Ghost Story Games

Division 9: Irrational’s Unreleased Zombie Survival Shooter

on January 22 2010


[jwplayer config=”video” file=” 9_1.flv”]
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.

New Features

  • 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.

Additional Upgrades

  • 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.

Updated Graphics

  • Continuing improvements on the Vengeance Engine, such as per pixel specular lighting, volumetric shadows, and improved normal/bump mapping.
Posted on January 22 2010 12:47 am, under Insider
Tagged as: , , ,

Comments (48)

Expand all | Collapse all
  • boatservice | January 22, 2010 1:08 am

    Avatar Image

    Wow imagined if you did release this before all those other titles. You would have destroyed Valve.

    No log in, no ratey!
    • boatservice | January 22, 2010 1:09 am

      Avatar Image

      Aside from Portal.

      No log in, no ratey!
  • conrad.s | January 22, 2010 1:57 am

    Avatar Image

    Damn, releasing this would have made l4d’s atmospheric lighting look like a direct rip, especially in the street corridor.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • sawfish22 | January 22, 2010 2:11 am

    Avatar Image

    Wow, it resembles Left 4 Dead so much that’s surreal. It kinda reminds me of the Walking Dead once the survivors find the riot suits and the National Guard station. Or like the military division in “28 Days Later.”

    I like it. 🙂

    No log in, no ratey!
  • dominus | January 22, 2010 7:05 am

    Avatar Image

    the music and the tension in this video is beyond great! who did the music?

    its a real shame this game did not see the light

    No log in, no ratey!
  • discoslinky | January 22, 2010 8:38 am

    Avatar Image

    I recognize that level…

    No log in, no ratey!
  • przemyslawbak | January 22, 2010 9:00 am

    Avatar Image

    good that they didnt released this SWAT4 zombie mode.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • rye0077r | January 22, 2010 12:37 pm

    Avatar Image

    Very interesting. Too bad Zombies are so in vogue right now; if this were released now it’s would have to compete with L4D, etc whereas if it were made at the time, it would have been a game changer!

    Thanks for sharing!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • theblackbandit | January 22, 2010 1:44 pm

    Great minds clearly think alike… some aspects of this are staggeringly similar to an idea Tom Francis wrote about on a while back.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • January 22, 2010 2:50 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by irrationalgames: Learn more details on Division 9 including its origins as a SWAT title

    See Original Post at

  • emir | January 22, 2010 3:01 pm

    Avatar Image

    something that would have been worth playing 😮

    who knows if you released this valve may have killed their game :X

    No log in, no ratey!
  • svenderson | January 22, 2010 3:07 pm

    Avatar Image

    Hahah, at one point somewhere close to the middle (no timer?), you see the player throwing a grenade so hard it knocks over a fat zombie, before it explodes a little to close for comfort.
    Looks good, not sure if I would have purchased it though.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • bdillman | January 22, 2010 3:11 pm

    Avatar Image

    Huh, did anyone from Irrational get a job at Turtle Rock Studios after the TakeTwo acquisition?

    Or maybe a zombie shooter has been a wet dream for all of us for a long time!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • swifttheredfox | January 22, 2010 3:26 pm

    Avatar Image

    Wow that sounds totally epic. It sounds and looks like a more realistic L4D which I would love to play. Make it happen IG!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • anthonygalindo | January 22, 2010 3:48 pm

    Although I really enjoy Left 4 Dead, I think I would also have liked to see this slower paced more tactical take on the Zombie Apocalypse.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • armchair | January 22, 2010 5:17 pm

    Avatar Image

    Looks quite interesting. Wish you guys would’ve finished it. Who knows, maybe you’d give Left 4 Dead a run for its money!!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • borrego | January 22, 2010 6:32 pm

    Avatar Image

    Cool. I’m sure it would’ve been pretty awesome. Thanks for your hard work, helps me look forward to innovative new games to get wrapped up in.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • jumpingman63 | January 22, 2010 11:43 pm

