Who can take an enemy and make him look so bad? The Helghan man, the Helghan man can!

In a number of video games the player will notice that the enemies they face are generally far different from their own faction. This is especially prevalent in sci-fi and fictional games in general. The game series that I will be concentrating on in this blog post will be Killzone. I feel that this is a great example of a good enemy that is human yet dehumanized by not only what they’re wearing but their characters and their weapons. You’re practically being told to, or being shouted at to, hate them with all of your being. Also, who doesn’t love to be shot at by troopers with cockney accents, am I right?! To get a good overview of how Helghast look I will be giving you this photo to show you the general look of the Helghast soldiers. These are the ones from Killzone 2, but I will include a few images and a video or two to help keep you in the zone. (In the Killzone! See what I did there?)



One of the first things that is obvious about the Helghast is that you do not see their face at all. It is completely covered by a rebreather and goggles. Both of these things by themselves would take away the features of these enemies quite a bit, but wait they get snazzier! The studs and black clothing really say, “unapproachable” when you look at them. The glowing orange goggles kind of help with the monster in the dark appearance. Their voices are gruff and muffled by their masks making their voices seem unnatural compared to the voices of your fellow ISA soldiers. The ISA are the “good” guys in the Killzone series. The armor and weaponry of the ISA and the Helghast are far different in not only appearance but use.

Here is the Helghast standard weapon. The StA-52 Assault Rifle which is a fast firing weapon for shorter range engagements that seems to almost tear the target apart.

Here is the ISA standard weapon. The M82 Assault Rifle which is more of a longer range straight shooter.

The Helghast appearance and weaponry is far more vicious than the ISA weaponry. The ISA are kind of the generic hero soldiers who are wearing regular greens and tans which makes the Helghast seem all the more sinister with their blacks and reds. Helghast weapons range from regular weapons like assault rifles to more terrifying weapons such as a weapon called the StA-5X Arc Canon. This weapon is designed to hit the target with so much concentrated radiation that they cannot possibly survive. I mean it, the target will most likely just explode in a blast of gore. I think the worst weapon the ISA might have are nukes, and they opt not to use them unless it is a last resort. This is the first use of the weapon you see in Killzone 3. Notice the cruelty and enjoyment the Helghast take in executing the running ISA trooper. There are moments like this all throughout the game that I think are there for you to find them evil more and more. (If the video doesn’t go where I had set it to just go to 10:20 in the video) [youtube]http://youtu.be/okEHi9Xl6QE?t=10m19s[/youtube]

Throughout the game you will get a very WWII Waffen SS feel from the Helghast troopers. I think this is a very effective way to portray an enemy because it already reminds us of something that has been established as evil. Although the first game took place on an ISA planet, and the other two games took place on Helghan, you still get a feeling of overwhelming force from the Helghast. If there is a speech cinematic you better believe you’ll see battalions of soldiers marching in perfectly square formations. Although not all players find them frightening one cannot deny the ferocity of the Helghast soldiers, and the very pressing feeling you get as you have squad upon squad tumbling down on you. These soldiers with their black uniforms and glowing orange eyes come at you shouting threats of death, and with their weapons and ability to soak up some serious bullets they can turn those threats into promises. However, I think that it’s impossible to stay completely detached from the Helghast.

They may be dehumanized through rebreathers and goggles. You may think of them as space Nazis who are out to control the galaxy. But, they have moments of being very human. What are these moments you may ask? Well, for starters the way they scream when you set them on fire using the VC1 Flamethrower is very dreadful when put through their rebreather mask. Them shouting, “Help me, I’m burning!” as they writhe and die from the flames also shows that they have fear. A lot of games can make enemies seem much worse than you could possibly imagine, and maybe this is for the sake of the player so they don’t feel as bad when they kill them. Or, maybe I’m just far too empathetic to pixels sometimes! Do you feel that we dehumanize enemies in video games, or make them terrible to help them be easier to kill? Or, do you just feel like it’s just a game and one should not feel emotionally attached to it?

