Sony accelerated the build up to the PlayStation 4’s launch by firing a stunning Killzone: Shadow Fall story trailer online this week. While developer Guerrilla Games has shared some details about the title’s plot in the past, we haven’t really seen much of the futuristic first-person shooter’s cinematics up until now. But while the clip no doubt impressed you from a pure visual perspective, it may have left you confused by some of the key plot beats. Allow us to establish a comlink to Vekta, and update you on some of the main narrative details in the upcoming next generation release.

What the heck happened thirty years ago?

Killzone: Shadow Fall acts as a reboot for Guerrilla Games’ Helghast slaughtering series. However, rather than throw away the plot of previous entries, the Dutch developer has opted to look to the future instead. As a result, the impending exclusive is set thirty years after the events of Killzone 3. This is referenced in the latest trailer when a female voice mentions that three decades ago “it was Vektan aggression that led to the slaughter of a billion Helghast lives”. But what exactly caused that?

Fans of the series may recall the ISA (the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) invading the orange-eyed antagonist’s planet at the start of Killzone 2. This action prompted a cruel war, which continued into the title’s sequel. In an effort to improve its position against the invading forces, military tycoon Jorhan Stahl began to manufacture a new weapon using irradiated Petrusite, which he intended to use to wipe out both factions’ former home, Earth.

However, series protagonists Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko and Rico Velasquez managed to thwart the plans by hijacking two fighter jets and dropping a nuclear bomb on Stahl’s intergalactic cruiser. The impact of this explosion – just over the planet Helghan – was devastating, with the irradiated Petrusite all but wiping out the planet, and forcing any remaining Helghast to shack up with their sworn enemies on Vekta. This leads us to the events of next month’s PS4 exclusive...

Wait, why is Visari now a woman?

We get a glimpse at Visari in the new Killzone: Shadow Fall story trailer – but it may not be the character that you remember. Scolar Visari, the former Autarch of Helghan, was murdered by Rico at the end of Killzone 2. Following some internal tussles between Stahl and Admiral Orlock over who should replace the skin-headed leader in Killzone 3, it now seems that Lady Visari, the daughter of the aforementioned head of the Helghan hierarchy, has taken charge of the faction.

We don’t actually know a whole lot about the feisty female – aside from the fact that she holds the chancellor position in the new Helghast government – but it appears from the trailer that she’s not afraid to fight for the same values as her father. In the video, operative Echo is overheard saying that “if you attack, she will not back down – she’ll be defending what she has”. With just a wall dividing the Vektans and Helghast, there’s mounting tension on the planet.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that we’ve actually seen Lady Visari. The character previously appeared in the intro for Killzone 3, where Scolar Visari is shown recording a rousing speech surrounded by his closest circle. Some have speculated that a scene at the end of the game, in conjunction with a quote from Admiral Orlock during the opening sequence – “Sir, you have to move, the ISA are here” – may mean that the leader is still alive and in hiding. We’ll probably find out for sure over the coming weeks.

Who exactly do I play as, then?

Fortunately, you’re not Sev or Rico this time around. You’ll step into the armoured outfit of Lucas Kellen, a Shadow Marshal similar to Luger from the original PlayStation 2 game and PlayStation Portable spin-off Killzone: Liberation. Much like Lady Visari, there’s not an enormous amount of information on the character, but we do know that he’s able to freely travel between the wall that divides the Vektans and Helghans on Vekta.

In Killzone: Shadow Fall, Shadow Marshals are elite agents that have been employed to manage the mounting tension between the two factions. As a result, it’s your job to smooth over any growing disagreements that exist between the warring sides. As mentioned, Visari is not afraid to fight for her people, while the ISA’s security agency director Sinclair believes that any escalating problems can be solved by wiping out the Helghast forces and getting them off the planet.

Perhaps most interestingly, you’ll play Killzone: Shadow Fall’s entire campaign from the series’ famous first-person perspective. Previous entries have exposed key plot points through nifty third-person cinematics, but with this latest instalment, the developer has opted to ensure that you’re always in control. That means that major set pieces will play out directly through the protagonist’s eyes – such as the torture sequence shown in the trailer.

War sounds inevitable – won’t I get any help?

If the plot wasn’t already deep enough, there's an additional conflict taking place within the Helghast’s ranks. Much like Stahl and Orlock’s in-fighting in Killzone 3, the orange-eyed division can’t quite decide whether to attack the Vektans or maintain the peace. This has resulted in multiple splinter groups being formed, with some attempting to scupper your efforts and others willing to give you a helping hand.

One character that’s on your side is Echo, the female fighter with a red hood glimpsed in the trailer. She is very much your direct opposite, working as an intelligence officer for the Helghast. Despite being billed as a dangerous and skilled soldier, the agent – voiced by True Blood star Jamie Gray Hyder – is desperate to prevent a conflict, as evidenced during the trailer when she tells Kellen that she “wants to end this not start another war”.

On the flipside, though, the Black Hand are a terrorist group consisting of Helghast radicals who are upset at the indecisive nature of their parent government. They despise the Vektans for the destruction of their home planet thirty years earlier, and hope to accelerate the uneasiness between the Vektans and the Helghast by carrying out targeted attacks, such as the one on Vekta City shown during Sony’s big PlayStation Meeting event earlier in the year.

Phew, is there anything else I should know?

That’s the narrative in a nutshell, but there are still things that Guerrilla Games is keeping under wraps until the launch of Killzone: Shadow Fall. It’ll be most interesting to see whether the Dutch developer revisits previous characters from the series; Sev and Rico, for example, are unlikely to still be fighting thirty years after the events of Killzone 3, but may make a cameo as older Vektan citizens. As mentioned earlier, Scolar Visari could feasibly put in an appearance, too.

Regardless, the exclusive will certainly plot the return of some ageing technologies, such as the MAWLR from previous games. One of the enormous mechanical war machines is glimpsed during the trailer, and it appears to still be operational. Should this fall into the grasp of the Black Hand, there will be chaos – but we’ll need to wait and see how the studio’s opted to employ it. We think that there’s some significance to its inclusion in the new video, though.

However, most interesting is the fact that the company appears to be almost recreating the original premise of the property’s plot. A bunch of backstory revealed that the Helghast weren’t actually in the wrong to invade Vekta in the first game, and once again it seems like they may actually represent the good guys. “You have no idea how sickening this is for us,” laments one grunt in the clip, “forced to live here alongside the people who destroyed our planet.” It’s a fair point.

Are you still confused over what’s going on in Killzone: Shadow Fall? Do you have any additional narrative details that you’d like to share? Flick through your Vektan textbooks and educate us in the comments section below.