What Could Have Been: Irrational Games’ SWAT 4 Dead, AKA Division 9

Irrational Games (formerly known as 2K Boston) has come out of hiding with a new home, a revamped website with a glossy Web 2.0 sheen and a fully integrated community component. Not only are there new forums for fans to sign up on, but the member account features extend to rest of the site, allowing users to comment on news posts and interact with each other and the developers themselves. As well as the the social network aspects there is a meta-game leaderboards system, based on points and achievements that can be gained by doing things like befriending other people and posting on the forums. As predicted, the company celebrates its legacy with sections on all its previous titles and promises of new content to fill them in the future.

In the anticipation leading up to the site launch it was expected that the studio’s unannounced project would be revealed, but it seems that we will have to wait a little longer for that, as Creative Director Ken Levine explains in his blog post. Meanwhile, he speaks of “secrets”, and introduces the theme for the site’s content this month: discarded ideas. The following weeks will focus on the concepts and assets that were created for games but were ultimately left out of the final product. Starting things off is a new podcast series, Irrational Behaviour, lead by former games journalist Shawn Elliot. The first episode features the developers discussing various ideas that were cut from games, like dogs in wheelchairs in Bioshock, as well as a previously unrevealed project that never passed the prototyping phase, a game called Division 9.

Game Informer’s ongoing coverage of Irrational Games’ rebirth fills us in on how Division 9 came about. What started out as SWAT 5 became something that eerily resembles Valve’s Left 4 Dead, a tactical shooter with a co-op play and endless hordes of zombies to face. Irrational’s design included a more strategic layer, with base-building and resource management, and the project was deemed too ambitious and lacking in appeal. Fortunately for fans, the studio put together a trailer of sorts that demonstrates their concept. The video shows footage from the raw, unpolished prototype that was put together in a week to convey the premise to the suits.