Riddle me this: When is a Faceless Goon not a faceless goon? This trope is about characters who look similar to the resident Redshirts, Mooks, Henchmen Race or other such group of hard-to-distinguish characters, but have some characteristic which makes them easy to pick out. This can be as simple as giving them the same outfit minus a mask or nice hat, but there are other alternatives (e.g., one of the identical-looking Rubber Forehead Aliens who's picked up a Rugged Scar, or a Mecha-Mook with a fancy paintjob).
This can come in two flavours depending on the exact effect the exception has:
- It only makes that one character unique and somehow different from, but still connected to, the rest. This is a common costume/design choice for The Mole (or the result of a MookFace Turn), who wears the enemy's colours by necessity. The Token Heroic Orc (if the other "orcs" look the same), Mook Lieutenant (if they don't have their own uniform or look completely different from their subordinates), and someone using an Ace Custom can also sport this look.
- The character is a proxy for all the other members of their group. They humanise the rest by reminding the audience that they're all individuals under the masks (while avoiding the expense of making every single Rubber-Forehead Alien look unique). Often the result of an Anti-Climactic Unmasking (the generic mook's just a generic mook, who knew?) and coinciding with Helmets Are Hardly Heroic, Nominal Importance, and Breakout Mook Character.
Sister trope to Identical Twin ID Tag (who all get a unique look out of the deal), Odd Name Out (where something similar is done with names), King Mook (when they're distinguished because they're more powerful), and Mauve Shirt (another "generic" character who gets a bit more development). Subtrope of Distinctive Appearances (any instance of using appearance to show individuality). Supertrope to Custom Uniform. Contrast Nonuniform Uniform (where everyone in the group looks at least slightly different), Unique Enemy (which lacks any comparable mooks), Group-Identifying Feature (where members of a group have one distinguishing feature), and Underground Monkey (where a slight variation is itself another group of mooks).
- Nobit the Moonbit from Doraemon: Nobita's Chronicles of the Moon Exploration resembles exactly like other members of his kind, save for his thick Nerd Glasses which identifies him as the Gadgeteer Genius of the Moonbit community.
- In the second Ghost in the Shell movie, Innocence, Batou invades a manufactory ship that is making illicit gynoids. When the gynoids swarm him, Major Kusanagi takes over one of them to lend a hand. He puts his jacket on her shoulders, a technically pointless gesture that serves both as a Call-Back to the previous film and to easily distinguish Kusanagi from the dozens of gynoids that she is fighting.
- Photon: All the diminutive Pochis look alike, only distinguishable by numbered collars. All the Pochis that serve the hammy villain Papacharino Nanandan are female, while Pochi #1 that serves Princess Lashara Moon is male, and is the only Pochi to have some of his hair drawn into a plait with a bow at the end.
- In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Dr. Venom has a courier known as "Scar-Face". With his mask on, he looks like any other Cobra infantry trooper except for the two scars running down the visible portion of his face, forming a "V".
- Ultimate X-Men: When the agents of SHIELD show up in the finale, they are all wearing the classic SHIELD black uniform... except for Nick Fury himself, still with his white Armani.
- In WALLE, after scanning the plant specimen, EVE develops a blinking green "plant" light on her chassis, making it easy for Wall-E to distinguish her from the dozen or so other EVE pods on the exploration shuttle. Later, the robots in the robot repair bay place a red reset button on her, accomplishing the same purpose.
- In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, one Xenomorph gets a distinctive scar over its face early on. No points for guessing which Xenomorph mook is the hardest to kill.
- In Mirrormask, there are a tribe of "monkeybirds", basically gibbons with conical blue beaks, who can only speak their own name. All of them are named Bob, except for one, Malcolm, who has an orange beak and is more helpful to the protagonists than the rest.
- Star Wars examples:
- In A New Hope Luke-disguised-as-a-Stormtrooper is noticeably shorter than the average Stormtrooper - Leia remarks upon it before he takes his helmet off and tries to rescue her.
- In Attack of the Clones C-3PO is pushed into a battle droid assembly plant on Geonosis where his head is soon attached to a battle droid's body. C-3PO becomes part of the battalion of 'bots that are sent into the arena to fight the Jedi Knights. He's not really up to the task.
C-3PO: What's that noise? A battle? Oh, there's been a horrible mistake! I'm programmed for etiquette, not destruction!
