but does the same thing later when wearing Powered Armor. In the second instance, at least, it might be justified by it having been damaged, as you can see large gash through the viewscreen just before he takes it off.
Also in a flashback. Duke is seen to be helmet-less whilst all his troops have them during a particularly intense fire-fight.
Frequently seen in The Lord of the Rings movies, from Elrond in the opening battle, to Aragorn and Legolas at Helm's Deep and Pelennor Fields. Gimli, on the other hand, hardly ever takes his helmet off at all.
It's averted fairly often, as well. In addition to Gimli, above, Théoden, Éowyn, Merry and Pippin wear their helmets throughout most of the Seige of Minas Tirith, Faramir wears one when he attacks Osgiliath, and Éomer wears one almost all the time that he is in battle.
Achilles removes his helmet just before fighting Hector in Troy, remarking that this time, Hector is sure of who he's fighting. Previously, Hector killed Achilles's cousin, who was wearing his armor and posing as him. Also, Achilles isn't going to care if he gets hit in the HEAD, so it's not as though it's a disadvantage.
Played with in the opening battle of Saving Private Ryan. One soldier has an enemy bullet glance off his helmet, he takes it off to marvel at his luck, and catches a sniper round between the eyes.
Averted then played straight in the film of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: When Peter and King Miraz are dueling, both start out wearing their helmets, and Peter's even saves him from a few blows. After their brief intermission, Peter takes his off to breathe more easily and keeps it off when they restart; the villain's helmet stays on a few minutes more before he decides to remove it, as well.
A Knight's Tale takes this up to eleven: Will is injured just before the final lance, which will determine who wins the world championships. Not only does he opt not to wear his helmet, he takes off all his armour, saying he "can't breathe with it on." You won't breathe if you take it off either, Will, because you will be dead.
On the other hand, the chestplate was damaged enough that it was pushing at the wound and possibly compressing his chest.
Averted in most of the earlier jousts. In commentary, the director noted the convenience of being able to cut from shots of the actors, ending when they pulled down their faceplates, to shots of the stunt men.
And in the first joust, William used the damage to his faceplate to justify not showing his face — even after the combat.
An egregious example is the end of Batman Returns where the Dark Knight actually tears the rigid plastic neck of his batsuit in order to remove the headpiece which was not designed to be removed without taking off the upper part of the suit. The suit, by the way, was already established to be bulletproof body armour. This leads to the question of how he gets the headpiece on in the first place.
Averted in Starship Troopers, where the cast reasonably wear their combat helmets in battle. In fact, failure to do so gets a person killed during boot camp.
Assuming you don't take a look at the angle (a chin strap does not stop a bullet...). But it was the thought that counts
In Spider-Man 3, Harry opens the faceplate on his Goblin helmet whenever it's dramatic to do so. Even Venom gets in on the act — The symbiote pulls back from Eddie Brock's face whenever he feels like taunting Spider-Man.
Similarly, Spidey's mask either ends up removed or significantly damaged during dramatic moments to show the audience the look on Tobey Maguire's face.
In Top Gun, all pilots do wear helmets, but none of the named characters ever have their sun-visors down over their eyes while flying (not even "by the book" pilots such as Jester or Viper). Conversely, the helmets of all the unnamed MiG pilots cover the entire head.
While Sylverster Stallone's Dredd does spend most of the movie without a helmet, it's made clear that most of the guys he arrested only know him by his chin, so he never takes it off while out on patrol. When Rob Schneider's character unintentionally announces Dredd's identity on the prison shuttle, another inmate uses his hand to block the top of Dredd's face from view, so he could confirm that the chin is indeed Dredd's.
Played with in the 2012 Dredd movie. As in the comics, Dredd himself is never seen without his helmet. The more idealistic (and female) rookie he's mentoring, however, eschews a helmet entirely. When he accuses her of forgetting it, she explains that it would interfere with her psychic abilities.
Dredd: Think a bullet might interfere with them more.
Averted, somewhat, in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. In the scene where the NEST team investigates Chernobyl, they do manage to wear Hazmat suits with self contained breathing apparatus that cover their entire face. However, these masks are much larger than in real life, presumably to allow the audience to see the face of the actor.
Initially averted in The Last Samurai, but most of the main samurai characters forgo helmets for the final battle. Ujio wears one during the cavalry charge, but loses it almost immediately.
Thor keeps his incredibly cool helmet on for maybe three seconds at a ceremony. Apparently this was due to tests that they did where they determined that the helmet was too heavy for Hemsworth to wear on a consistent basis. His devious brother Loki wears his even cooler helmet almost constantly. According to him, it weighs seven pounds.
By the time Thor comes back for The Avengers he's either lost his helmet or just didn't feel the need to bother. Captain America ends up with his helmet off fairly often, and even has it forcibly removed by an enemy near the end of the film (likely so that the audience can more clearly see his emoting).
Notably, the first film Loki is in where he is not the villain, Thor: The Dark World, is also the first film where he never wears his helmet.
