Mass Effect: 10 Questions We Still Have About Cerberus

Cerberus is a “human-first” organization from the science fiction RPG trilogy, Mass Effect. They insist that humanity is being dominated by other species in the galaxy and that people will need to push and fight for their place in the world. This extremist, xenophobic group originated as a black-ops group within the human military before Jack Harper, now known as the Illusive Man, broke away.

Cerberus is, above all else, shadowy and clandestine. Their projects and activities are intentionally kept under lock and key so that compromising details cannot be put into enemy (read: alien) hands. As a Cerberus operative, Shepard has access to more information than most – but fans are still left with questions that need answers.

10 Why Is The Illusive Man Allowed To Oversee Everything?

The Illusive Man is the shadowy leader of Cerberus, introduced for the first time in Mass Effect 2. During the second and third Mass Effect games, he is observed puppeteering events and personally overseeing various Cerberus projects. When discussing Cerberus’ funding and the wealthy contributors, it’s detailed that these people trust the Illusive Man to do what must be done. Fans are left wondering… why?

As an organization, Cerberus could grow much larger if one person didn’t insist on overseeing every minute detail. What is it about this man that people would trust him – and him alone – with millions or billions of their credits? If he was ever compromised, Cerberus would be ruined, and that seems like a terrible business strategy.

9 Why Does Shepard Agree To Work With Cerberus?

At the beginning of Mass Effect 2, Shepard dies and is subsequently brought back to life by Cerberus. Afterward, Cerberus funds Shepard’s investigations and team – but it’s never made clear why Shepard agrees to work with what is essentially a terrorist organization.

To be fair, depictions of Cerberus vary wildly among Mass Effect media. Sometimes, they seem morally grey and other times, are pinned as the root of all evil. Many fans are willing to accept that Shepard was sick of all talk and no action from the Council and the Alliance.

However, it’s not directly confronted during the course of the game. It’s especially strange considering that several side quests from the original Mass Effect were purposefully written to show the horrors that Cerberus was committing under the banner of “putting humans first.” Moreover, Jack’s whole story shows how problematic Cerberus can be.

8 Who Is Funding Them?

Cerberus’ funding is largely left up to the fans’ imagination. It’s established that Cerberus receives funding from several front corporations like New Dawn Pharmaceuticals and Haribon Military Industries. But the rest comes from wealthy donors.

We can’t help but wonder who these donors are and why a bigger deal wasn’t made of them in the series. Some human characters express distrust in the Alliance hierarchy or the wealthy elite due to potential Cerberus ties. So why is nothing more done about it?

7 How Are The Cells Divided?

Cerberus, as an organization, is supposedly divided into smaller cells that have no contact with one another. If one cell was ever discovered, they’d have no way to give away the locations or projects within other cells. During Shepard’s encounter with the organization, we’re told there are three existing cells. This may be a reference to the three-headed dog, Cerberus, from Greek mythology.

Miranda and Project Lazarus (the endeavour to revive Shepard) were part of one cell. If the player asks about Cerberus actions Shepard ran into in the previous game, Miranda largely dismisses them by saying that she wasn’t in that cell. But we know the details of many projects that Ceberus was working on, so it’s not clear how those projects were divided. If Shepard knows about it, does that mean it must be in the same cell as Project Lazarus? Which cell is mobilized when Cerberus invades the Citadel? It’s unclear.

6 Why Doesn’t Cerberus Study Other Reaper Corpses?

Cerberus is repeatedly shown to be interested in studying the Reapers. The Illusive Man even acquires the Human-Reaper that Shepard takes out at the end of Mass Effect 2 in order to study it.

However, this is the only Reaper that Cerberus is shown to retrieve. As far as fans are aware, the other Reaper technology that Cerberus has studied – such as the kind that was used to make EDI – has come from remnants, broken pieces, and ancient artifacts. Why don’t they retrieve the corpse on Rannoch, perhaps?

5 Where’s The Technology That Brought Shepard Back To Life?

The Illusive Man, Miranda Lawson, Jacob Taylor, and all the other members of Project Lazarus managed to do the impossible: they brought someone back from the dead. Shepard is killed by Collectors at the very start of Mass Effect 2 and must be entirely revived.

It undoubtedly cost them an enormous amount of time and money but the results speak for themselves. Where’s that research gone off to when crewmates are lost during the Suicide Mission? One would think that a breakthrough of that kind would be at least mentioned again once or twice.

4 How Did They Grow So Quickly And Quietly?

Cerberus may appear in the first Mass Effect game, but they are certainly nothing extraordinary. They operate out of bunkers on remote planets and seem to be involved in a lot of disasters that didn’t go according to their plans. Rear Admiral Kahoku discovers that they’re a small black-ops group gone rogue, essentially.

It’s mind-boggling to some fans, then, that Cerberus is as widespread and intimidating as they seem in Mass Effect 2. A lot can happen in 2 years, of course (the amount of time between Mass Effect 1 and 2). But such rapid growth would have probably attracted attention from other groups. Plus, Shepard is killed only a month after the end of the first game, so Cerberus would have had to have the resources at that time to start hunting down their body. It’s quite a pickle.

3 How Large Is Their Fleet?

Cerberus ships – as depicted here by Hugo Willems – are spotted off and on throughout the trilogy. Fans are told that they have a fleet of ships at their disposal, but are never given details about how big their force is in total.

It’s likely a purposeful omission to add to the mystery of Cerberus’ operation. However, it becomes a bit annoying when it seems like Cerberus is simply allowed to have as many ships as they need at that moment.

2 Why Is The New Normandy Allowed To Land… Anywhere?

The Normandy ship that the player cruises around the galaxy in during Mass Effect 2 is a newer model based on the designs of the original Normandy. It was built by Cerberus during the two years that the Lazarus Project was attempting to revive Shepard. It’s not exactly subtle that this is a Cerberus vessel; note, for example, the distinctive yellow stripe.

If it’s registered as a Cerberus ship, why would Shepard and crew be allowed to land anywhere? The Citadel officially labelled Cerberus as a terrorist organization and Council races surely wouldn’t want to be on their bad side. So why allow a Cerberus operative to land at your colony, the Citadel, or any space station?

1 How Are They Helping The Average Human?

Cerberus’ projects are detailed during the various games and novels. Some are central to the various plots, like Project Lazarus, while others are used in side quests or mentioned off-hand. Most of them are aiming to achieve something that had never been done before. Project Lazarus brought someone back from the dead. Project Overlord was aiming to create a hybrid-VI that might force the Geth to serve Cerberus.

Project Phoenix was intended to artificially enhance natural biotic abilities. For a human-first organization, most of its activities have been aimed at providing the organization more power, not doing good for humans in the universe. If I was a voter, I’d want to know what they were actually gonna do for me. 

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