The year is 2029. In a voiceover, Adam Jensen muses that he once thought he could save the world, before lamenting how bad things have become since then.
Various scenes of civil unrest are seen, along with Eliza Cassan delivering a news report talking about how it has been two years since the "Aug Incident" that resulted in millions of casualties after Hugh Darrow's signal made augments go crazy and attack others.
Onboard a VTOL aircraft, Adam sits with the rest of Task Force 29, an anti-terrorist unit funded by Interpol. One of the members on the team, Duncan MacReady, playfully goads Adam about not turning evil, causing the latter to stick out his armblade and mention that if they ever have a problem, they won't see him coming.
TF29's commander, Jim Miller, tells Adam to knock it off and outlines the group's next mission — they are being ordered to infiltrate an abandoned high-rise building in Dubai to apprehend an ex-Belltower operative named Sheppard, who went off the grid during the Aug Incident and has recently resurfaced to oversee an arms deal (and sell military-grade augments) with a group of terrorists. Miller also tells the group that there's a mole named Arun Singh inside the terrorist group involved in the arms deal, and he is feeding information back to Interpol.
Miller orders the team to stop the arms deal, and tells MacReady to lead a group in through the atrium to arrest Sheppard. Adam is ordered to airdrop onto the roof and take out the terrorists looking to buy the augs from Sheppard. After giving Adam his choice of loadout and weapons to take along, Miller cautions that there's also a sandstorm moving in and that the team should hurry.
As the VTOL passes over the hotel, Adam airdrops out and uses his Icarus Landing System to land safely. He looks around at the destruction and debris before moving inside the building.
After sneaking past several guards and making his way past locked doors and environmental obstacles, Miller radios the team to inform them that the sandstorm is moving closer and they have to pick up the pace. Adam continues through several penthouses and disables the terrorist's communications system on the way.
Soon after, a TF29 operative named Chang broadcasts Singh's orders to his men for the benefit of the team, and MacReady tells Adam to hurry up. Adam secures the route behind him and reaches the atrium just as the arms deal begins. He watches Sheppard's helo land as Singh and the terrorists watch, while the strike teams announce that they're in position and holding.
Sheppard disembarks and chides Singh for performing a transaction while a sandstorm is imminent. He shows off several arm augmentations and mentions that the rest of the guns are onboard the chopper, but the conversation is cut short when an aug extremist wearing a gold-plated mask and hood decloaks from behind him and snaps his neck. The rest of Sheppard's men are cut down in quick unison by similarly-dressed people and Singh flees behind cover. Miller asks what's happening, and Adam watches in shock as other extremists jump down to the atrium and land using the Icarus system. Singh radios and says that the operation is compromised and the assailants are trying to go after the weapons.
As TF29 opens fire and the sandstorm begins to pass through the hotel, Miller tells Adam to hurry and disable Sheppard's aircraft by any means necessary. Gunfire is exchanged while Adam leaps off the atrium balcony and makes his way with his thermal vision. He eventually reaches the chopper and pulls out a key component to disable it, while a sniper (Miller) snipes an extremist who tries to sneak up on Adam.
With the assailants all dead, Adam breathes a sigh of relief. However, the atrium windows break and sand begins to blow in, obscuring his visibility. Adam sees a vision of himself as Icarus, wielding a pair of wings and screaming as he falls into darkness...
- Action Prologue: The mission sets up Adam's association with Task Force 29, along with the aug extremist threat, with an explosive confrontation.
- All There in the Manual:
- The game begins with Adam already entrenched with Task Force 29 and having a level of familiarity with both Miller and MacReady, with no explanation given regarding the consequences of his decision at the end of the previous game. The events covering the interim between the two games are covered in several tie-in works, including Black Light and the Children's Crusade comic series.
- The reason why Arun Singh is working as a Deep Cover Agent with the Jinn, and TF29's deployment to Dubai, is covered in the Dawning Darkness comic book.
- As You Know: The opening broadcast by Eliza Cassan mentions the events in Panchaea two years earlier for the benefit of those who haven't played the previous game.
- Bus Crash: It is mentioned offhandedly in dialogue that Sarif Industries ceased operations sometime during the two-year interim between the "Aug Incident" and the beginning of the game.
- The Cavalry: A sniper saves Adam from being shot by an aug extremist during the attack in the atrium. It's later suggested that this sniper is Miller himself, who was shown wielding a Longsword Sniper Rifle in the introductory cutscene onboard the VTOL — and is later stated to have been a former sniper in Australia's Tactical Assault Group (revealed later in an email you find in his secret computer at his apartment).
- Continuity Nod:
- Sheppard (the arms dealer Task Force 29 is sent to apprehend) originally worked for Belltower at Rifleman Bank Station before going off the grid and working for himself.
- Ambient dialogue over the credits indicates that the search for survivors in Panchaea was downgraded from a search-and-rescue mission to a recovery operation.
- Deadly Dust Storm: The opening mission is motivated by the team racing against time to stop the arms deal before a sandstorm moves through the area.
- Developer's Foresight: The confrontation at the end of the prologue has several different variables based on your mission performance.
- Depending on how quickly you get to the atrium, you will either arrive well before the sandstorm hits (thus keeping visibility clear) or get there just as the storm breaks the windows.