    Avatar Image

    defenitely would buy this. it looks amazing with a few graphical updates and this would be game that would have l4d bowing for forgiveness

    No log in, no ratey!
  • smartaleck | January 23, 2010 8:21 am

    Avatar Image

    SWAT 4’s atmosphere was always creepier than a lot of survival horror games; the fact that simply by adding zombies and some music, they’ve got a demo that everyone seems to be mistaking for a finished product is a testament to that fact. I shed a tear for Division 9; it would’ve been a lot of fun.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • acetken | January 23, 2010 4:52 pm

    Avatar Image

    I want this game so bad… Any chance of you guys putting out what’s completed for the community to finish?

    No log in, no ratey!
  • dean | January 24, 2010 7:04 pm

    Avatar Image

    good stuff, looks interesting

    No log in, no ratey!
  • sunjammer | January 25, 2010 4:59 am

    Avatar Image

    You bastards! Nooo! Brilliant stuff. It’s interesting to see what sound and a change of enemies can do to an existing level.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • axident | January 25, 2010 8:36 am

    Avatar Image

    The anti Valve/L4D vibe I’m getting is disturbing. =P

    No log in, no ratey!
  • spunkybd | January 25, 2010 11:00 am

    Avatar Image

    Can you guys release the files for this?

    No log in, no ratey!
  • connoissuer | January 26, 2010 10:31 am

    Avatar Image

    Would have been better if the Zombie’s Limbs flew off when you shoot them or when the grenade goes off. Kind of cheap looking. But I’m sure Irrational would make up for it with a good story.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • SeanGatchell | January 26, 2010 11:16 am

    I really can’t be the only one who’s always wanted a tactical survivor-horror shooter. I’m not talking about the twitch-based Left 4 Dead-type co-op game, where it’s about covering each other, but really deep strategy spread through dealing with monsters in a group of skilled squad-mates. I’ve wanted a game like that for so long, an entire map could pretty much follow the entire arc of the original Night of the Living Dead, getting everyone rounded up and divvying up tasks to stay safe. Division 9 could still work, in that regard, despite Irrational being too talented to cover old ground.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • jthm773 | January 26, 2010 7:13 pm

    Avatar Image

    lol if you guys worked on this again. made it more “Division 9” and less “Swat 4” better graphics, great multiplayer, more dismemberments and stuff im pretty sure you guys could beat Valve *the glitch kings* at their own game.

    i just love the slow zombies, have 1000s of them coming at you, i would shell out $60 for that

    No log in, no ratey!
  • neuroman42 | January 26, 2010 7:24 pm

    Avatar Image

    I would love, and I mean L O V E to see something like this to happen. Please… with guts, blood, and beeeeer-ains!!!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • mono | January 26, 2010 10:40 pm

    Avatar Image

    Looks cool. It definitely could have undermined the very existence of L4D. So I’m glad this game was scrapped. It looks promising, but L4D is unbelievable. I think we’re better off.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • January 27, 2010 4:01 pm

    […] sure how we missed this one. In an earlier comment thread, Man Raised By Puffins mentioned Irrational had put up footage of a game which never quite made it on their blog. In short, it’s basically them taking their SWAT experience and approach and applying it to a […]

    See Original Post at

  • January 28, 2010 9:22 pm

    […] Then-publisher Vivendi dug the idea for Division 9, so what went wrong? Irrational was acquired by Take-Two, which was all it took to prevent the concept from coming to fruition. On top of the in-game footage shown above, you can also check out the pitch for the shooter on the fancy Irrational site. […]

    See Original Post at

  • January 28, 2010 11:25 pm

    […] Then-publisher Vivendi dug the idea for Division 9, so what went wrong? Irrational was acquired by Take-Two, which was all it took to prevent the concept from coming to fruition. On top of the in-game footage shown above, you can also check out the pitch for the shooter on the fancy Irrational site. […]

    See Original Post at

  • stueyisugly | January 29, 2010 10:52 pm

    Avatar Image

    I love that Vivendi rejected it because “who wants to play a zombie game?” Had they never heard of Resident Evil?