SPOILER: You also do kind of practically destroy their planet. Just saying…

  3 comments for “Who can take an enemy and make him look so bad? The Helghan man, the Helghan man can!

  1. Chelsea
    February 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Our culture dehumanizes video game characters in general but when dealing with war games it becomes more of an issue. In violent, first person shooter games we often think nothing of killing large amounts of people. Even when you, the player character, dies you are not severely affected in real life because you realize you will be able to start over.

    It is interesting to see a game provide more human qualities to those against whom you are supposed to be fighting. Our culture is inclined to create a black and white divider of good and evil and ignore the overlapping shades of gray. Often times we are thrown into a narrative with no real concept of the back-story. You want to assume you, the player character, are performing heroically and that the bad guys are all deserving of their ill fate.

    Although I have not had any experience playing Killzone, I got a good feel for the game’s premise based on your description. In the examples you provided I thought the enemy’s appearance and behavior were especially interesting. The enemies are dressed in a way so their faces covered and therefore are provided with no identity. Your description of “the glowing orange goggles” providing a “monster in the dark” appearance stood out to me. These individuals lack an identity because they have no distinguishing facial features and therefore are one of many men wearing identical uniforms. The one feature of them that stands out, the orange glow of the eyes, is something that makes them even less sympathetic. These individuals are dehumanized by their animal-like characteristics and made more of a threat. When these individuals are killed it doesn’t matter because they were never really seen as humans. It is only when these same men speak that they become “real” individuals who are capable of feeling pain. When games include details that humanize those you are supposed to be killing it makes you think twice about doing so.

    However even if all games provided more depth to the enemies I don’t think the nature of video games would change. Ultimately those playing the games will still have the end goal of winning the game and will be willing to look past those fictional lives.

  2. jleake33
    February 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I definitely feel like based on your descriptions, and the video footage of the game, makes the Helghast soldiers seem dehumanized. I too don’t have any experience playing this game, but my initial reaction when I saw the picture of what the soldier looked like was some type of alien, futuristic, GI Joe crazy person. They look very intimidating and I feel like seeing the ISA characters, that there should not even be a contest as to who would win in a battle. The fact that they dehumanize the characters, for me anyways, was in such a way that I would want to kill as many of them as I could based simply on fear that my personal character wouldn’t stand a chance. I’ve played other games some what similar to this where the enemy is dressed in all black, or wears something that covers their face, but the use of the orange goggles beaming out at me, that makes these characters stand apart. They have to be dehumanized, even though they speak for help out of fear when they are to die, because that is the only way for a sane person to understand proceeding with such destruction of a planet… other than the fact it’s a game… but those who get really attached can start to feel guilty or hesitant as to the actions that they are going through with. Making the enemy appear less like a human is the best way to allow the protagonist to come out ahead, and on a higher pedestal.

  3. Cameron
    February 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    It’s interesting to note how games like this handle the “other,” particularly in Killzone’s case. The Helghast actually get a surprising degree of characterization in the opening scenes, featuring someone elaborating on the “other’s” side of the story, and yet the game relies upon their alienated appearance and lack of characterization within the core narrative itself to cast them as the “bad guys” that are okay to shoot at. There are a few moments I can recall where it’s unclear whether they are really villains, but those are heavily outweighed by the cartoonish and arbitrary evil.

    Shooters, in particular, by and large use othering to justify the player’s wanton slaughter as righteous, rarely giving any glimpse of humanity in the characters being shot. The standard tropes seem to fall within either Nazis, aliens, zombies or terrorists (the Helghast roughly equivalent to Space Nazis with somehow British accents) in order to justify their extermination at the hands of the player, which provides plenty of fodder to examine on a literary level. Every now and again a game will come along that lampshades the would-be socially acceptable targets, but those seem few and far between.

    It’d be interesting to categorize the genre’s varied uses of ‘acceptable fodder.’

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