- In The Force Awakens, before we get to see Finn (formerly FN-2187) unmasked, one of his dying comrades leaves a Bloody Handprint on his helmet so we can tell him apart from the other stormtroopers during the massacre on the Jakku village.
- All of the Series VI robots from I, Robot are manufactured as identical and undifferentiated ... except Sonny, the one Detective Spooner suspects killed his designer, Doctor Lanning. Sonny looks exactly like any other Series VI robot, but he has a second "brain" in his thorax, which is not accessible by the central control computer V.I.K.I.. This is a critical difference when all the other Series VI robots take the Three Laws of Robotics much too literally (and distinguish themselves from Sonny by glowing red when they turn hostile).
- He's also the only robot to have blue eyes - all the others have yellow.
- Doctor Who, presumably for budgetary reasons (so they only have to make one alien face while leaving the rest masked):
- The Judoon are all helmeted, but one removes his helmet so we can see what they look like (humanoid rhinos, basically). After that, every time they show up there is one unhelmeted and the other two are helmeted.
- Sontarans also all wear helmets except one takes his off.
- Hordes of new series Silurians are shown wearing metal face-masks, but main character Silurians (the three named/speaking characters in "Cold Blood" and Madame Vastra) don't.
- The Cybermen usually have one leader unit who has some portion of their costume painted black (usually their "handlebars" or the "helmet"). The Cyber Controller, who outranks the Cyber Leader, either has no handles and an enlarged domelike head (old series) or the top portion of their "helmet" is see-through, leaving the brain visible (new series).
- Daleks with unusual casing colours usually indicate some kind of rank. Black Daleks and Gold Daleks are often seen leading hordes of regular grey (old series) or bronze (new series) Daleks, and are sometimes called Dalek Supreme. There are also occasionally Red Daleks, including the new series version of the Dalek Supreme. It's generally assumed in the Expanded Universe that the Golds outrank the Blacks, who (in the old series) outrank the Reds, but this hasn't been established on screen, where there's usually only one or the other.
- The Orville:
- Isaac is the only Kaylon with blue eyes.
- Teleya is the only Krill with a unique face - all others use the same default "male" and "female" appliances.
- Kirby Super Star:
- Helpers appear as unique Palette Swaps of the Mook (or Mini-Boss, for Hammer or Suplex) that the Copy Ability comes from. Wheelies are given saddles instead.
- A Waddle Dee is set apart from the rest by his sailor hat. He's later given the (unsurprising) name "Sailor Waddle Dee" in Kirby: Planet Robobot.
- The Bandana Waddle Dee, first introduced in Kirby Super Star Ultra, can be told apart from the other Waddle Dees by the fact that he always wears his trademark blue bandana, has a body with a slightly different shade of red or orange, and sometimes wields a spear. Possibly because of this trope, Bandana Waddle Dee has since gone onto being a recurrent playable character and ally of Kirby from Kirby's Return to Dream Land onwards.
- Kirby Super Star:
- In Half-Life 2, a mook who seems to be about to torture Gordon asks for some privacy...and pulls off his mask to reveal Barney (as a nod to the fact he was based on the generic security guards from the first game). He continues to wear his civil protection uniform (sans mask after the rebellion begins) for the rest of the game.
"So...[removes mask]...how about that beer I owe ya?"
- Beyond Good & Evil's Double H was a member of the Hylian Army, and still wears his armour despite his fellows being subservient to the villains.
- In Crisis Core, while riding on a helicopter, Zack bonds with one of the faceless soldiers over being from the same hometown. He removes his helmet to reveal Cloud; the protagonist of the main FFVII. Naturally he's still just another Shinra grunt for now and spends the rest of the game in his uniform.
- The characters Laguna Loire, Ward Zabak, and Kiros Seagill from Final Fantasy VIII initially serve in the Galbadian army (which is the game's go-to source of mooks). They wear the uniforms, but without the helmets, making their faces visible.
- You can tell Cream the Rabbit's Chao partner Cheese from Sonic the Hedgehog apart from any other neutral Chao by the fact that he wears a red bow tie.
- Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? plays with this by making the main character one of the disposable Mascot Mook prinnies whose wearing a red scarf. However there's nothing special about said Prinny; when they die, the player's next "life" is another prinny wearing the scarf.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Many games in the franchise do this concerning Toad and other important members of his kind (Toadsworth's mustache, Toadette's braid-cap). If he has to show up where other Toads are present, he tends to wear the classic red spots/blue vest combo while the others have one color for both. Super Mario Galaxy in particular introduces Captain Toad and the Toad Brigade, three of whom are distinguished by their accessories (Captain Toad's headlamp and backpack, Hint Toad's glasses, and Mailtoad's mailbag).
- All the party members from the Paper Mario games that are members of the various mook races Mario usually encounters on his adventures (or, in one case, a baby Yoshi) all have some sort of identifiable feature that'll allow one to tell who they are, like Goombario's blue hat, Goombella's exploration outfit, Watt's dummy, Bombette's ponytail-like fuse (and the fact that she's pink), Mini-Yoshi's underwear, etc.
- Averted whenever Kamek appears — there is no way to tell him apart from a normal Magikoopa, and this has led to instances in the real world where he and other members of his species have been confused for one another. Typically, all players have to go off of is whether or not Kamek is referred to by name.
- The incarnation of Link from Hyrule Warriors starts the game as a common foot soldier in the Hyrulian army. Because of this he initially wears the same uniform as the other Hyrule Soldiers, instead of his signature green tunic. He's also the only soldier to have a unique face (resembling the face of his other incarnations) and the only soldier seen without his helmet, allowing you to tell who he is. His standard-issue sword and shield are also modified for left-handed use of the sword as he is left-handed unlike his right-handed fellow soldiers.
- In the Fire Emblem games in general, if an enemy looks different from others within the character class, then he or she is either a boss or recruitable.
- In Hotline Miami, the Biker is the only 50 Blessings operative to never wear an animal mask during his jobs.
- Resident Evil 4: In the "Separate Ways" scenario, one can find the ganado who stole Leon's jacket after his capture earlier in the main game. To be fair, it is a pretty sweet jacket.
- Star Wars: Republic Commando: This being a game about a squad of Republic Clone Army commandos, canon requires that the soldiers all be, well, clones. But leading a squad of three identical characters is boring, which is why they get their own unique uniforms, voices, and personalities. The game justifies this by virtue of them being trained separately from their rank-and-file brethren under expert specialists who are not clones and whose own quirks and accents rubbed off on their impressionable young trainees.
- The Order of the Stick: The Booted Wight stands out from his fellow Wights by having boots.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in the part 1 episode of the Northern Water Tribe war, Zuko disguises himself as one of Zhao's Faceless Goons. Thing is, Zuko's eyes are visible through the mask's eyepiece, whereas the other goons have their eyes concealed.
- In the early 1990s cartoon Conan the Adventurer, one of the main characters is the daughter of a human mother and one of Set's serpentmen mooks. (Apparently the only good one.) When old Dad returns to Earth with the rest of Set's horde, he's a slightly different color from the rest of the mooks, and thus stands out and is easily identifiable.
- A couple of Daffy Duck cartoons start with Daffy along with a flock of ducks migrating or paddling in a lake. All the other ducks look more or less realistic, whereas Daffy looks like Daffy. "Kind of stick out in a crowd, don't I?"
- In Infinity Train, the second episode features a water creature named Randall. He has a blade of grass floating inside him when he takes Tulip to a city of other water people (who otherwise look identical).
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: All of the clone troopers are clones of Jango Fett. A sergeant or lieutenant will often sport a peculiar haircut or tattoo, especially if they speak with Obi-Wan Kenobi or Anakin Skywalker. This is mentioned in supplemental material to be a mechanism for humanizing these troopers; they are meant to be seen as Red Shirts rather than mooks, assisting the Jedi in preserving law and order. Their Moral Event Horizon wasn't something of their choosing, rather it was foisted on them by the Chessmaster Palpatine as part of his Evil Plan to eradicate the Jedi Knights.
- In-universe, this is done in an attempt to overcome Cloning Blues: the clone troopers want to show they aren't just "disposable people" by taking on more individual traits. This is also why many of the commanders have customised armour, it allows them a chance to show off they're aren't carbon copies of each other. The only ones who wear standard, completely identical armour with no customisation are the so-called Shinies (a reference to their brand new, shiny armour). As the series goes on, even cannon fodder clone troopers wear customised uniforms for identification purposes, in order to tell what unit they belong to.