Played straight in Snow White & the Huntsman. During the climatic battle, Snow White wears full armor but no helmet. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you take into consideration that Snow White is the leader of a rebellion, so she has to be recognizable to give hope to her fellow rebels and the oppressed population. There's also the psychological aspect in her battle with the Queen, who is obsessed with her own beauty and the fear that Snow White will supplant it. However these arguments don't seem relevant when Snow White and her knights are charging across the beach towards the castle, bombarded by a Rain of Arrows and catapults hurling great balls of fire.
In Willow, Madmartigan dons a full suit of armor complete with helmet in preparation for the battle of Tir Asleen, only to lose the helmet about a minute into the fighting, and never bothers to retrieve or replace it.
In First Knight, when Lancelot is made a Knight of the Round Table, he is given a standard suit of armor. During his first battle under King Arthur's service, he quickly discards the helmet when he finds that he can't see a thing in it.
Inverted in Iron Man 2. In the final battle, the heroes wear helmets but Vanko takes his off, which leaves him vulnerable to Stark and Rhodes' finishing move. The series generally averts this with Tony keeping his faceplate down in most situations, but makes up for it by inter-cutting shots of Tony's face from inside the helmet in the form of a Heads-Up Display, which still allows him to emote and react to what's happening.
Played with in 300, in that most if not all of the Spartans go to battle at Thermopylae with their helmets on, and most of the attacking Persians have helmets (or at least some sort of head and/or face covering) as well. The helmets are usually only taken off between battles, if they get knocked off/too damaged to be functional, or in special circumstances such as the Captain going on a mad slaughter or Leonidas removing his helmet to get a clear view of Xerxes when he hurls his spear at the outset of the final "battle".
In Man of Steel, when Jor-El armors up to defend his home from Zod and his followers, he stops short of donning a helmet. The ensuing duel with Zod has them both firmly in the grip of this trope, armored from throat to toes in heavy, very functional armor... but with heads completely exposed (which leads to each of them punching the other in the face—a lot.
Superman's own iconic outfit in this iteration seems to have this as a default now that it's not tailor-made and custom but is instead what appears to be one of the standard uniforms for the long defunct interstellar Kryptonian scouting program.
In the Star Trek novel Gulliver's Fugitives, a documentary/propaganda maker tells his "star" to take his helmet off before getting in a fist fight with one of the resistance members. Yes, the bad guys manage to stage events like that in real combat missions.
Lampshaded in at least one Ciaphas Cain '(HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!)' novel, where Cain comments on the stupidity of going in to battle while wearing powered armour but no helmets. A later novel comments on the Adepta Sororitas' habit of omitting their helmets, which probably would have saved a few of them against the 'nids.
Cain has no choice; his uniform includes a peaked cap, which precludes him from using a helmet. He frequently regrets that this is the case.
Justified in the Space Wolf novels. The Wolves rely heavily on the enhanced senses unique to their chapter's genetic makeup, and when they do need to wear helmets they grumble that it feels like the world is muffled. Plus, their skeletons are just as hard as other Astartes so a headshot isn't as great a worry.
Variation: Justified in Snow Crash: Y.T. does without a helmet because it plays havoc with her hearing and peripheral vision, and anyway she has enough other safety gear that the presence or absence of a helmet would be largely academic.
Justified in the Discworld novel Monstrous Regiment. The Squad stop at a garrison town to equip themselves, but what equipment they find is so thoroughly battered that the helmets weren't even capable of keeping the rain off.
In A Song of Ice and Fire Tyrion removes his helmet during the Battle of Blackwater to stop himself from drowning, and later takes an axe to the head that nearly kills him. After he's mostly recovered his father reprimands him for doing it, saying that his brother would never have been foolish enough to take off his helmet during battle.
Used in Fate/Zero the same as Fate/Stay Night. The exception is Black Knight who wears a full black suit of mail with helmet. The helmet keeps not only his head but also his identity safe for almost the entire war, and it is only revealed in the moment of his death.
Averted in John Birmingham's Axis of Time series. All Marines were helmets when going into battle. Those worn by "uptimers" (i.e. people from the 21st century) features networked HUDs. A "temp" (i.e. someone from the 1940s) Marine is geared out as a 21st century Marine just before deploying in Australia to fight the Japanese. He removes his helmet, claiming that all the images in the HUD are giving him a headache (it's previously mentioned by Colonel Badass "Lonesome" Jones that it was thousands of hours of practice in order to get used to all the visual information). When told by Julia Duffy (an "uptimer" reporter similarly geared out) that it's dangerous to go into battle without a helmet, he brushes her off. As soon as the doors open and he steps out, half of his head is blown off by shrapnel.
Averted in the World of Warcraft: Tides of Darkness novelization during the Combat by Champion between Lord Anduin Lothar and Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer. Lothar is wearing a helmet... but that doesn't help when the full weight of a giant warhammer comes vertically down on it after shattering Lothar's sword. By contrast, Orgrim isn't wearing a helmet.
