In the lobby of a research wing, backed by an ominous hand stretching over a hologram of the world itself, two men are having a conversation. One informs the other that his appointment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be finalized within the week. The FEMA representative updates the other man on the status of various outbreaks of a virus and clashes between police and protestors, only for the latter to reply that it should be encouraged. The man finishes by saying that their plans are about to come to fruition, and that they will soon be seen as gods...
New York City, Liberty Island. UNATCO recruit "JC" Denton arrives at a dock by boat and is briefed by his Mission Control, Alex Jacobson, who informs him that National Secessionist Force (NSF) troops have raided the island. Soon after, JC's brother, Paul, runs up to him and welcomes him to his first day on the job. Paul explains that a shipment of a vaccine used to treat a plague called the "Gray Death" has gone missing.
He tells JC that they need to find the commander and learn where the shipment is going, and implores him to use a standard non-lethal takedown policy. He also mentions that fellow UNATCO operative Gunther Hermann has been captured and imprisoned by the terrorists in the Statue of Liberty, and that an informant on the north dock can help him get into the statue.
After giving JC a choice of weapons to take along, Paul discusses the latter's recent graduation and expresses regret that he wasn't there, and the two brothers briefly discuss their father.
On the mainland, troops are everywhere. JC makes his way to the UNATCO base, which is being protected by soldiers. Inside, one of the soldiers, Kaplan, discusses the soldiers' current orders to stand back, because the top brass want to see how JC performs. JC heads towards the other dock, dispatching NSF troops along the way. He meets with the informant, Harley Filben, who gives him a key and asks him to promise not to kill the commander.
Inside the ground floor of the Statue, JC dispatches several more troops and releases Hermann from his confinement. Gunther expresses disdain that the other forces were told to pull back, and says he will clean out the lower level himself.
JC continues to the top of the statue, stopping to hear a conversation with two NSF grunts discussing the man who is transporting the shipment, Jojo Fine. At the top, JC finds the commander, Leo Gold, and orders him to tell him where the shipment has gone. Gold responds that the shipment has already left the island, and instead chooses to debate UNATCO's ethics with JC. Alex congratulates JC on the completion of the mission and orders him to return to base.
At the front door of UNATCO, Paul briefs JC and says that the shipment of the vaccine, Ambrosia, has already moved somewhere else. He says that they will both have to report to the chief, Joseph Manderley.
Inside the base, JC meets with several employees. Chief medical officer Jaime Reyes discusses recent events with JC and promises to fill out whatever paperwork Manderley wants from the agent. Quartermaster Sam Carter outfits JC with a stealth pistol and they briefly reminisce on the former's history. Alex talks to JC about the infolink system, and how it's only turned on during normal work hours. Gunther complains about the faulty soda machine in the cafeteria with fellow agent Anna Navarre, who expresses disdain for Paul's method of nonlethal confrontations.
In Manderley's office, Paul is concluding a briefing. JC is informed that they have a lead on where the shipment has gone, and are dispatching Paul and a team of agents to secure it. JC is tasked with finding one of the missing barrels in Battery Park, as well as taking down a generator in Hell's Kitchen that is providing power to the building where shipment is being kept.
With his goals outlined, JC heads back to the police boat he used to travel to the island and sets out for Battery Park...
- Adaptation Distillation: The PS2 port largely does away with the Spoiler Opening nature of the intro cinematic to make the identities of the two men (Bob Page and Walton Simons) more vague (so as to preserve the hints in the opening missions that they are more than they seem), cuts several lines that run into spoiler territory and changes the location from a wide-open hallway (where at least one character hears their conversation) to a conference room with a row of monitors broadcasting various newsfeeds. However, it also cuts out several glimpses of locations later played through in the game, including a memorial event from Liberty Island, a fight between factions in Paris and the medical clinic.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Discussed. Alex suggests that JC use the ventilation system on the Statue's ground floor to get the drop on the terrorists holding Gunther hostage.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: The businessman in the opening cinematic points out that the X-51 scientists have certain... ethical limits that aren't shared by MJ12.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': If you walk into the women's bathroom at the UNATCO base, Manderley will chew you out for it when you go to your mission briefing. Additionally, if you knocked out (or killed) the UNATCO soldier walking up the top of the stairs after confronting Leo Gold, Manderley will quizzically ask if you knew anything about it, before saying he's going to open an investigation to find the culprit.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Maggie Chow can be seen in the background of the opening cinematic.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The UNATCO troops are all dressed in green, and the NSF terrorists were wear white-and-beige outfits with goggles.
- Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: JC's conversation with Leo Gold runs frequently into this, as the latter rattles off a list of popular theories, such as the consolidation of world government, the "secret police", a mention of the "Trilateral Commission" (which "picks" U.S. Presidents) and more.
- Developer's Foresight:
- In the end of the tutorial level, it is possible to reach the observation window by stacking some boxes and climbing them. If you do it, you actually get complimented for it.
- If you manage to shoot the seagulls that are flying just off the Liberty Island pier in the opening mission, Corporal Collins admonishes you with special dialogue ("I don't understand! What are you doing?").
- The game will acknowledge the use of glitches. Throw a Gas Grenade at UNATCO's front door, then run past the guard that comes out. Once inside, a guard will actually acknowledge you skipped a bunch of terrorists that way. The game continues normally as if you just finished the first level legitimately, but not before acknowledging your ingenuity.
- The guard will also compliment you if you manage to get past Paul Denton in front of the headquarters without talking to him first (which is pretty hard to do without using the console commands to enable the Speed Enhancement aug, since the conversation with Paul will automatically be triggered when you get within about 10 feet from him).
- The option to give Gunther Hermann your stealth pistol when you rescue him from captivity exists, despite the fact that you shouldn't be able to get one before you free him. It's possible to glitch the game so hard that you don't even talk to Gunther (and Paul) for the first time until you're back at UNATCO, so you can get the stealth pistol off of Carter before your first conversation with him (which is forced to be his captivity dialogue until you leave for Battery Park). It's even possible to get dialogue for an assault gun if you use cheats to give yourself one (or use a cheat code so you can get one early).
- After detaining Leo Gold, you can shoot or knock out the UNATCO soldier that's coming up the stairs. When reporting for debriefing, Manderley asks you if you know what happened up there. He knows whether or not you killed him, referring to his dead or unconscious body depending on how you took him down. Since you get an assault rifle for doing this without risking being killed by other soldiers, it explains why you can find ammo for it in Battery Park (ordinarily, you won't get the gun until you reach Hell's Kitchen).
- It's also possible to cause Leo Gold to go hostile (via picking the "send YOU home in a body bag" dialogue option), then running away when he attempts to chase you. Doing so will still cause the mission to complete, though not without some (unique) harsh remarks from Alex, Paul and Manderley.
- There's also a third option, the most cruel / downright criminal one. You can first talk Leo Gold into surrendering, then execute him in cold blood. The reactions from Alex and Manderley are more or less the same as the previous one, but Paul Denton will really chew JC out. ("You're a complete jackass!")
- If you finish the mission without visiting Harley Filben at the dock first, then go back to talk with him after you detain the head NSF terrorist, Filben asks why he stood around for an hour if no one wanted to talk to him, while JC tells him he found a back door into the statue. Filben then insists that he wants extra pay, and JC tells him to take it up with Manderley.
- Sgt. Kaplan (the soldier patrolling the front gate of UNATCO in the first mission) has different dialogue if you wait to talk to him until after the NSF commander is apprehended.
- If you barge into the women's bathroom during your first visit to UNATCO, Manderley chastises you for it later. (Mass Effect 2 has since done so as well.) The woman you encounter, Shannon, will also behave differently toward you for the rest of the game. If you don't go in, then she generally acts civil and friendly. But if you do into the bathroom, she'll never let you hear the end of it. In your next meeting with Manderley, he will reprimand JC on his intrusion into the women's bathroom as "unprofessional".
- Disc-One Nuke: The player can get a pair of very powerful weapons in the first mission that can make things much easier for the next couple of stages.
- Paul gives you a choice of three weapons when you meet him on the dock: a crossbow, a sniper rifle or a GEP gun. The first two options are found in the level, while the GEP gun can take out security bots in one hit, breach doors and take out cameras and turrets, saving you lockpicks and multitools.
- The player can get an assault rifle from the (conveniently killable) UNATCO soldier walking up to the top of the statue after Leo Gold is captured. Combined with weapon mods found in the level, it becomes a fearsome weapon by the time you reach Battery Park.
- The businessman seen in the opening cinematic is watching JC during his final test with the security bots. When the player finishes the training and talks to him on the holocomm, the man says that he is very interested to see how JC performs in the field...
- In the same monologue, one of the men talks about a man named "Savage" who has apparently gone to a place called "Vandenberg".
- An easy-to-miss pair of containers (one near the dock entrance, below the crate with the Gas Grenade, and one near the bunker on the far side of the island) have medical robots within them, and have the name "Versalife" stamped on the side...
