Sometimes you just have to buckle down and put out good games. Take-Two Interactive—and their branches, 2K and Rockstar—did a minimum of futzing around this year, instead releasing a relatively slim, high quality roster. Almost all of Take-Two's sequels improved upon their predecessors. Rockstar brought back Max Payne, fatter and drunker than ever, and his vacation to Brazil was some grim fun. They also showed off the long awaited Grand Theft Auto V. So far, so good.
2K meanwhile was saying goodbye to some old friends and doubling down on new ones. The Darkness series made a somewhat surprising comeback early in the year, right around the time 2K released what will be their last MLB game. And then there were Spec Ops: The Line, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Borderlands 2, a monstrous success and great update on the first. All in all a good year creatively for Take-Two and friends.
The original Borderlands was a game with mechanics so addicting, I gave up crack just to play it more. But with stagnant, repetitive environments and a bland, directionless story, my continued and unavoidable play became nigh self-flagellating. Gearbox and 2K did much to fix this problem in Borderlands 2, and for me nothing symbolized this better than their charismatic villain Handsome Jack. Like his H-shaped Moon base, the cocky and crass Handsome Jack was a constant presence hovering over the game, driving the plot forward and legitimately engaging you in the story. As a result—and combined with new, dynamic scenery—the hours upon hours sunk plundering Pandora were loads more fulfilling. Plus he had a horse made of diamonds. <3 U Butt Stallion!
Spec Ops: The Line's Story Ambition
"Spec Ops?," I thought, as I saw The Line on PSN, "Geez, I haven't played one of those in forever, nor do I remember seeing any ads for this because I'm ignant" (don't say it). So began one of my most interesting shooter experiences in years. For military shooters, I don't remember being this engrossed since Modern Warfare 1. While the gameplay was nothing to shake a stick at, and not every narrative decision was justified, the sheer ambition of the thoughtful, utterly dark, introspective The Line stunned me. I was reminded that brown military shooters don't have to be meaningless setpiece linked to meaningless setpiece. After playing through it in one sitting, I couldn't get it out of my head for days. So kudos to Take-Two for having the guts to put it out. It really wanted to be something different. It did around 3% of Black Ops II's sales.
The Imperfect Perfect Game
The annual "Perfect Game Challenge" affiliated with MLB 2K12 was one of the feel-good events of the past few years. Until 2012, of course, when it was rocked by a cheating scandal.
Players were eligible to win a chance at a million bucks during a tournament held in NYC. Tourney spots were limited—and required a perfect game—so to make their chances better, many players (including at least one who made the finals) altered the opposing team's lineups to make pitching easier, something that had been expressly forbidden by 2K. Due to a coding error, those games were still accepted, and when push came to shove, 2K wouldn't disqualify them. Barry Bonds could not be reached for comment.
Skipping the Wii U
Take-Two had some great releases this year, but oddly enough, their heavy-hitters didn't make it to the newest console on the market. Sure, they released NBA 2k13 on Wii U—it must be an unwritten rule of gaming that every sports game has to be on every platform—but big-name titles like Borderlands, Civilization, and XCOM never made it to Nintendo's system, which is too bad. The last two in particular would make for great fits on the Wii U's GamePad.
Also unusual: there are currently no plans to get BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V on the Wii U. What's the deal, Take-Two?
All games were published, distributed, or developed by Take-Two Interactive
The Darkness 2 - February 7th
MLB 2K12 - March 6th
May Payne 3 - May 5th
Civilization V: Gods and Kings - June 19th
Spec Ops: The Line - June 26th
Borderlands 2 - September 18th
NBA 2K13 - October 2nd
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - October 9th
GTA Vice City: 10th Anniversary Edition - December 6th
For these Year In Review segments, we'll be taking a look at what major gaming companies did in 2012, with summaries of their biggest news and releases, best and worst decisions, and complete lists of the games they were a part of. Check back later in the week for another company.