Live Action TV
In the early episodes of Stargate SG-1, Daniel and Carter wore helmets while O'Neill wore a baseball cap. Lampshaded in the episode "Moebius" in which the team has an alternate first mission:
Daniel: How come we have to wear these and you don't?
After SG-1 stop wearing helmets, however, other SG teams continue the practice, and SG-1 themselves do continue to wear headgear (usually hats, or in Daniel's case, a bandana) that match whatever camouflage BDUs they are wearing.
Also lampshaded at the end of "Redemption, Part 2", when newly minted SG-1 member Jonas Quinn shows up with a helmet and Carter tells him to lose it. O'Neill gestures no, which is probably because he gave it to Jonas to make him look silly in the first place. That he did the same to Daniel, the team member Jonas is replacing is a sign he is accepting Jonas as a team member. Awww...
Flashpoint, a Canadian police drama, does this way too much. Ironically, the characters started wearing their helmets properly, then stopped using the chin straps, and by now just use uniform caps. The unnamed officers still wear full gear, though.
The TOS spacesuits in Star Trek. The "almost plastic bag death spacesuits". Made entirely to not muss up the hair and show the actor's entire face, the suit doesn't seem to be too ergonomical or protective in the head regions.
24: Every time Jack Bauer storms a room alongside fully equipped and helmeted SWAT members, he goes in practically naked (sometimes he will get a bullet-proof vest). Same goes for any other credited co-star going in with him.
Practically every semi-realistic show involving a team of police (or similar) does this. When they have to call in more guys (SWAT team, etc) to storm something, the team will lead the assault and while they often will grab a bulletproof vest and sometimes a bigger gun, but the named characters always seem noticeably devoid of head protection.
Power Rangers. It's rare, but if a ranger enters a battle without their helmet for what ever reason, you can bet it's going to be the most epic fight of the season.
In the opening of the first episode of Firefly, the Battle of Serenity Valley is raging. Several Browncoat soldiers are seen wearing helmets, but Mal and Zoey don't — and they're the only ones who will appear again after this scene.
During a flashback to the war in "The Message", the first thing Tracey does is remove his helmet in a quiet moment. Mal and Zoe, of course, aren't wearing any. Zoe seems to be more of a stealth unit or scout, and Mal is just kind of an idiot.
In Doctor Who, Rory Williams spends some time as a Roman centurion and dresses in the costume a few times afterwards. While he is shown to own a helmet, he never wears it after his first appearance as the centurion.
On Game of Thrones, come the battle of the Blackwater, named characters like Stannis, the Hound, Lancel, and Joffrey go unhelmeted. Not entirely a use of this trope, and in Stannis and Joffrey's case this can be justified as them wanting their troops to see them to boost morale.
The Hound can also justify it as psychological warfare - half his face being burnt and him towering over everyone else.
George R.R. Martin's commentary on the episode (see the quotes page) quickly becomes hilarious when the battle starts, as he hates this trope and refuses to let it go, even pointing out that Tyrion being the one main character to wear a helmet justifies his status as the smartest person on the show. He's noted at other times that it does get his goat, but on the other hand it's TV, and you have to see the actors.
In Continuum, Kiera Cameron, police officer from the future, lacks a helmet on her super-advanced uniform. Justified in that 1: She was performing ceremonial guard duty when she was thrown back in time and wasn't expected to need a helmet (flashbacks to riot duty show her with one), and 2: Her suit can project a full-body force field in an emergency, so it's not quite as much of a problem as it would normally be.
In Dark Angel, Max doesn't wear a helmet when she rides her motorcycle. The network tried to pressure the production staff into having her wear one, but they pointed out that Max was a Nigh InvulnerableSuper Soldier.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marines, currently providing the page picture, never wear helmets in promotional art, while the rest of their body is armored like a tank. Even in battle scenes, the helmets are off far too often. Also, most of the models of officers and HQ units in Warhammer 40000 lack helmets. If they have a helmet, it's usually painted in a different colour or has a different design from those of regular troops. It's justified because it makes the models easier to spot by the players, but for the same reason it would be a rather bad idea in an actual battlefield. The lack of helmets is lampshaded in one piece of flavour text, where Colonel Straken kills a Chaos Lord by laying in ambush and attacking him from behind when he removes his helmet.
One likely reason the helmets come off so easily is so GW's modelers can show off all the exquisitely-detailed faces they have to paint on a regular basis.
Also, Space Marines are genetically-engineered and conditioned/made to have verytough skeletons, so going without a helmet is not quite as stupid for a Marine as it is for a human. It is still pretty stupid, though.
Lampshaded in the new background, such as the Vorlinghast's Bane story, where the Space Marines sent to cleanse the planet were infected by the warp plague affecting the planet's populace — but only the ones who did not have helmets. The ones who wore full armour were not affected, as they had a completely sealed environment.
