Matter Of Perspective: Killzone

War is a horrific aspect of the world we live in. It’s been fought over everything, from land and power, to religion and political ideologies. War also throws up a lot of grey areas about who has legitimate reasons for instigating something which should be a last resort, and which side has the moral high ground. Those grey areas are exactly why the narrative in the Killzone series and the relationship between the warring factions should be praised for its representation of war.

As a player you are put into the boots of an ISA soldier, placed in a position to fight against the ruthless Helghast, who would love nothing more than to see Vekta and your faction succumb to them. After all they have red, glowy eyes. Have you ever known a good guy to have red, glowy eyes? Terminators have those eyes, not soldiers who have a good reason to fight. After all, this war was instigated by the Helghast with the invasion of Vekta, so you and your fellow soldiers have every right to defend their home. Plus the ISA logo has blue in it which means they’re good; everyone knows that.

[drop]But, wait! Wasn’t Vekta originally colonised by the Helghan Corporation and its workers? Yes, it was. In fact it became home for the Helghan workers while they worked to mine the planet Helghan.

However, the ISA was sent to stop the growing power the Helghan Corporation was gaining, with their refusal to accept demands from Earth’s governing body for higher taxes serving as the tipping point. If you think about, it’s almost similar to the American Revolution, except in this case the revolutionaries were kicked off their main colony and eventually forced to live on a poisonous planet.

You have to ask yourself what you’d do in this situation, whether you’d want vengeance. The ISA may claim Vekta as their home, but it was the Helghast who turned that planet from an uncharted world into an economic and cultural powerhouse. The Helghast lost everything in the initial ISA invasion, and the events of the Killzone franchise show them as a people who are fighting due to anger and desperation. Quite simply, the Helghast are fighting to take back their home.

Of course there’s two sides to every story. We may have established that you’re fighting for a group that actively puts down another civilisation, but the ISA can’t be completely blamed for what has happened. After all, they were attacked first, at least in the conflict that the games in the franchise revolve around.

Defending and pushing back are expected when you suffer an attack. That is a natural response honed from millions of years of evolution. In the events of the first Killzone you are absolutely justified in fighting the Helghast. They attacked without real provocation, as peace (albeit uneasy) existed between the two civilisations.

[drop2]However, it’s in Killzone 2 where the ISA change from brave defenders to mass murdering monsters. The ISA set out to not just subdue the Helghast, but to outright wipe the Helghast society out with aerial bombardment. The entire plan of the ISA is to flatten all of Helghast civilisation. Now, in the games you’re only faced with Helghast soldiers; fighting them is expected. However, the ISA seemed to forget that a civilisation doesn’t just consist of soldiers.

During the planning stages of this attack did ISA Command forget about the Helghast civilians and children? There is never any mention of the civilian population but they’ll be there, running as their lives are torn apart by fires from the sky. It’s likely that millions were killed in this attack, watching  as their homes burned. But none of that is spoken about by the ISA soldiers. Maybe they’re so horrified of what they’re doing that they can’t face it, trying to stay focused on the job in hand instead.

I mean it’s one thing to force an entire civilisation from their original home, but to then chase them to what is basically a prison and try to kill them is barbaric. What choice are the Helghast left with when their very lives are at stake? The Helghast even take the drastic of nuking one of their cities to stop the ISA. No matter which way you look at it, that is an act of desperation by a people who are so afraid of the invading army that they will burn everything to stop them.

Guerrila should really be applauded here for managing to compile an excellent propaganda piece with the Killzone games. I don’t think other games go to such lengths as to portray you as a hero and making you accept that you need to kill the Helghast to survive. As an ISA soldier you follow the mission orders and approach the objectives with absolute certainty that what you’re doing is necessary.

After all, you’re the guys in blue.


  1. Good read! I love killzone, currently playing one awful lol. But I just never understood why ISA invaded helghan, they no longer threatened earth as far as I’m aware after loosing war on earth.

    Killzone 2 should have let us play from the helghan perspective in my eyes. But overall I think K2/3 has the best online MP, the only shooter game I can kill people online.

    • Ok while earth is involved in the KZ story, it’s Vekta where the war was and whilst the helghan were already defeated there, they’d stolen nuclear weapons from the Vektans (in Killzone: Liberation. The reason the ISA went to Vekta was to reclaim those weapons, to stop the Helghan’s from making more.

      Gotta say I love the effort guerrilla put into the backstory for these games. There used to be a brilliant article on their website, but I think it’s been taken down now.

      • Yes Liberation sets the scene and introduced a character or two for KZ2.

  2. Never actually thought about this… Interesting article.

  3. It’ll be interesting to see what Mercenary and Shadowfall add to the tale.

    An amusing fact: the Norwegian mail-service has the same logo as the ISA.

  4. I’m not sure I agree with the American Revolution resemblance. I always thought Killzone resembled the imperialist hegemonic ideologies of modern America with the ISA and a vague representation of fascism in the Helghan. Neither one is good, they’re just the usual superpowers (defined super by their military might) going to war over political motivations and ideas rather than the whole good-evil paradigm.

    Hence I quite like your article and where you’ve taken it. I’d enjoy to see a few more articles like this as there’s some pretty interesting content in games out there, irrespective of whether it is sometimes badly told by developers.

    • I think the Killzone series may be some kind of Rorschach test for human history. When I look at it sometimes I see the Iraq-Kuwait war, Gulf/Iraq wars with the planet of Vekta as Kuwait, Helgan as Iraq, the ISA are the US armed forces, Visari as Sadam Hussein and the Red Dust weapon as the WMD. I figure everyone sees something different.

  5. Gerrilla had the oportunity to blow our minds with a shift of perspective in K3, playing as the helghast and letting us experience the things you refer to, the ambivalence of war, the relativism of good and bad, but instead they took the easy path and gave us a casualised CoD-like shooter, where the bad where badder and stupid and the good were goodder and invincible.
    Not to mention a much worse and generic MP.

    They basically killed all my interest in the series (and it was huge, believe me).
    Not even this new PS4 killzone moved me a bit.

    • KZ2 was one of my fave MPs at the time but KZ3 I did not get into. The new modes were alright but I found that the change in net code favoured laggers like a lot of modern shooters these days.

  6. Everyone knows that red = evil, & blue = good.
    I support Everton ;) COYB!

  7. I was playing killzone only a few days ago! On one of the loading screens in killzone 2 it says that the city was evacuated before the invasion, though to be fair it doesn’t actually say that in the game. Perhaps it was added in hindsight in the late stages of the game’s development?

    Also your objective isn’t to wipe out the civilisation, it’s to capture it’s leader to end it’s growing military prowess (And if you read between the lines it’s implied that the ISA would install a puppet leader in his place)

  8. Thought provoking indeed. If only the games delved deeper into this. A lot of it seems like just a story to show an excuse for the shooting. However after reading a bit about it elsewhere they have actually created great fiction.

  9. PSM3 magazine did a rather splendid Killzone History timeline feature, starting in Terran Era 2055-2128 and from there to Second Extrasolar War 2357-2360.

    Made for very interesting reading at the time and i too had hoped KZ3 would see you playing from the Helghan point of view, kinda like how Colony Wars 2 on PSone turned things on their head, plot wise and you saw the conflict from the other side of the coin to start with.

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