*Review* NECA Team Fortress 2 – Demoman and Pyro


INTRO

Ah.. sweet, sweet Team Fortress 2. It’s amazing how the vitality of this game has remained so high for so long since it’s release in ’07. With it’s Pixar-styled good looks, a touch of semi-graphic violence and the fantastic personalities of the playable classes, it’s like super glue disguised as magnets for FPS fans. Myself included. Valve did a bang up job releasing a plethora of introduction  trailers for each class that endeared them even more to current players and skyrocketed the popularity of the title to those who hadn’t yet dipped their toes in.

I’ve wanted someone, somewhere to make action figures of them since day one. The character designs are perfect for it. Whoever it was couldn’t skimp though. These couldn’t be tossed together for mass consumption.  Whoever tackled them would have to handle it just right to capture the true essence of each character. It couldn’t be some homage or “you get the idea” kind of deal. They had to be spot-on.

Well, look what we have here. Oh NECA, you sly fox you.

I got a chance to preview a few of their upcoming figures at SDCC last year and I couldn’t have been more excited for the first two releases, Pyro and Demoman, to hit my doorstep!

TF2 Heavy from SDCC 2012

PACKAGING

Despite Pyro selling out so quickly.. most likely before he was ever able to properly settle in at your local retail chain or toy shop, both he and Demoman share a fairly standard, retail-esque package scheme. A Bubble prison on a card with some bright artwork and fun stuff to read on the back. Readers may know of my preference for collector friendly packaging over bubble/card action.. not because I don’t like the way it looks.. but because it makes me destroy something I’d rather keep intact.

Anyway, it’s nice looking and you’ll know what to expect. The character renders on the front should give you a pretty good idea of how well NECA matched the character’s look.

Check out our unboxing vid right ‘chere!

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Pyro comes with a cool axe and of course, his massive flamethrower.

Demoman sports a set of extra hands, one with booze perma-fixed to his grip. He also comes with his two default guns, the grenade and a sticky grenade launchers.

Both come packed with an exclusive game code for unlocking special goodies in Team Fortress 2. I haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but if you do a quick google search you can probably find out what they do. (hint.. hint.. it’s hats)

THE BREAKDOWN

At first blush, amaze-balls. These guys look EXACTLY like their video game dopplegangers. NECA knocked the sculpts out of the park and truly captured everything, character-wise, I love about these TF2 characters.

The sharp, flat edged details give both these guys a truly animated look that I’ll say again, is ripped right from your computer screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Valve provided NECA with the original 3D model assets to make this happen. They’re that perfect.

The paint job on each is also above reproach.. at least at first. Both have colorful accents that mirror that of their cell shaded, computerized brothers. Pryo gets the higher marks between the two as he arrived practically blemish free. I love how vibrant and perfectly painted the colors and decals on him turned out. The yellow/orange paint accents are particularly nice.

Demoman looked sharp as well.. at first. It only took a few seconds to see he had all sorts of paint problems straight away. There’s a thumb sized paint smudge on his belt that is an entirely different shade of grey than the surrounding area. It stands out like a sore.. well you know where I’m going. He also had several paint chips and blemishes as if someone at NECA couldn’t resist playing with him before packing up and sending him my way. It’s a shame for me, but you may not experience the same kind of issues with yours.

The accessories both guys come with look fantastic. They share the same spot-on accuracy for their in-game counterparts as the characters do themselves. There was some truly obvious care put into both the sculpt and paint app for everything here. Whatever science NECA’s dropping to make the colors look so.. cartoon-like.. they need to continue!

I love that Demo came with a hand sculpted with his signature bottle o’ booze. It’s silly and fun to pose him with it while an errant grenade launcher flops about carelessly in his other hand. It actually works out best to have his one hand holding the booze as getting him to hold either gun with two hands at once is quite a chore.

While the axe is cool on Pryo, I wasn’t able to get him to hold it with any real conviction. It seems his hands were more-or-less sculpted to support the flame thrower. It’s kinda of a shame, but doesn’t ruin the toy for me.. particularly since the flame thrower is so awesome looking!  While it wouldn’t be game accurate at all, I wish there was a place to store the axe on him when it’s not in his hand just to keep it around. I sorta wedged it in a loop on his back. Whatever, works.

At this point, I’m still really happy with these two. Despite Demo’s preopened paint problems, they still look fantastic.

Things started to stray a bit when it came time to pose them. Maybe I’m just not used to playing with figures that don’t share a similar articulation system so many toys other toys in this catagory adopt . Hot Toys, ThreeA, Play Arts Kai, Marvel Legends, they all have a general, however-many-points, articulated body system they’ve dumped tons of R&D and $$ into to support a wide range of character types. It hearkens back to the days of 80’s GI Joe figures which make them really easy to pick up and pose around as they bend and turn exactly as you’d expect.

This is not the case for this first pair from Team Red.

The short version of it is this, NECA obviously had to sacrifice articulation for sculpt preservation. I can’t fault that gameplan really, but for some reason they still managed to stuff a bunch of joints in each figure.. it’s just most of them don’t  seem to do a whole lot. At the end of the day, I was left wondering why they even bothered.