Another of the justifications, for the Space Wolves, is that much of their method of fighting as well as communication between each other is derived from their amazing senses of smell and hearing (Even compared to other marines), and producing helmets with auto-senses precise enough to avoid losing information is incredibly challengingnote So much so in the case of smell that the few helmets that are modified to allow them to take advantage of their senses just use a small air chamber to allow them to sample small amounts of the surrounding air when needed.
As far as the actual tabletop models go, almost every race has a lot of basic troops with helmets, where squad leaders and commanders and tank crew almost never wear them. That said, they will usually give you enough helmets to give the sergeant/commander a helmet as well, though thanks to WYSIWHG rules you normally have to paint the sergeant's helmet a different color.
Justified also because the Commander almost always has a melee weapon such as a Chainsword which leave enough of a mess on your armor so as to make wearing a helmet difficult because of the gore obstructing your already limited vision.
Exaggerated by the Tau, who to a man wear full-body suits of armour if not Power Armour or Mini-Mecha... except the spiritual leaders, the Ethereals, who wear ordinary robes and no helmet.
Lampshaded in Prospero Burns. The main character gets many headshots since the Space Wolves are rather.....dim on helmet policies. Hell, instead of wearing good old fashioned ceramite helmets, they wore leather masks that are shaped like a wolf head.
Exalts in Exalted rarely wear helmets along with their glowing MagitekPowered Armor. Storytellers are explicitly discouraged from allowing called shots to the head (or any other unarmored location), as making the PCs do practical things like put on helmets and not wear Chainmail Bikinis is antithetical to the intended atmosphere of the game. Exact wording in the rulebook puts fancy helmet on the same level of importance as a good hairdo - purely cosmetical.
In Dungeons & Dragons, helmets are purely for flavor. Whether or not you wear one makes no difference to Armor Class (barring enchantments).
Deconstructed in Pathfinder - as a child, Seelah stole a paladin's helmet, which resulted in said paladin getting killed in battle.
Somewhat inverted by BattleTech's MechWarriors — their (neuro)helmets are obligatory in the cockpit because they're a key part of the human/machine interface, but aside from those and their cooling vests they tend to traditionally wear as little else as they can get away with while still giving a nod to modesty because the same cockpit can get sauna-level hot in a hurry in combat.
The "we need to recognize the characters" reason is inverted in BIONICLE: Thanks to the wonders of standardized toy parts, most if not all characters in any given story arc will have the exact same face. So a character's unique headgear more or less is his face, and serves as a major way to tell people apart. (In the occasional movie where characters need to actively emote, there are various workarounds, like removing a mouthplate or using an Expressive Mask). It's also worth noting that there's an in-universe practical reason to keep faces covered, too: some races have "losing your mask" as a Weaksauce Weakness.)
Played straight through most of the original 1982-1994 G.I. Joe toyline with poster boy Duke, whose action figures generally included a helmet amongst other items of kit but who was almost never depicted actually wearing it.
In World of Warcraft, a helmet is an integral and necessary part of any player's kit. Nonetheless, it's completely optional whether or not your helmet is visible on your character. However, it remains equipped either way. Of course, most of the important NPCs aren't wearing helmets either, although there are still some notable NPCs who always wear them(Maiev and Darion Mograine) or for an important battle(Tirion Fordring, Varok Saurfang and Muradin Bronzebeard in Icecrown Citadel).
Generally, a lot of MMORPGs have helmet visibility options, partially due to this trope and partially to make the choice of the avatar's hair matter.
Half-Life: Gordon Freeman is never depicted with his helmet on in official art, despite his HEV suit coming with one and every other HEV wearer wearing one. Arguments have been made over why nobody shoots him in the head and why he can breathe on Xen, the consensus being that he does have a helmet. He just doesn't wear it all the time.
Fate/stay night: Some of the super-powered Servants wear armor to protect themselves, but they don't bother with the helmets. The armor they wear do come with helmets; the design shows up in the artbooks, the Servants just prefer not to have them. This actually bites one of them in the ass at one point: Saber is nearly defeated because her head is the only unarmoured portion of her. Incidentally, the only time we see her helmet in the actual game is in the Heaven's Feel path, coloured in the black and red of Saber Alter, where it's almost immediately shattered by Berserker's attacks, which may explain why Saber prefers not to wear it in combat.
This is, if you think about it, a real head against wall moment since we are repeatedly told that servants' identity must remain hidden, and covering your face is one of the most effective ways to conceal your identity. At the same time it's not though, as unless two heroes from the same country and lifetime were summoned they would be unlikely to recognize one another.
In Gears of War, the protagonists don't wear helmets, and doing so seems to doom you to an untimely death. The helmet design makes it difficult to spot snipers with only two small spots for your eyes to look out of.
Gears Of War 2 has a couple instances where the protagonists and Ben Carmine (who wears a helmet at all times) point out situations where wearing the helmet would have been incredibly useful.