- Stopping to listen to the two NSF soldiers near the top of the statue (by the armed gas grenades) also reveals that there's a tattooed NSF colonel named Jojo who spearheaded the theft of the Ambrosia.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation:
- The Spoiler Opening (which takes place six months prior to the start of the game proper) more-or-less states that The Hero, JC Denton, was grown in a tank (with dialogue hinting that he's a "secondary unit" for another character). Later levels will have both JC and Paul state that they grew up with normal human lives, had parents (albeit adopted parents) and went through the academy training course. Of note, the very next conversation in the game (JC and Paul's conversation by the dock) outright disproves the intro, as Paul relates an anecdote to JC about his father gave a toast at his graduation dinner.
- The Datavault image delivered to JC regarding Leo Gold specifically notes in the leader's bio that he's bald — even though the picture it shows has Gold with a full head of hair. This is a remnant from an earlier version of game, where Gold (as seen in a unused image) was originally intended to be bald.
- Give Me a Sword: Gunther asks for a weapon after being rescued in the first mission. Whether or not you give him one affects his attitude towards you for the rest of the game.
- Got the Whole World in My Hand:
- The two men in the opening sequence are standing in front of a giant statue of the world being held in the palm of a hand.
- In the PS2 port, The Conspiracy, the two men are standing in front of a row of television screens that slowly all flip to footage of the same world statue.
- He Knows About Timed Hits: Jaime Reyes on the keyboard controls at the beginning of the training course.
- Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The player is prompted to provide a real name for the protagonist, but he is always referred to in dialogue as JC Denton, which is apparently only his code name. Later, you'll find the chosen name used in a few emails and newspapers.
- Invisible Wall: You can try swimming away from the island, but you won't get far before running into an invisible barrier.
- Justified Tutorial: The tutorial mission (which takes place immediately before this) details JC's final test before he's sent out on his first mission.
- Kleptomaniac Hero:
- This trope is played with when Lt. Kaplan gives JC the code to the maintenance shed and tells him to load up. JC later finds out that a thief has been stealing the supplies from the same shed. JC can also run wild in UNATCO taking everything that isn't nailed down, and no one calls him out on it.
- It's also possible to rob the ATM accounts of several characters, including an unseen civilian who left behind a datapad in the Statue and Janice Reed herself, whose login info is present on her computer. Unlike many other examples in the game, several of these accounts "refill" between missions, making them an easy source of cash for the player.
- Lethal Joke Weapon: Cigarettes (several packs of which can be found in and around the Statue) can be smoked and will cause damage to enemies if used in their proximity.
- Made of Iron: Two of the terrorists on the island discuss how Gunther is a walking tank who took down several soldiers by himself before being captured.
- Mission Control: Alex Jacobson fulfills this role for the early part of the game.
- Monty Haul: By taking Paul's offer of the GEP Gun and searching the island, it's possible to amass a veritable armory of weapons, including a pistol, sniper rifle, tranquilizer crossbow, a sawed-off shotgun, an assault rifle and (with thorough searching of the island and UNATCO) one of each type of weapon mod. That's to say nothing of the several multitools, lockpicks and grenades the player can amass, provided they take the back way into the statue and forego picking doors.
- Monumental Damage: Prior to the events of the game, the Statue of Liberty was bombed by an unknown party, with UNATCO having reason to believe it was the French terrorist group, Silhouette. Additionally, a sign at the top level of the pedestal is located in front of a fenced-off area with the words, "This building had been condemned"; implying the statue was no longer structurally sound. (As the sequel reveals, the majority of the statue either fell or was demolished, replaced by a hologram in the interim.)
- Shout-Out: The first keypad found in the game (as revealed by Sgt. Kaplan) uses the code "0451", a reference to Fahrenheit 451 and to Looking Glass Studios' own Running Gag of using it in their other games.
- Sniper Pistol: Discussed by Sgt. Kaplan, who is selling a scope mod that can be attached to JC's pistol. Unlike the Stealth Pistol (which is awarded after the mission is complete), however, the scope can never be seen on the vanilla pistol model.
- Spoiler Opening: The opening cinematic not only identifies the Big Bad and The Dragon and their current spheres of influence, but also that a certain woman in a dragon dress is affiliated with them, UNATCO has a puppet leader in place, a man named "Savage" is going to a place called "Vandenberg" and the conspirators are investing in, amongst other things, an electronic sentience. The PS2 port takes steps to avert this by not clearly showing the identity of the two men, cutting several lines (particularly ones that get a Retcon later in the story, such as the suggestion that main character JC Denton was grown in a tube and matured over a span of several months) and moved the location from a wide hall to a conference room with a row of television screens.
