Note: This article will contain story spoilers for Killzone Shadow Fall.
This isn’t the first time Killzone has featured in Matter Of Perspective, looking at the conflict between Vekta and Helghan, and focusing on the grey area presented when the two sides are compared. However, this fresh look at the latest entry to the game won’t really focus on that but instead the social impacts of the large wall built between the two cities.
Walls are designed to define perimeters, keep things in, and keep things out. We’re surrounded by walls constantly but they exist in the background and not really as part of our thoughts. However there are certain walls which have had a huge impact on the world, from the Great Wall Of China to the Berlin Wall.
It’s from the latter that the team at Guerrilla Games seemed to have gained their inspiration for the latest Killzone tale. The Berlin Wall was a physical divide that split the democratic West and the communist East for over forty years. On one side a society that was growing quickly while on the other side people lived in more impoverished conditions.
We see this same scenario play out as the Helghast inhabit half of Vekta, turning it into New Helghan after the original was decimated in the war. This mass exodus and resettlement raises a lot of issues that also find their roots in our own history.
The most prominent issue is the outright racism expressed by the higher-ups of both sides, though the most extreme seems to come from Thomas Sinclair who is the leader of the Vektan Security Forces. There are many speeches given by Sinclair but one which really stood out was where he repeated that the Helghast were monsters and didn’t belong on the planet.
It felt even more poignant considering the recent stories in the media about the lifts on immigration in the UK and other parts of Europe who, though not quite as extremely, tried to demonise those from other nations who would come here to work. An increased version of such hostility wouldn’t be far from the attitudes Vektans have towards the Helghast, who took half the planet as their own.
In the initial relocation the Helghast would be targeted by Vektans based on their race and would have been exiled if found on the wrong side of the Wall. However, as the decades pass some Helghast eventually do cross the Wall to live in Vektan society and start to integrate. It’s only briefly shown during the game, and that is when they are forced to return to New Helghan.
Imagine being one of those who is forced to cross back over the Wall into the squalor, losing your home, friends and possibly family based on biological heritage. Even worse is the reception you receive from those who share that heritage, and that’s before passing through the checkpoints.
Again this is only shown for a couple of minutes as you pass through a checkpoint too, and you hear the remarks of the Helghast soldiers such as being called traitor. As one of those people who tried to establish ties and breakdown barriers peacefully you now belong nowhere, demonised as a monster by the Vektans and an outsider by the Helghast.
You are now at the bottom of the food chain thrown into a Helghast prison camp with no chance of reprieve. There is no mercy here with the minimum of provisions set aside for you. It’s an issue which is barely delved into by the game but it is there when you are escaping from the camp – you come across a man who is looking for supplies for his daughter but becomes cornered. Two Helghast soldiers corner this man and start throwing petty charges at him, then appear to be ready to kill him. All hope is gone until a Vektan saves him, creating something that you cannot see: an idea that it doesn’t matter if someone is Vektan or Helghan, but only their actions.
It’s a small piece that brings a bit of hope in a place full of despair. This despair, as shown by the people in the prison camps begging for death, also highlights another thing about the opposing societies. All of the rhetoric of hate and patriotism comes from those who lead the two nations, while those nearer the bottom have other things on their mind like the need to survive.
Again, this is inspired by the moments played in history from the concentration camps of Nazi Germany to the internment camps of the US where many millions were victims of the propaganda of the leaders. The Helghast prisoners represent those that did nothing wrong except be born as what they were in a place they became unwanted.
Killzone Shadow Fall’s own tale may follow the path of one Vektan soldier who comes to the realisation that things aren’t right, but the world that has been crafted offers a major critique of unquestioned nationalism and the way leaders will play on that by coupling it with an enemy that can be portrayed as wrong, highlighting the differences as evil.
It is even more poignant now as the rise of such nationalism spreads through sections of Europe and the UK again. The lesson Shadow Fall appears to want to show above all others is that we’re not so different, we have the same worries and hopes, and that this divide be it a wall or ideology can lead to horrible situations if not handled properly.