Played with and ultimately subverted in Gears of War 3 with Clayton Carmine, who is shot in the head by a friendly sniper mistaking him for a hostile... but the poor angle of the impact causes the round to glance off his helmet, leaving him stunned but unhurt. If he had not been wearing the helmet, it would have killed him.
Clayton's tattoo he got in memorial of his fallen brothers shows their helmets. For the Carmine family, their helmets are their real faces. Each of them even wears a unique helmet design.
In Mass Effect, all characters except Tali have a helmet on/off option with no disadvantage for not wearing a helmet. Only when the atmosphere isn't breathable do all characters wear their helmets. This might be justified by the fact that the character rely more on shields than physical armor to protect them from high-tech weaponry. In Mass Effect 2, however, wearing a helmet does give you stat advantages... you alone, and the bonus for wearing most helmets isn't really all that impressive, with both of your starting helmets providing a whopping 5% more health. Your allies don't even get the option anymore. In the third installment, you have the option of helmet visibility for cutcenes for Shepard and squadmates separately. The Mars level is still kind of weird, as we see Shepard's team taking their helmets on and off whenever is convenient. It's unclear where exactly they go, or why - when set to "off in conversations" - everyone's helmets will disintegrate the moment you stop to chat, then rematerialise as soon as the conversation ends.
It's also zigzagged throughout Mass Effect 3's Multiplayer. All human characters wear helmets, some turians and krogans do and some don't, none of the asari or drell wear helmets, all quarians wear helmets and the geth are completely helmetless.
Then again, geth don't exactly need to wear helmets given that they're androids.
In Dragon Age: Origins if you equip a helmet on any character, it shows whether you like it or not, but is magically removed during all dialogue scenes. The sequel goes further and restricts your party members to their unique ungradable armor sets (ME2-style), none of which features anything remotely face-concealing. Hawke may still wear a helmet but it is magically removed during dialogue, like in the first game. In Dragon Age II you can check the "Hide Helmet" box in the interface settings, found in the options.
In Luminous Arc games, as with a lot of SRP Gs, the player spends a considerable amount of money on helmets, hoods, hats and other headgear which NEVER makes a difference to the character designs in-game.
Armored knights/generals in Fire Emblem games generally wear helmets that obscure their faces while in combat, especially in the GBA games, where characters of a class shared the same battle sprites — but will be helmetless in dialogue. In, say, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, your generals won't bother. Admittedly, in Gatrie's case, his armor hides the lower half of his face anyway.
None of Radiant Dawn's Marshalls (third-tier armored knights) wear helmets. While Gatrie and Brom never use headgear in RD, Tauroneo and new addition Meg do start out helmeted. That's right — they promote out of helmets.
That's right, their skulls level up so much they can take blows bareheaded! Beat THAT!
Played straight, averted and lampshaded in Killzone 2. While the main cast of heroes never wear combat helmets, virtually everybody else does. In fact, combat helmets act as an actual gameplay mechanic, with few weapons being capable of penetrating an enemys helmet on impact. The helmet is however knocked off the enemy mook, ensuring the next headshot to be fatal. Finally, the trope itself is lampshaded in the games cinematic intro, with a news topic briefly scrolling during the big bads speech. The topic reads: "Combat helmets, are they really necessary?"
Inverted in the Halo series. The helmet of the Master Chief is one of the icons of the series and looks pretty awesome.
In Halo 3: ODST the faceless Rookie always wears his helmet, but the rest of his unit will take theirs off or de-tint the visors whenever they're not in combat. Although you have an option to play as one of the other squad members in Firefight without a helmet, and it doesn't make any difference to the enemy AI's capability of headshotting you whether you choose to wear it or not.
A similar situation happens in Halo: Reach; the members of NOBLE Team always wear their helmets during combat situations, but only Noble Six and Emile will keep them on when the shooting stops.
Played straight in Halo Wars with Sergeant Forge, who is the only UNSC ground pounder in the game to never wear a helmet.
In Halo 4, this is played almost completely straight by Sarah Palmer. At least it's mostly averted by the rest of the Spartan-IVs; even Fireteam Majestic usually keep their helmets on whenever they go groundside.
The various UNSC Army and Marine sergeants all seem to prefer wearing caps as opposed to the helmets worn by their subordinates.
Starcraft II makes a point of giving all the power-armored characters helmets with reflective (and presumably armored) visors. They tend to raise them fairly often in cutscenes, even when sometimes a little extra protection seems like it would be quite worthwhile. At least there's a second, transparent visor behind the outer one that keeps the suit sealed.
Ground vehicle pilots tend to not have any sort of helmets at all, odd when compared to their original Starcraft equivalents sometimes epic headgear. The new siege tank driver looks like he's driving a tank in an officer's dress uniform, sans topper. Special mention must go to the Viking pilot, who opens and closes his faceplate when the unit changes form, and the Banshee pilot, who lowers a display eyeshield and blacks out the cockpit glass when she cloaks.
