*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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*Review* 3A and Valve’s SDCC 2012 Companion Square

INTRO

This may be the shortest review in RtR history. I won’t even call it a review,  it’s more of a “Hey kid, quick peaking in my window!”

I love Valve. Not to sound like the guy who says “I love lamp”, Valve is a game company that makes awesome games. Half Life, Portal, Counterstrike, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, etc etc.. Games that I’ve been playing since I was a wee boy. They make magic in a box and I’m a long, long time fan.

When 3A announced their partnership with Valve software, I literally did a back flip over a donkey. Hunting down a donkey in Hawaii is more difficult than it may seem, but the occasion called for and justified it completely.

I imagined how awesome 3A’s version of D.O.G, The Combine or Zombies would be. As cool as Adventure Kartel was, I thought Team Fortress figures would be even cooler. An image of a 1/6 scale Freeman sitting on my desk with his bloody crowbar and “buddy” headcrab came to mind almost instantly.

Whelp! Instead of any of that awesome sauce, 3A’s first offering to us was this guy. A toothy, smiley 1/6 WWR (Portal?) companion square. Basically 3A’s iconic Square with the decals of a companion cube.

Cute.

PACKAGING

A clean white box is the initial home of your companion square. Some nice decal/design work that seamlessly integrates a bit of 3A and Valve’s unique charm

WHAT’S INCLUDED

There’s the little guy! Daaawww… Other than the cutest little square I’ve ever seen.. Yes he IS! Other than bucky here, you also get a card that has codes and what not on the back that supposedly does something awesome somewhere Valve-y.

I admit, I have no clue what it does. I’ll need to load up PORTAL and look into it further.

THE BREAKDOWN

I’ve always preferred the classic stub legged, two eyed squares to the newer long legged, mono eyed ones. I had a.. we’ll call it.. impassioned discussion with a friend about why one is better than the other.. he standing on the opposite side of the fence than me on the subject. His argument was that the stub legs never made any sense in WWR. How are these little guy suppose to be scouts, move quickly, slip behind enemy lines etc? Plus he hated their goofy, cutesy face.

He said, “The longer legs on the MK2’s made a lot more sense for recon. Plus, the monocle eye is far more menacing and creepy.. even with that buck tooth grin.

And there it is. This is a robot with buck teeth. I’ll repeat that, a ROBOT with freak’n buck teeth. Long legs or not, it’s not SUPPOSE to make sense. Why are you trying to make it do something it’s not suppose to do? THAT doesn’t make sense.

To me, aesthetically, these MK1 style squares are cute and perfect just as they are. They’re iconic to 3A and will remain that way long after we’ve all forgotten how ugly and stupid the MK2’s were. Argument won, simply because this is my site. Suck it Garrett!  😉

Honestly, there’s not a ton else to say about this guy. The paint and weathering is of your standard grade A, ThreeA quality and the companion cube likeness is immediately recognizable. The heart shaped decals look like and are where you’d expect them. As an afore mentioned fan of all things Portal, it’s fun to see all the little references such as the “Aperture Science” logo and falling cube warning.

Basically what it’s going to come down to is if you like the MK1 squares or not. Also, are you man (or woman) enough to deal with pink hearts on your toys? If the answer is “yes” than you’ll love this guy.

I’ve gotten a few reports from people saying that theirs has a different decal on the back plate than mine.        I wonder how many variants there are…

 

FINAL WORD

I know a lot of people were moaning that this was a stupid SDCC publicity stunt and not at all something the fans wanted. Where’s our Gordan Freeman? Where’s our D.O.G? Where’s our Left 4 Dead Zombies? Why isn’t the grooves of the companion cube sculpted into the square instead of just painted on? The list of not-long-for-this-world horse beating goes on..

Look, this was the first thing out of the gate. To me, it’s a handshake. A glimpse meant two give us a good idea that these two companies are joining up and are planning some cool stuff down the line. We’ve seen glimpses already of the incredibly intricate Portal bots on display at 3A’s Reventure. The other SDCC exclusive was from Team Fortress, the Heavy’s “Sandvich”. I think that alone shows we can expect some really unique things to come from this partnership.

And I, for one, am really looking forward to what’s next!

Pros:

  • MK1 Squares are the best Squares
  • The Valve/3A partnership exists!
  • Buckteeth robots are indeed cute
  • The paint/weathering is done very well. Not a quick or sloppy app. in sight!

Cons:

  • SDCC exclusive makes it more difficult for fans to get
  • If you don’t like bucktoothed robots, this guy won’t do anything to change your mind.

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NEWS and MUSINGS

Just a few things that caught my eye over the past couple weeks. Thought I’d share.

3A

This week saw the release of 3A’s Palm in the Face Sunday JC over at Bambaland. A quasi-secret drop that was essentially word of mouth followed by lots of F5ing on their website until he popped up again.  At first it seemed as though he’d be extremely rare and difficult to get, but from my perusing of the threeA forums it seems that most of those vocal about their desire to own one, by the end of the sale had managed to lock him down.

In other 3A stuffs, read this to find out all the juicy exclusive release deets for their upcoming annual 3AHK Venture, just around the corner. A glimpse of some of the announced 1/6 figs exclusive to the show can be seen in 3A’s VOX newsletter. Tomorrow Kings are always in high demand, so I’m happy to have even a tiny chance to grab one.

The biggest news (at least from my point of view) coming out of 3A is their brand spanking new (one of my top 5 game developers EVER) VALVE license announcement. Details are scant, but  Ashley Wood commented that it covers the full run of VALVE’s various franchises. We can expect to see everything from Gordan Freeman and Headcrab Zombies to Portal bots, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead characters, possibly in Wood’s own style! Think about DOG for goodness sake! Supposedly the first “fruits” of this mighty combo will be seen at SDCC 2012 and we’ll be there to tell you all about it!

One last thing, if you’re into 2000 AD, then 3A’s Ro-Jaws sale is going live in just under 24 hrs! Follow the madness here and check out bambaland on  March 22nd 9 : 00 AM Hong Kong Time! (That’s tomorrow for anyone in US waters.)

Play Arts Kai

Very happy to see a plethora of Play Arts Kai figures are starting to show up in the hands of those lucky enough to have gotten them from more direct sources outside the US. We’ll be reviewing Solid Snake, Cyborg Ninja, Batman and Joker once their individual ships roll in. That day can’t come soon enough as my face is already purple from holding my breath.

pics by http://www.gginfinitenews.com/

Kotobukiya

I’ve said it before, but I’m super excited about Koto’s upcoming Mass Effect 3 Liara Bishoujo figure. She’ll come with a special code that will give you some exclusive in game gear to help Shepard save the galaxy.. again.

Also just announced is their awesome The Dark Knight Returns ARTFX Statue. Check it out here. It’s cool to see Frank Miller’s classic scene getting it’s due.

Other things

I just finished up the season finale of The Walking Dead. Wow, I can not wait until next season! What’d you think?

If you have 30 minutes to kill, it’d do you well to check out the campy fun of Danger 5, split up into five, five minute parts. Part 1 here.

Living under a rock or hefty stone? Then you may have missed this… I for one am holding my breath until June.

I’m a big Bioshock fan and Bioshock Infinate is one of my top most anticipated games of the year! I’ve really enjoyed these villian pieces Irrational Games has been putting up on Youtube. There’s 3 so far and you can watch them all here.

Alright, more stuff later! Until next time.