- Story-Driven Invulnerability:
- Played with. You can't kill any of the UNATCO troops on the island or in the base... except for one specific soldier that is walking up the steps behind you after Leo Gold is captured. Doing so results in some alternate dialogue with Manderley and an early assault rifle.
- It's also possible to kill Corporal Collins (the soldier standing on the dock), although he inexplicably appears later in the base, none the worse for wear and on friendly terms with JC.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: It's made abundantly clear that the NSF's plan to secure the Ambrosia was done with very little forethought. As the NSF removed the shipment of Ambrosia from Liberty Island, they left behind a rear guard to secure their exit — and said rear guard subsequently got into a pitched battle with UNATCO, forcing them to lockdown the Statue in an attempt to stall for time. When JC is sent into the island, enemies will still attack him (an augmented human with cutting-edge abilities) en masse, but if left to their own devices, they have no apparent plan other than waiting for the enemy to attack them. Some enemies will face away from the dock and get into menial conversations about their enemy, a sniper is busy patrolling a narrow walkway instead of staying at an upper vantage point, the south dock is completely unprotected (yet no boat arrives to rescue the sieged troops) and Leo Gold outright folds at the first opportunity (but will attack if further provoked).
- Sunglasses at Night: Lampshaded. Anna mocks JC for wearing sunglasses during a nighttime operation. JC replies that his vision is augmented. It's also noted that the retinal scanner to actually access the headquarters will work even through JC's sunglasses so he doesn't have to take them off.
- Take a Third Option: It's possible to bait Leo Gold into attacking by threatening to "send him back to the people in a body bag" then running away and leaving the job to the UNATCO soldier walking up the stairs. Doing so nets alternate dialogue from Paul and Manderley afterwards.
- Technical Pacifist: Paul extols the virtues of non-lethal takedowns to JC whenever he gets the chance... but he also doesn't see a problem with shooting down enemies with a plasma rifle if they attack him. Certain gameplay mods will alter Paul's behavior to make his character consistent, using non-lethal options instead.
- Vengeful Vending Machine: In the post-mission debriefing, Gunther Hermann can be heard grumbling to Anna Navarre in the break area about the maintenance man having some kind of vendetta against him, as the vending machines consistently give him the wrong kind of soda (lemon-lime, instead of orange.note
- Video Game Caring Potential:
- You don't have to save Gunther, but he thanks JC if you do and later sticks up for him in the base when Anna tries to insult him. Interestingly, this decision also gets a Call-Back later in the game during a later mission.
- You can talk with several of the UNATCO soldiers, who address JC by his codename and congratulate him on a job well done.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential:
- Corporal Collins admonishes you with special dialogue if you choose to shoot down the seagulls with your handgun.
- Paul's dialogue changes based on whether or not the player spared or killed the majority of the NSF troops.
- You can also completely abandon Gunther in the basement until you complete the mission, causing him to be resentful towards you during the conversation with Anna in the UNATCO breakroom. Even worse, it's possible to sucker Gunther into running out into the line of fire of the robot (and turrets) in front of the Statue, causing much chaos.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: While Leo Gold is taken into custody by UNATCO, his fate is never addressed for the rest of the game. Interestingly, an unrealized plan (seen in some design documents) would have had him appear as a prisoner within the secret MJ12 facility several missions later.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: You can sneak up on two soldiers having a cordial conversation about Gunther, who they have great respect for even after he killed three of their fellow soldiers.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Almost every non-killable NPC in the level (including Paul, Gunther, Manderley and the soldiers in the base) will rail at JC if he shoots them.
- Alex and Paul calls out JC if the player knocks out or kills Leo Gold at the top of the statue.
- Carter will give JC flak if the latter killed too many terrorists (five or more, according to plot flags in the gamecode) on the island.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: JC, especially when the NSF commander (Leo Gold) begins having a debate with him about UNATCO's ethics and their treatment of the NSF.
- With This Herring:
- Invoked, in the very first conversation of the first mission. When JC is informed by his brother that's he's being sent in to the island, alone, he says that he doesn't mind a test, but that "UNATCO'd better issue some hardware." To that end, Paul offers him a choice of a sniper rifle, tranquilizer crossbow or GEP Gun — depending on the player's proficiency / whether they've retrieved in a later mission, they'll last the player a long while.
- Sgt. Kaplan also invokes this when he sees JC, ordering him to "load up" from the surveillance shed and offering to sell him ammo for his weapons.
- Sam Carter will give JC several goodies for the Battery Park mission, including a stealth pistol and (if JC played non-lethal) extra ammunition for his gun, while Manderley will pay JC a whopping 1250 credits if all of the objectives were completed.