Where Did You Go? – Division 9

Where Did You Go? is an ongoing series that deals with mishappenings in the video game industry. This can range from concepts to the games themselves. Today, we look at the cancelled Irrational Games title, Division 9.

BioShock. BioShock Infinite. System Shock 2. If you’re reading this, then you most likely know that these titles were hand-crafted by none other than Irrational Games. These games have launched to wide critical acclaim, and with good reason – each title was expertly developed, leaving little room for failure. Even with such success, one would be remiss to assume that Irrational isn’t prone to the occasional cancelled title. In reality, that assumption is far from the truth.

In total, Irrational has cancelled five titles: Deep Cover, Monster Island, The Lost, Freedom Force 3, and Division 9, the latter of which will be the topic of today’s discussion. So what exactly was Division 9? In short, it was a co-op zombie title that was ahead of its time.

Back in 2005, Irrational was still reeling from its success with SWAT 4, with the memory of System Shock 2 still fresh in the minds of gamers. Irrational decided to work on something different and something unique, though it’s also something that has turned into a sub-genre all its own. That “something” was called Division 9, and, when presented with pitches by creative director Ken Levine, many scoffed at them:

I remember going around pitching it and the person would be ‘Zombies? Who wants to play a zombie game?’

Keep in mind that, at the time, the only zombie title in town was Resident Evil, and with Resident Evil 4, even that series was shifting away from zombies. As such, Levine and his team would have had to make something unique, something different. This is where District 9 came in and, just as fast, made its way out.

The premise was simple enough: you, as part of a group of survivors, would try and blast past hordes of zombies. Sounds derivative, but it’s the manner in which you would do so that was innovative for its time:

You’d have to take on risks to get more supplies, ammo, and people. You sort of build up your group of survivors.

The player would be tasked with building bases, as well as guns, in order to survive against hordes of zombies, all the while cooperatively working with other players. While that concept has turned into a sub-genre today, it was very different for its time. In essence, it was akin to Left 4 Dead, but more far-reaching than Valve’s co-op zombie title.

Within Irrational, Division 9 started out as a game concept within SWAT 4 called The Infected, a zombified version of SWAT 4. Understandably, there was some resistance to the concept since Irrational’s parent company, Vivendi, wanted to put out SWAT 5. Even so, Irrational started work on it, and actually got to the point where it finally won over Vivendi.

Sadly, one major event killed the project almost immediately: Take-Two’s purchase of Irrational. This put a hold on Division 9 that would never be loosened, as Irrational killed the project in order to focus on BioShock. Even so, if Irrational continued work on Division 9, it would have been released around the same time of BioShock’s release:

I think we would have been very successful with it. It would have come out around the same time as BioShock, maybe a little sooner.

Today, players can experience what District 9 could have been by playing titles like Left 4 Dead or State of Decay, but one has to wonder what it would have been like to actually play Division 9. All we can do is watch the demo trailer embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks Gameinformer for the quotes.