The Illusive Man is the mysterious leader of the human-supremacist terrorist group known as Cerberus in the Mass Effect universe. Supposedly he has abandoned all facets of his former life, his original identity having been declared legally dead; he no longer even goes by a name, even he refers to himself as "the Illusive Man". He has a perfectly symmetrical and proportioned face, short silver hair, and steely blue eyes. The odd design of three equidistant circles around each of his pupils is similar to that displayed by a sufficiently renegade Commander Shepard after the Lazarus Project, indicating that the Illusive Man may have undergone a similar treatment. He was not mentioned in Mass Effect, although his organization, Cerberus, was. The Illusive Man played a large role in the spin-off novel Mass Effect: Ascension, and appears in Mass Effect 2. He is voiced by Martin Sheen.
The Illusive Man's organization, Cerberus, was a part of the Alliance black-ops division before it went rogue, sometime prior to the events of the original Mass Effect. In Mass Effect they appeared in several series' of sidequests, although their motives remain vague. They were involved in genetic experimentation and other restricted sciences with the ultimate goal of creating a super-soldier; a venture they appear to have been unsuccessful in. Cerberus was involved in the following quests from the main game:
- UNC: Missing Marines: A squad of Alliance Marines was lured into a Thresher Maw nest by an Alliance distress beacon placed by Cerberus. If Shepherd has the "Sole Survivor" background, he was assigned to this squad, and was one of only two soldiers who didn't lose their life, though the other went MIA, and Shepherd was labelled the sole survivor of the incident. If not, the squad was completely wiped out. Relaying this information to Rear Admiral Kahoku results in him passing along the locations of three Cerberus research facilities, as well as revealing they plan to make a super-soldier. This begins the Cerberus quest.
- UNC: Cerberus: The bases Kahoku told you about are located on a planet called Binthu, and heavily guarded by Cerberus soldiers. Investigating all three bases will reveal Kahoku's corpse, murdered by Cerberus, as well as experiments on Rachni and Thorian Creepers. After investigating all three outposts, Shepard learns the location of the main Cerberus base in the region. This triggers the Hades' Dogs quest.
- UNC: Hades' Dogs: After following the investigation, Shepard heads to the planet Nephron, Cerberus' base of operations. After clearing the base of soldiers, some encrypted files can be copied from a computer as it attempts to wipe itself. When you return to the Normandy and access the Galaxy Map, an agent for the Shadow Broker will ask for the files, which were apparently promised to him by Kahoku in exchange for information on Cerberus. The player can decide whether or not to transmit the files.
- UNC: Dead Scientists: Cerberus was responsible for a Thresher Maw ambush on Akuze (The same massacre Shepard was a part of if the player chose the "Sole Survivor" background). A soldier, Corporal Toombs, survived and was captured by Cerberus scientists to be experimented on. Toombs escaped, and is killing the Cerberus scientists in revenge for what they did to him.
- UNC: Colony of the Dead: According to an Exogeni log on Feros, the company supplied Cerberus with some "samples" on the planet Chasca. Heading to the planet will reveal the entire colony there has been turned into Husks by Cerberus.
Mass Effect: Ascension
In the book, Mass Effect Ascension, The Illusive Man and Cerberus are explored in more detail. The Illusive Man wishes for humanity to become superior to all alien races and he is using Cerberus as a shadow organization to work towards that goal. He believes that no matter how vile his actions may be, history will vindicate him. The Illusive Man has a vested interest in the Terra Firma Party, having manipulated Charles Saracino into a position of leadership in the party. The Illusive Man has focused Cerberus on two areas: human biotics research, and the Quarian Migrant Fleet. He has long-reaching plans for Cerberus, but they remain undisclosed at this point.
Mass Effect 2
In Mass Effect 2, the Illusive Man plays a major role. After the Normandy is destroyed and Commander Shepard dies, Shepard's body is retrieved from the planet which he fell to, a gang known as the Blue Suns were at some point shortly after got hold of the body. It is known that at some point after, his body was in possession of the Shadow Broker for a brief moment before Cerberus intervened to gain possession of the corpse. After two years and billions of credits worth of experimentation, medical action and researching, the Illusive Man and his scientists succeed in rebuilding Shepard's heavily damaged carcass and ultimately, bring Shepard back from the dead. The Illusive Man then forges a working relationship with Shepard, sending him out to investigate why human colonies are vanishing without a trace. Though Shepard is cautious and does not fully trust the Illusive Man, he cannot deny that the Illusive Man is one of his greatest assets in protecting the galaxy one more time.
Mass Effect: Retribution
In Mass Effect: Retribution the Illusive Man orders the abduction of former Cerberus agent Paul Grayson who betrayed him in the events of Mass Effect: Ascension. The Illusive Man wants to study the effects of Reaper technology implanted into a Human body, and Grayson will be the subject of his highly unethical experiment. Paul Grayson is implanted with the Reaper tech in hopes of finding either a way to reverse the process once it has taken hold of the victim, or ultimately kill such a Reaper agent if the former option is impossible. Although the Illusive Man is sworn to protect Humanity, he feels the sacrifice and experimentation of one man is worth it to have such data that could potentially turn the tides against the Reapers and those indoctrinated by them. It also doesn't hurt that he can eliminate such a betrayer and send a message at the same time. The implants go far beyond indoctrination however, and the result is something more similar to what happened to Saren Arterius. The Illusive Man is seen to be cold and calculating about the procedures only caring about the results and data obtained. Events of the book lead to the crippling of Cerberus' financial networks and the lose of many operatives, but the Illusive Man is again shown to be calm and collected about the whole event, knowing that although it will take time, he will be able to rebuild his shadow empire back to it's formal vastness in time.
Mass Effect 3
The Illusive Man makes a return in Mass Effect 3, this time being a main antagonist through out the game.
Base of Operations
In Mass Effect 2, the Illusive Man is always shown with a backdrop of a multicolored sun in the background. This view however can change. In the book Mass Effect: Retribution, it is revealed that this view is from a view port of a mobile unnamed space station. The space station's location is kept secret with a level of paranoia that is unmatched, but proves entirely effective. Only 6 Cerberus field agents have ever stepped aboard, and every time they or anyone leaves again, the space station is moved to an entirely new system to keep the location unknown to potential enemies, and even his own agents. The Illusive Man has hand picked the two dozen Cerberus agents who man the station, and these members are the most loyal and devoted of all his followers, willing to give their lives in an instant to protect him.