The Protoss also invert this trope pretty hard. The base infantry Zealot goes bareheaded, but the unit portraits for some of the heroic and pilot characters feature some really epic headgear. Of course, protoss don't have much in the way of a face, so concealing it isn't that big an issue.
And in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Kain purges himself of his dark side for good and gets a new Holy Dragoon job class. As a part of his new costume, his full helmet is replaced with a sort of tiara that shows his good looks. Golbez no longer wears a helmet either, instead becoming a rare male example of Stripperific.
This is likely the reason that Fallout 3 changed armor/clothing from being a single piece to helmets and the rest of the armor taking up a slot each. There's a total of one example that isn't and it's the Chinese Stealth Armor from the Operation Anchorage DLC.
Averted in Metal Gear Solid 4, of all things. After defeating Laughing Octopus, Snake gets a mask add on for his Octocamo. Wearing it is the only way to accomplish stealth after that point. It also makes you look a little like Deadpool.
Averted in Dead Space, where protagonist Isaac Clarke spent pretty much the entire game wearing a helmet. In Dead Space 2, he removes it when talking during cutscenes, but still wears it the majority of the time.
Unlike in the first game, the helmet in the sequel automatically disassembles and stows itself inside Isaac's armor when his face needs to be seen. However it tends to come off at the most inconvenient times.
In Dead Space 3, he still keeps it on the vast majority of time, except for once when the suit is damaged and the helmet malfunctions (the fact that the frigid environment is hazardous is a gameplay element), and when fighting the final boss he rips it off (it had been badly damaged by debris) and fights it bare-headed.
Inverted in Chrono Cross, in which party member Zoah wears a helmet... And pretty much nothing else.
Played with occasionally in the Metroid series. Usually Samus subverts this trope by wearing a helmet that fully conceals her face, but in some games her visor is fully transparent. In Other M she can polarize and depolarize the opacity of her visor at will (she depolarizes the visor when speaking to people to appear less intimidating, but otherwise has it opaque during combat). The Fedaration Marines in Other M try to find a medium by having helmets that mechanically open to completely reveal their faces (unfortunately the opened helmets look a bit top-heavy, giving them a tendency towards Dark Helmet Syndrome).
Averted in the original game to allow her gender to be hidden until the ending.
In Metroid Prime Corruption, the helmet can apparently be teleported on and off at Samus's whim, but the only times she does it is when an overdose of Phazon causes her to vomit, and parts of the ending. Otherwise she never takes off the helmet during a mission, even on planets with earthlike atmosphere. Nor does anyone else, except for Admiral Dane.
Taking its cue from Warhammer 40,000, most Imperial squad leaders and heroes in Dawn of War fight bareheaded. The only exceptions are Ogryn BONEheads who wear a horned helmet and some Battle Sister squad leaders. Squad leaders and heroes of other factions vary a good deal: The Chaos Lord is bareheaded (though Eliphas gets a helmet), the Eldar Farseer, Tau commander and Shas'ui (unlike the tabletop) have helmets.
Played absolutely straight in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, as with all other 40K examples. Titus, Sidonus, Inquisitor Drogan, Lt. Mira, and Inquisitor Thrax all go without helmets. Leandros has one to start with, but it is damaged and promptly discarded during the scene in which you meet up with him. The Orks of course don't wear helmets, though almost all of the other various mook-of-the-minute types (the Imperial guardsmen, Chaos militia, etc.) all wear helmets.
No main character from SOLDIER wears their helmet in Final Fantasy VII or Crisis Core. Partly justified in that 1st Class SOLDIERs can wear whatever they want, but Zack doesn't do it even when he's 2nd Class. Averted by Cloud in Crisis Core, who wears the Shinra MP helmet in all action sequences.
Similarly, Zack wears a helmet in Kingdom Hearts meant to resemble a Greek helmet and the SOLDIER helmet for all of 10 seconds and however long it takes you to beat the first battle with him. Once it's knocked off, he never wears it again.
Most units in the Command & Conquer series wear full armor with helmets, but Commando units usually don't. In Tanya's case, she barely wears anything protective at all.
This trope is common throughout the Suikoden series, as its main characters rarely wear helmets, even when riding at the head of helmet-clad troops.
Averted in both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls: The most recognizable "face" of the game is a knight wearing a Fluted Helmet (Demon's Souls) or an Elite Knight Helmet (Dark Souls). It also helps that both of them are Cool Helmet, not to mention that, since a lot of players play in Undead state, seeing your character's emaciated face without a helmet on can be... slightly jarring.
In Uncharted's multiplayer, only villains wore helmets. Taken to eleven in Uncharted 3's multiplayer, where you can buy ten different helmets for your custom villain — and the only one a hero can get is the ISA helmet, which you need real money to buy.
Inverted in Section 8. Your character is almost never seen without his helmet, which also applies to some allies, while villains are usually seen helmetless.
Dropping in from orbit without a helmet may be hazardous to your health.
