From the first game, Mass Effect has boasted some of the most interesting and multi-faceted video game characters ever written. Some are more impressive than others, of course, but if there’s one character everyone can get behind as one of the greatest, it’s the leader of Cerberus, known only as The Illusive Man. He’s obsessed with humanity and its greatness, firmly believing that humans are strongest without the interference of other alien races. He’ll take any opportunity to improve humanity – regardless of the consequences.
Besides that, he has a cool office, mysterious intentions, and some really incredible quotes. Take a look at some of the ten greatest ones, straight from the Illusive mouth.
10 Information is my weapon, Shepard. It's good.
This quote is one of the best ways to describe who The Illusive Man is and what he’s about. Throughout Mass Effect 2 and 3, we learn so little about him that all we really have to go on is what he tells us. And considering the monumental secrets he keeps from you, this isn’t a great thing. Despite his shadiness, this quote is a great window into his personality, and what kind of person he really is. Someone who uses information as a weapon isn’t one to be trifled with.
9 Strength for Cerberus is strength for every human. Cerberus is humanity.
Another great look into what The Illusive Man is really about – or what he thinks he’s about. From the beginning, he’s been about humans, humans, humans, and while it’s not a terrible thing to want to support your own species, the way Cerberus goes about it is… Well, no pure-and-good organization of any kind names itself after Hades’ pet dog.
Despite being named after a pet, The Illusive Man seems to think of himself (and Cerberus, by extension) as the guardian of humanity – the shepherd (ha-ha) of the next great age of space where humans rule.
8 Salvation comes with a cost. Judge us not by our means, but what we seek to accomplish.
Totally not suspicious, right?
Again, we know so little about who The Illusive Man is – we don’t even know his name – but so many of his quotes betray facets of his character that make him one of the most interesting video game antagonists to date. So many beloved anti-heroes have subscribed to this same philosophy – the ends justify the means. The question is: where’s the line? If the ends justify the means, that can theoretically mean that anything goes as long as it can be construed into serving the end.
7 I don't know if the Reapers understand fear, but you killed one of them. They have to respect that.
Just like The Illusive Man loves humanity, he also tends to personify a lot of things that probably shouldn’t be personified. The Reapers are not people. They aren’t even close. The confidence that The Illusive Man delivers this line with betrays his biggest flaw: he’s treating the Reapers like he’d treat any other alien race.
He’s treating them as if they can be even fractionally understood by organic minds, trying to attribute things like “respect,” onto things that only know destruction. Regardless of whether or not he’s right about the Reapers respecting Shepard, they aren’t people. They can’t be controlled like people can. And that belief is his ultimate downfall.
6 We're at war. No one wants to admit it, but humanity is under attack.
This is one of those quotes that makes you sigh and say, “Thank you! Someone who actually understands the gravity of the situation!”
Because, up until this point, nobody but Shepard’s companions believe them when they say, “the Reapers are coming.” Even after everything that happened with Saren in the first game, the Council still has their hands clamped over their ears and their eyes screwed shut. Nobody wants to listen, and nobody wants to believe. And, really, can you blame them?
But The Illusive Man gets it. He understands. He knows the danger of the Reapers, and he’s on your side.
5 Cerberus isn't just an organization or the people behind it. Cerberus is an idea; that idea is not so easily destroyed.
This is The Illusive Man essentially saying, “You haven’t seen the last of me.” After Shepard busts into his office, they discover that The Man himself has already gotten out of dodge, leaving you to speak with only a hologram.
There’s a nice back and forth about Cerberus’ human experimentation – a curious example of how the “ends justify the means” when the means were to save humanity. Shepard insists that “Cerberus is done, and so are you.” Clearly, The Illusive Man has other plans.
4 Everything, Shepard, everything I've done has uplifted humanity, not only above other species in our galaxy, but over the Reapers!
And so, the true colors are shown.
In the same conversation as the quote before, The Illusive Man once again shows how much he loves humanity – even worships it – but only the humanity that he has envisioned. The humanity that he sees, the powerful rulers of the galaxy with the help of Reaper technology. He’s in over his head, and he’s too blinded by ambition and hubris to see it. Not to mention that he hasn’t actually done anything for humanity yet except experiment with them. That doesn’t count, Illusive Man.
3 You were a tool, an agent with a singular purpose, and despite our differences, you were relatively successful. But like the rest of the relics in this place, your time is over.
Here, the truth that everyone pretty much knew from the beginning is revealed: The Illusive Man is not, and never was, on your side. You were a pawn to him, and if anything, you were on his side. Begrudgingly and without a choice, but you were still pitching for his team. He had no intention of letting you go easy – or at all.
It really shows how cutthroat The Illusive Man. If nothing he’s done previously convinced you that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to bring his twisted fantasies to life, this should be the slap in the face that persuades you.
2 I don't want the Reapers destroyed. We can dominate them, use their power, harness their very essence to bring humanity to the apex of evolution.
And here we see The Illusive Man seriously misunderstanding the meaning of “evolution.” Maybe he plays a lot of Pokémon?
His obsession with bringing humanity to the peak of their potential is eerily similar to Saren’s pre-indoctrinated intentions when he met Sovereign. He wanted to use the Reapers for “good” – or at least not to destroy the galaxy – but he underestimated the power of the robotic race built to kill all organic life. The Illusive Man is making the same mistake – overestimating himself. And by the time he’s indoctrinated, it’s far too late to save him.
1 There, Earth. I wish you could see it like I do, Shepard. It’s so...perfect.
In some instances of the game, these are The Illusive Man’s last words.
Really, it’s just sad. He fought so hard for humanity and for Earth, trying to bring out the perfection he saw so clearly, but it all came crumbling down around him. The Illusive Man’s beliefs were never in doubt, and he jealously hoarded his love of his species and his planet until his very last breath. He brought Shepard back from the dead, all for the sake of the humanity he loved so much. All for the sake of the perfection he saw.
He got in way over his head, but at least he got to love something.