The long version is this..

Despite having two handed weapons, it’s really tough to get Demoman to hold his weapons as he should. Each launcher has two grips, but in order for him to hold them, you’ll have to push his arms beyond the limits of where they’re meant to go. Pyro can really only hold his flamethrower in one default position, and even then, it’s not that tight a grip. Demoman definitely has more range dexterity than Pyro, particularly in the legs and elbows. Pyro has a ball joint at his elbow, but the overlapping sculpt of the glove makes it completely useless/borderline pointless. Both bend at the waist (Pyro more than Demo) in a few different ways, which is nice, as it does add a little play to the figures.

Demoman’s legs and feet have to be the most frustrating I’ve run across in all my days of reviewing toys. They’re definitely heavily articulated which allows for a lot of leg positions, much more so than Pyro’s.. but they’re accurate to the game which means they’re also very thin. Demo is very top heavy.. which means he topples CRAZY easy. So while there’s a lot of moving bits of articulation in his legs, it seems to me that less would have been more in this case. It’s a little like trying to build a treehouse on top a sapling and then chipping chunks out of its base. The excessive joints really don’t help balance as much as they weaken how steadily he’ll stay standing once you finally do get him balanced.

If NECA had left out, at LEAST the mid food joint, that’d given him some extra stability. Instead, his upper body weight will eventually overpower the friction somewhere in the chain and he’ll fall flat on his face/butt.

It’s soft plastic, so it’ll just slowly bend until it gives in under his own weight. I watched this happen in what seemed like slow motion on several occasions.

Below is how Demoman chilled for 90% of the photoshoot. Drunk already.

At least Pyro was easy to balance. He’s a bit chunkier and less flexible than Demo is, but he stays in place pretty well. I think he only fell once throughout the entire photoshoot.  That being said, you’ll get maybe three good poses out of Pyro before you decided ones a keeper and just leave him in it.

His neck joint is a bit of mystery to me. It flips up and down and then swivels at a sharp angle. This can give him the the sort of head motion that a dog makes when it hears a funny noise.

“Ruh-Roh.”

Check out the video below to watch a grown man fiddle about with these two fine fellow’s wiggly parts.

THE FINAL WORD

I walked away from posing these two pretty frustrated. Basically all it resulted in was some more paint rubbing off. Sure, I managed to squeeze out a few poses here and there, but you should’ve seen all the ones I wanted to do, but couldn’t! Anything really dynamic I attempted always ended with Demoman getting friendly with the floor.

Believe me, I get it. NECA wanted to stay true to the look of characters, which is something I really wanted them to do. This meant sacrificing articulation in light of sculpt integrity. OK, fine.. but when you have joints in place that are by all accounts useless or work against stability, it’s time to go back to the drawing board for a minute. If these figures are going to be that limited articulation-wise anyway, then I say let them be limited. Simplify them and get rid of some of those excess joints so at the very least they can stand up soundly. Figure out what they NEED to do and ensure they can do it. If a character has pistol, make sure he can hold it firmly. If it’s a machine gun, make sure he can reach the grip and the stock with both hands. At the very least, make sure they can stand up on their own! If they’re too top heavy due to the their design, then provide a cool looking base for them to stand on. Heck, sell them separately (and cheaply)! Problem solved.

I didn’t find posing and reposing Demo or Pyro all that enjoyable. There’s just not a lot of play here.

However…

I still REALLY like these guys and would HIGHLY recommend you buy them. WHA-AT?

Am I crazy? Mayhaps.

Take away the fact that these are intended to be articulated toys and struggle to be so and you’re still left with some amazing looking figures. I plan to pose them in some stable, neutral pose on their own little shelf so there will be plenty of room for the other Team Fortress figures to join the ranks. Case in point, they look great. NECA knows it’s stuff and have successfully ripped their likeness from your GPU. I applaud them for that. Go in with the idea that these guys are for display and not something your going to mess around with on your desk and you’ll have a better experience with them.

Sure, I certainly wish these guys came out sporting either better or maybe simplified articulation, but they’re too good looking to ignore. If I can manage to get Demoman standing safely next to Pyro on the shelf, along with the rest of the crew, it’s going to be an amazing display.

I honestly can’t wait to collect the entirety of Team Red whenever NECA finally releases them…

and here’s hoping they’ll consider tossing in a figure stand or two when they do.

PROS:

  • These guys look EXACTLY like their in-game counterparts. A fantastic job by NECA that’ll bring a smile to your face.
  • The paint application was nigh perfect on Pyro and both share the great cell-shaded look straight from the game
  • Fun, game-accurate accessories (Pyro’s flamethrower is the bomb!)
  • Despite their low price, you feel like you’re getting a high quality product

CONS:

  • Articulation is poor, almost to the point of frustration. It’s either too much or too little.
  • Both are pretty top heavy, though Demoman takes the cake and is a complete pain to balance. NECA should have provided some TF2 figure stands with these guys

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