Played with in the Neverwinter Nights series. Being based on 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, helmets usually don't add anything to Armor Class, but to an extent Armor Is Useless at higher levels anyway. The real reason to wear a helmet is for its enchantments: most basic helmets (particularly in the sequel) will add +1 to Concentration, which is useful to spellcasters.
A weird, villainous version in Champions Online. In Champions, your equipment never affects your appearance, so you can go naked if you want. However, bad guy organization VIPER have units called Air Cavalry...and Air Cavalry Ace. The Air Cavs have the standard VIPER full-concealment helmet, but the Aces only wear goggles. Then, eventually, VIPER subverts it with Viper-X, apparently the leader of the Air Cavalry, who does not appear to wear a helmet (and then it slides into place when he enters combat).
Played with in God of War as Kratos is badass enough that he barely wears any armor at all let alone a helmet, however early concept art from the game had him dressed in full Hoplite suits. The developers actually started removing the armor, helmet included, because he looked too heroic.
Not a single major character in David Mason's squad in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 wears a helmet, including David himself. The only time Harper is ever seen wearing one is during the wingsuit sequence in "Celerium" and the jetpack one in "Judgment Day", and even then, he actually takes it off after landing.
Done in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The player has the option to wear a helmet, but the player can also get a bonus for wearing all pieces of armor, including the helmet. The NPCs the player encounters also have a tendency to not wear helmets. However, this can be averted by having followers wear helmets.
The Dawnguard add-on does this too. The armor for vampires doesn't have helmets at all, while the Dawnguard sets, both heavy and light, do, but these helmets aren't given to you for free with the rest of the set. You can buy them later if you want the set bonus, of course, but nobody actually tells you about that.
Done oddly in The Sims Medieval: men wear helmets, women don't. The default armor for women is otherwise sensible (it's not a Chainmail Bikini and may even cover her more than her regular outfit) but there is no helmet, unlike the default men's armor. However, some other armors include helmets whether they're worn by men or women.
The protagonist of the Pokémon games never wears a helmet or any sort of padding while biking, even in Hoenn where you are able to dangerous tricks. Partly because they don't want to remove their Nice Hat. Averted with one of the gym leaders in Pokémon X and Y, who wears a helmet and is a roller blader.
Heroes in Massive Chalice won't wear helmets to show off the unique features of the characters which is determined by their lineage (which you control).
Subverted in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Like recent Bioware games, you can mark any headgear you wear to show or not (though not if you haven't subscribed or bought the unlock for that feature.) This is quite welcome, as some early headgear can look quite dorky. If you don't hide your headgear, your character doesn't even remove it in conversation except with your companions, which always take place in rest zones (i.e. a safe place), and your voice is mechanically or electronically filtered. And because it's Star Wars, many players leave the headgear on—especially Troopers, Bounty Hunters, and Sith—as they are quite proud of the masks and helmets they bought, hunted down, or fought for completing the character's look.
Considering its origins (as mentioned on its own page), this is undoubtably a jib at Warhammer 40,000.
In Girl Genius, after a certain Moment Of Awesome, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach reveals he has been shot in the side but he was wearing full body armor. One of the Jaegers points out he wasn't wearing a helmet. He justifies it by saying they had to know it was him. Being Jaegers, they suggest a giant hat for that purpose. They provide one.
Largely averted in Drowtales, where helmets are almost always worn in combat, even by named characters. The protagonist Ariel even lampshades this at one point after a fight where she gets her helmet dented and some minor bleeding after a barrage of rocks by saying that now she gets why they make them wear helmets.
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars' clone troopers always keep their helmets on in battle, but always take them off to have conversations, presumably for the benefit of the audience (even if they all have the same face, it's still human nature to want to see individuals).
Lampshaded by Cad Bane in the Season 4 episode "Friends and Enemies"
Rako Hardeen: For trying to blend in, your hat makes you stand out. Cad Baneas Hardeen chooses a helmet: I don't like to hide under a helmet.
Star Wars: Clone Wars inverts this by having all the clone troopers have their helmets on at all time and you never see their faces, save the back of Alpha77 (aka Fordo)'s head. The key clones are distinguished instead by colour markings; specifically, if they're red, chances are they're Badass.
Obi-wan Kenobi wears full armor, with a helmet, in one battle. Naturally, a blow to the head knocks the helmet off so we can see his face. On that ocasion, he was disguised as a Trooper until the helmet loss.
In one (sort of) example, after being unhorsed at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror removed his helmet so his allies could see that he was still alive.
The full helmets of the high mediaeval period seriously restricted the wearer's vision. As such, a lot of knights chose to raise or remove their visors for hand-to-hand combat, accepting the increased risk as a necessary sacrifice in order to remain aware of what was going on around them. Of course, they were very seldom dumb enough to go bareheaded.
Historically, captured knights (and other armoured opponents) relinquished their weapons, helmets, and a gauntlet. The gauntlet was for later identification of their captor so he could claim the ransom. The reason for surrender of the weapons should be obvious, but the helmet was removed so that even if the captive could find weapons he would be unable to effectively fight, given that a conflict with a bare-headed opponent ends very, very quickly. Removal of helmet = death in combat. Good examples of this come from records of the French-English battle at Agincourt.