    No log in, no ratey!
    • stueyisugly | January 29, 2010 10:53 pm

      Avatar Image

      Sorry, Take Two rejected it, not Vivendi.

      No log in, no ratey!
  • perfectdarkling | February 16, 2010 4:29 pm

    Avatar Image

    Great looking game that was obviously several years ahead of its time. I’d love to see it as a playable coin-op game (like the Freedom Force cabinet in this trailer) or unlockable in the next Irrational Game, even if it’s just one level.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • February 18, 2010 7:45 am

    […] you wish for sometimes comes true! SWAT 5 is on it way call SWAT:Special Division READ HERE! Division 9: Irrational?s Unreleased Zombie Survival Shooter | Irrational This is where we hold them! This is where we fight! This is where they die! […]

    See Original Post at

  • ocboo | February 18, 2010 11:35 am

    Avatar Image

    nice guyz really nice. the whole swat4 community was waiting for this so badly.

    today is a party 🙂

    PLEASE DONT FORGET TO MAKE A NICE MULTIPLAYER WITH V.I.P. mode again. thats the wish of swat4 community. thanks so far….

    No log in, no ratey!
  • japanesecartoon | February 19, 2010 12:19 am

    Avatar Image

    Division 9 would have been epic.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • mattyg08 | April 16, 2010 3:09 am

    Avatar Image

    All I Can say is.. WOW

    No log in, no ratey!
  • subjectdelta | August 12, 2010 2:39 pm

    Avatar Image

    man that game looks fun, i love zombie games. Too bad you guys never released it though. I would’ve bought it for sure.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • deadman321 | August 13, 2010 12:28 pm

    Avatar Image

    Maybe you guys should release it, or at least make it downloadable, it looks great.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • deadinthedream | September 24, 2010 9:07 pm

    Avatar Image

    I am so sick and bored of l4d2; this game has dark, atmosphere and music like l4d, but i like slower zombies lot more. Shame this was never released.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • ivanariesng | October 6, 2010 12:46 pm

    Division 9 looks awesome! Left 4 Dead is no match for a tactical-survival-horror title like this one. I agree with the poster above who said that with better graphics, dismemberment and a couple new features this would give Valve a run for its money. I’d shell out $60 for Division 9 if it also included multiplayer. L4D2 is basically a re-hashing of L4D; the sequel never really improved. It’s still just as boring. Don’t listen to folks who say slow zombies are less scary than fast zombies. With that many running at you, you become desensitized to the violence. The atmosphere in SWAT 4 (my favorite tactical shooter to date) was beautiful. It felt compelling; when I was playing the game and a criminal was on the loose, I actually felt scared that he would pop out of a corner and end the game for me. Slow zombies in crowded surroundings make for a gripping game, trust me. You guys should complete the game and upgrade it a little to match the newer titles and sales should do just fine. To date, there has not been a single tactical survival horror title…ever! Division 9 can break new ground! Resident Evil has degraded into an action game, the Silent Hill series is lacking originality, and L4D is just a twitch shooter. You guys can breathe new life into Division 9! We believe in and will support you!

    No log in, no ratey!
  • gladiator49 | June 2, 2011 3:49 am

    Avatar Image

    It’s a shame this was never released, I’m really getting tired of Valve’s zombie games.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • adriank1410 | October 22, 2011 7:37 am

    Avatar Image

    You should release demo, beta etc. Just publish it, maybe someone will love it, as we all SWAT4! <3

    If you love SWAT4, follow me on Twitter: @adriank1410

    No log in, no ratey!
  • timleonard-shelbyvanfreed | May 14, 2012 3:44 pm


    I don’t know if you are still in charge of being able to create a SWAT 5. Seriously, as you noticed, Division 9 doesn’t fit into the line the SWAT community would satisfy. Maybe, to be honest, you are the wrong devs..