- If you manage to kill or knockout all of the mercenaries around the chopper, an alternate cutscene will play where MacReady and the rest of the troops will fire upon the helicopter to disable it. Conversely, if you wait too long to disable the chopper, it will fly away... and the game continues, in an aversion of Non-Standard Game Over.
- Disc-One Nuke: It's possible to find a Longsword Sniper Rifle (and ammo) in the very first mission by dropping down the right-most elevator shaft from the top of the atrium (facing outwards), then picking it up from the ledge the TF29 troopers first appear at. (It's also possible to knock out a TF29 soldier carrying a sniper rifle with a laser sight attached.) Doing either/both of these options gives you a very powerful weapon from the get-go; it's otherwise teaser gear that is either sold for high prices by one of the local merchants, Mikael, locked away in a high-level cabinet at TF29 Headquarters or found much later on at Jim Miller's apartment.
- Dynamic Entry: The easiest and simplest solution to make it down to the ground quickly during the final battle with the Gold Masks at the helicopter is to leap out of the elevator and use the Stun function of the Icarus Landing System to take out several nearby enemies.
- Elite Mooks: The "Gold Masks", a group of extremist augments that were hired by the Illuminati to interrupt the arms deal. Their difficulty is tempered by the fact that it is much easier to sneak by them due to the sandstorm raging at the end.
- Fantastic Slur: The first line out of MacReady's mouth is an anti-augment slur, "Not going to go all wonky on us, are you, hauzer?"
- Glasgow Grin: MacReady has a massive scar running from the left side of his mouth, making it look like he has a perma-smile.
- Icarus Allusion/Rule of Symbolism: The mission relies heavily on the tale of Icarus (as discussed in the previous game). Adam's airdrop against the setting sun is a visual reference, while the end of the mission shows him with a pair of wings on his arms and screaming as he falls into darkness. Further reinforced by the developer's commentary (which can be heard by scanning the Triangle Code found just behind the start point), which discusses the various allusions to the myth.
- Justified Tutorial: Played with. Although there's a standard tutorial that teaches basic movement and action commands, there's also a optional, specialized tutorial that utilizes holograms to teach Adam (and the player) about many of his high-level augs, including the Glass Shield augmentation.
- Matter Replicator: One of the newspapers found in the Dubai hotel suggests that a company called Santeau Enterprises is using 3D printers to create an entire city called "Rabi'ah".
- Merging the Branches: The recap video that plays before the prologue doesn't show the player's choice from the end of Human Revolution, instead cutting off just after Adam defeats Zhao. The only thing implied by the opening credits is that there was a search-and-rescue/recovery operation in Panchaea, and Adam is seen floating underneath the water.
- Mythology Gag: Just like all of the installments before it, the code to the first keypad you find is 0451.
- Neck Snap: Sheppard is offed in this fashion by an aug extremist.
- Offscreen Start Bonus: If you turn around after jumping down from the start point of the mission and check the vent behind you, a Triangle Code can be found.
- Pet the Dog: If you choose to disable the comm system on the way to the arms deal, MacReady gives you the closest thing to an apology ("The tin man really does have a heart").
- Previously on…: An optional 12-minute recap of the events from Deus Ex: Human Revolution is available for players to watch before they begin the game.
- Ragnarök Proofing: Despite the fact that the Desert Jewel resort has been abandoned and vacant for two years, the dead employees are still wearing pocket secretaries that have battery life, and there are functioning wi-fi signals still in the building.
- Shout-Out: Just like previous games before it (along with System Shock), one of the keycodes in the hotel is 0451.
- Society-on-Edge Episode: The newspaper found in hotel and opening credits make it clear that society is much, much closer to a precipice as a result of the "Aug Incident", and show footage of riots, augs being funneled into ghettos and publicized fear about the future. As long-time fans of the series know, this situation is what leads to a near-total collapse of society and eventually leads into the original game.
- Strawman News Media: Ambient dialogue during the opening credits has someone say that "they" (likely referring to the Illuminati) control the news and spread disinformation to cover the real horrors of the world.
- Symbolic Wings: The vision Adam has at the end of the prologue shows him looking like Icarus (with a pair of wings underneath his arms) as he screams and falls into darkness.
- Take Your Time: Averted. If you're too slow, the extremists actually succeed with their mission and fly away with the helicopter. Additionally, Singh dies due to the player not being fast enough to resolve the situation. That being said, the game will still continue on regardless, with the tone of the following cutscenes changing to reflect that the mission was essentially a failure.
- A Taste of Power: Adam has access to several of the abilities he had in Human Revolution, including upgraded biocell capacity, the Typhoon and the strength booster (which allows him to punch through walls), and is shown in a tutorial to have (and use) new ones like the Glass Shield Cloak. As of the following mission, however, he loses access to them.
- Violent Glaswegian: MacReady seems to harbor some of these tendencies, as he will scream at Adam if Singh is killed during the firefight at the end of the mission.
- What the Hell, Hero?: You'll get chewed out by MacReady if you fail to disable the terrorist's comm system (thus compromising Singh's cover) or letting Singh die during the firefight in the sandstorm.