For similar reasons, in American football a player's helmet is taken immediately when they suspect he has a concussion specifically to prevent him going back out onto the field, since even a concussed player realizes that without a helmet he can't play (both for practical reasons and because it's against the rules).
The whole of heraldry derives from the medieval practice of a knight actually wearing a coat of arms — i.e., a coat over his armor — with a distinctive pattern, so that he could be recognized even while wearing his helmet. Eventually knights started duplicating the pattern on their shields, and then the pattern evolved into a personal/family emblem represented on a stylized shield.
Invoked for SWAT teams and the like — intimidation was a factor in giving them their equipment, since scaring the opposition to surrender without firing a shot is always preferred.
When cricketers first started wearing helmets in the 1970s, some commentators didn't like it. One asked the great Don Bradman about the trend. Bradman replied that if he had been offered a helmet during the infamous bodyline series (where the English constantly bowled short-pitched deliveries that bounced up to around the Australian batsmen's head area), he would have worn one.
This Trope, played straight, may have actually saved the army for Pyrrhus of Epirus at the Battle of Heraclea. During the battle, he was knocked off his horse and badly shaken, so he had his armor and helmet taken up by Megacles, who was of similar build to him. A Roman horseman manages to kill Megacles and sever his head, holding it up and riding down the lines to show that he had killed the Epirote king. The Epirote army began to falter, until Pyrrhus took up a horse and started riding along the lines without a helmet, showing his men he was alive.
British troops based in southern Iraq wore berets instead of helmets on patrol in an effort to win over the local population. This is SOP for peacekeeping operations; it makes the soldiers appear less threatening... unless the soldiers in question are from the Parachute Regiment or the Royal Marines (Names to Run Away From Really Fast if you're an enemy combatant), whose distinctively-coloured berets serve as a remarkably effective deterrent. This practice isn't nearly as risky as it sounds, as scoring a headshot without a scope and the element of surprise is nigh-impossible except at point-blank range, and most proper marksman's rifles come in calibres that can defeat Kevlar anyway. Military ballistic helmets are useful versus shrapnel, but ultimately of secondary importance to protecting the torso. Furthermore, the act of not wearing a full-face helmet makes you harder to kill in the sense that it's harder for the enemy to pull the trigger in the first place. Humans are naturally averse to killing other humans, but it's even harder still when you can look them in the eyes.
Military and law enforcement are also generally trained to shoot "center of mass," which equals the center of the chest. The intended target is the heart or great vessels. American shooters are trained to shoot twice for the chest and once for the head when firing in close combat. The headshot is usually unnecessary after two in the chest. Most lethal bullet strikes are to the torso or abdomen, with limb hits causing death usually if care is delayed.
Truth in Television for some special operations forces, who may forgo helmets and body armour depending upon the mission profile. This is not to say it doesn't compromise their combat effectiveness, its just that in some missions, blending in is deemed more important.
During the evolution of the NHL during the seventies, Canadian players protested the new rules regarding helmet use. According to the Canadian players, a mask for the goalie was enough. Bizarrely, players from the States and Europe didn't tend to agree.
This is especially visible during the 1972 Summit Series. The Canadian National team were bareheaded throughout (except for, oddly enough, eventual series hero Paul Henderson), while the Red Army team wore helmets.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army Marine Corps. While half of them wear the standard black helmet with goggles on the helmet, the other half wear wool/fleece tuques with goggles on their tuque caps. Justified for the tuques keep their head warm at sea and the fact that they are mainly a peace keeping force escorting vessels near the Gulf of Aden. ◊
Many tank commanders from all nations either preferred or were trained to fight unbuttoned, deeming the increased situation awareness better then being protected by the tanks armour. Many also then preferred not to wear helmets as they were too restrictive when they did get inside the turret. Not surprisingly, wounds to tank commanders were usually to the head and often fatal. Tank crew fighting in SE Asia during the Vietnam and associated wars also found it physically impossible to remain fully closed up during combat due to heat exhaustion and would often fight hatches fully open in an effort to improve ventilation.
Young boys often refuse to wear a helmet while biking, probably because of the influence of this trope. The same goes for young girls, though in their case it probably has more to do with getting helmet hair.
Pyotr Grigorenko in his In the underground you can meet only rats memoirs wrote about such a trend among some early Soviet Political Officers (the sort of guys who had some rank, but no one dared to give them any actual command positions even during the total mobilization), which he had to counteract and urge his men to wear helmets. In the end, the best argument was visual one — his own helmet discarded due to a big, sharp, gnarled-looking shrapnel stuck in it (he got away with a scratch and light knockdown that time).
Averted by world-famous daredevil Evel Knievel, who was a major advocate of motorcycle helmets. He never hesitated to urge people to wear helmets, and attributed his own survival to them.