Before the studio began work on BioShock, and as it wrapped production on its PC shooter, SWAT 4, Irrational wondered, “What next?” Publisher Vivendi proposed another SWAT sequel. Creative Director Ken Levine “wanted the money really badly.”
But while the serial killer’s unsettling hideaway in SWAT 4 suggested what Irrational hoped to one day accomplish with mis-en-scene techniques, another straightforward cop sim wouldn’t provide the canvas that Ken and co. wanted to paint on. Instead, the studio would attempt to wed SWAT with parts of a pre-existing pitch for a shooter set in a zombie apocalypse. While it won’t hurt to have a SWAT team’s skills when the dead walk, the SWAT series’ signature features aren’t necessarily suited to the task. Reading the original pitch posted below, I’m reminded of a guy in grad school who tried to use literary language to get course credit for the fantasy tales he’d write about a barbarian who punched holes through the heads of his foes. My classmate wanted to make up names with apostrophes and assorted consonants; he liked the time that Th’thoth – or whatever idiotic thing the character was called — cut off a lot of ork limbs. He had less use for metaphor then a monster-hunting po-po has for pepper spray. The fact that Vivendi found the idea just as silly allows to me to say as much and not fear for my job.
Apart from the SWAT angle, though, the publisher warmed to the premise, and wanted the game that from then on was named Division 9 — and that ultimately died in 2006 when Take-Two Interactive acquired Irrational Games.
Listen to developers discuss Division 9 in detail on Irrational Behavior, Episode 1.
Read Irrational’s original pitch for SWAT: Special Division:
SWAT: Special Division
SWAT: Special Division carries the police flag to a new front. In a world where scientific experimentation has yielded supernatural horrors, not all threats are human – and Special Division is tasked with protecting the nation against the terrors that do not officially exist.
As a squad leader in the Special Division, you will command an elite set of SWAT officers, equipped with the best the nation has to offer in both lethal and non lethal deterrents. Against you stands an unknown array of supernatural enemies and their allies, with an agenda no one fully understands – until you put your life on the line to stop them.
With SWAT 4, Irrational Games focused on improving the basic gameplay that made SWAT 3 such a success. We improved the squad mate AI, added in new and exciting non-lethals to emphasize SWAT’s police heritage, revamped the leadership system, added character dialogue to give enemies and teammates more personality and brought the graphics to a competitive edge.
SWAT: Special Division will continue the improvements in these areas, but it will combine a dark, sophisticated horror story with tension filled action to bring the player a darker, grittier experience. The Swat franchise is uniquely positioned to bring strategic first-person shooter action and a suspense-filled horror story together. Action in SWAT 5 naturally alternates between the frantic shooting of an entry gone awry and the tense strategic preparation for suspect contact. Now, behind every door there could be another armed suspect… or something far, far worse.
- A New Cinematic SWAT Brings a much more story-oriented and dynamic approach to the SWAT gameplay. As you uncover the threat behind the new supernatural menace, you realize its origins run deep in the halls of industry and the chambers of government.
- Expanded Mission Areas Plan your approach across open areas to reach the suspects’ hide out, and decide which of multiple buildings to clear first within an expanded perimeter.
- Team Selection Choose from available officers, each with his own specialty, to create the optimal entry team every mission. But be careful, if you lose an officer this mission, he may not be ready for duty by the next.
- Varied Enemies Face a variety of enemies, human and supernatural, with unique strengths and weaknesses. Zombies, Ghouls, Lycanthropic nasties, and other horrors await.
- New Weapons SWAT: Special Division will feature both new real world weapons as well as experimental weapons designed to deal with the supernatural threat.
- Can you trust your own?-Your own men can become infected- do you try to finish the mission quickly to get help, or face turning your weapons on them when they slip into darkness?
- Voice Recognition Command your team using voice recognition!
- You will be afraid of the dark Enhancements to Vengeance engine such as Doom 3 style real time projected shadows and screen buffer effects tighten the screws.
- Officer AI Command your team to use formations, improved clearing routines, and officer specialities designed to counter the supernatural threat.
- Enemy AI Fight smarter enemies with improved behaviors, from using hostages as shields to escaping if left uncovered or unsecured. Supernatural foes will exhibit behaviors never seen in a tactical shooter, such as wall-walking and immateralism (e.g. phasing through doors).
- Hostage AI A frightened, fleeing civilian can look much like a suspect – hone your ability to separate the innocent from the dangerous.
- New Items An expanded set of starting weapons and tools, combined with the ability to unlock new weapons, armors, and items as your team gains prestige and experience.
- Continuing improvements on the Vengeance Engine, such as per pixel specular lighting, volumetric shadows, and improved normal/bump mapping.