    I mean, i can’t imagine it to be so hard to create a mid graphics game engine (graphics where never prior at SWAT) and add some very well thoughtout hostage, bombing scenarios, bank robberys or whatever in combination with realistic map architecture and character behaviour. I mean, SWAT 3 was in touch with LAPD to create a realistic simulation and i would pay whatever it takes to have another great experience like this. Even the paintball mode in MP where something different.

    I mean, there is so mutch potential for content, just imagine real situations, negotiation failtures that end up in a high risk hostage scenery, bank robbers, family tragedies. Its not about to create something really new (LIKE A ZOMBIE THING..) its about to fill the old things with new content, and maybe enhance the sorroundings slightly. And if this kind of realism scenario creation is not your favourite skill, can’t you let others design it..?

    I don’t really get where your problem is but I would like to understand. Can you tell us please?

    No log in, no ratey!
  • minetime | November 3, 2012 5:31 am

    Avatar Image

    Please read.
    Dear Irrational Games and Ken Levine,

    S.W.A.T 5

    The Swat Community is waiting for a new part of the Swat Series.Altought today only going to kill(MW3)
    This is wrong.A lot of people want play tactical.Today(11.2012)so many people play S.W.A.T 4 after 8 years!
    SWAT=Zombie Game?No!SWAT 4 is the best tactical game.And now Gamespy no longer sponsored SWAT 4 and the serverlist is down.Altought they(Irrational Games)have no rights you can buy the rights!You would with the game earn a lot of money.S.W.A.T 4 was the best game from the Swat series.And with this ideas the game will be great!!!

    You have no ideas for S.W.A.T 5?Here are a lot of ideas from S.W.A.T Players:

    Examples for new Maps:

    4.Highway rest area


    1.Barricaded suspects
    3.Rapid deployment
    5.Smash and Grab
    6.Rampage(You must stop a rampage in a school or college)
    7.FFA(all vs all)


    -New weapons
    -better graphics
    -New skins
    -Better graphics

    1.No long wait time for start maps
    2.Reality team
    3.New Maps
    4.You can make Screenshots and Videos


    1.Better Serverlist
    -A favourite button.You can add you favourite servers
    -No Number Server-ip.Example ip:
    2.If you host a server on your Pc,it will show in the serverlist
    3.When a new version is available, it will show you
    4.No long wait time for a server to join
    5.No long wait time for respawn
    6.Anti Vira no longer block connect to a server
    7.Better Chat
    -If a link in the chat,you can press it and the Internet browser open
    8.For your Name is the Rang
    -[Guest]Example, [Member]Exmaple, [Admin]Exmaple…
    9.Better Voice-Chat
    10.Better Colour Chat
    11.A button,if you press it you can see the server informationen(website…).
    -The Owner can add Information.
    12.Commands for Players in the Chat.
    -Examples: /rules(You can see all serverrules), /team(You can see the Serverteam)
    13.Commands for Admins in the Chat.
    -Examples: /kick [Name](You can kick a Player), /ban [Name](You can ban a Player)
    14.More Slots
    15.If you will banned,your ip and cd-key is banned.
    16.Fix Voting
    17.Better Anti-Cheat
    18.Better Admin login
    19.You can make Screenshots and Videos


    1.You can lie down
    2.You can kick people

    Why so many people love S.W.A.T 4 ?


    And more…

    It would be worthwhile to buy up the rights!
    We have many new ideas.
    In behalf of the SWAT-Community and MineTime!

    Please answer,
    ([email protected])

    write by MineTime( the SWAT Community.

    No log in, no ratey!
  • lolsofti | April 6, 2013 12:15 pm

    Dont worry guys, some guy is working on a “zombie swat 4”. Its only one guy, so it will take a while. It will be build on Unreal Engine 3 i think. He got licence also, so hes going in for real 🙂

    Now irrational would serioulsy consider making Swat 5. Swat 4 ( along swat 3 ) is best coop tactical shooter TO DATE.

    No log in, no ratey!

© 2010 Irrational Games. All rights reserved. 2K Games