Roger Ebert recently brought down quite a controversy on his head by stating his belief that videogames can never be art. It’s a surprisingly Grumpy Old Man position for someone who’s usually as reasonable as Ebert, but given his age, reputation and so forth, I guess he’s allowed a few of those.
If I were to attempt to refute his argument, though, I think the first exhibit I’d offer would be Bioshock. Created by 2K (formerly and now once again Irrational) Games and published in 2007, Bioshock is a first-person shooter that bursts the conventions of the genre by offering not just a great story (gamers had seen that before, i.e., Half-Life & Half-Life 2) and the usual great graphics, but by having an incredible, cohesive artistic vision and even introducing players to a little bit of philosophy. As I watched the opening intro to that game, and the bathysphere came up over the ridge to reveal the underwater city of Rapture, I knew Bioshock was going to be–ahem–a game-changer.
One of the game’s moral quandaries is whether to “harvest” or “rescue” the Little Sisters–corrupted little girls who have been transformed by mad scientists into living generators of ADAM, a sort of genetic mana that allows you to gain all sorts of superpowers. Protected by the iconic Big Daddies (cyborgs in giant diving suits), Little Sisters haunt the dying city of Rapture, harvesting ADAM from corpses and chattering mindlessly to their Big Daddy escorts.
In Bioshock 2 we meet Eleanor Lamb, who was one of the earliest Little Sisters who was paired with Subject Delta, the game’s protagonist. Eleanor was later rescued and rehabilitated from her Little Sisterhood, but she still dreamed of her “daddy,” Subject Delta.
Packaging: Young Eleanor and the Little Sister come in a narrow clamshell package that features some great graphics, all done in the theme of Bioshock 2. While I’m not fond of clamshell packaging (not the best for the environment), it does make for a nice MOC look.
Design & Sculpt: One thing that’s impressive about NECA’s video game lines is how well they translate game graphics and concept art into realistic sculpts. Neither the renders nor the concept art offer the real-world reference of movie photos (i.e., Terminator 2), so there’s some level of artistic interpretation going on. Fortunately, NECA’s sculptors are more than up to the challenge, and the results are impressive.
Both Young Eleanor and the Little Sister closely match their appearances in Bioshock 2 (the Little Sister’s slightly oversized head is part of the game design, so blame 2K, not NECA). Eleanor has a unique head sculpt, as well as unique lower legs, since she’s wearing shoes. Both figures feature the same highly-detailed dress. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to highly-detailed action figures (mass market or otherwise), NECA is at the forefront of the industry.
Plastic & Paint: NECA used to have some significant issues with their paint applications, particularly for human characters, but that changed a few years back and it’s been great ever since. The gray skin tones used for the Little Sisters reflects their genetically-altered nature, and the wash on the Little Sister’s dress looks good without being too obviously a wash, really bringing out the details of the sculpt. And then there’s the blood on the Little Sister’s hands, which is suitable disturbing.
There’s a tiny bit of blue splotching on the white part of my Little Sister’s dress, but given her overall dirty appearance it’s hardly noticeable.
Articulation: For whatever reason, NECA seems to limit the articulation on their movie figures (despite how many of us would love a fully-articulated Terminator), but not their videogame figures. Given their small size and supporting role in both games, NECA could have given the Little Sisters just a smidgen of articulation and left it at that.
Instead, Eleanor and the Little Sister have ball jointed necks, ball jointed shoulders, hinges at the elbows, knees, and abdomen, and swivels at the biceps and hips. It allows for plenty of great poses with the Big Daddies. Despite how slender the joints are, none of them have broken on my figures (one of Eleanor’s arms did pop off at the elbow, but it popped right back on).
Accessories: Eleanor and the Little Sister come with two ADAM needles and a miniature version of Eleanor’s “Subject Delta” doll. It’s a good number of accessories that makes the $14 for two small figures much more palatable.
Quality Control: As I mentioned, my Little Sister had some blue paint splotches on her dress, and Eleanor’s arm came off but I was able to re-attach it. Other than that, no problems.
Overall: My Big Daddy figure just looked incomplete without a Little Sister, so it was great of NECA to give us this set without forcing us to buy another full-sized figure. The Young Eleanor can be posed with Subject Delta, while Little Sister can be given to any Big Daddy of your choice. I do wish NECA would offer Americans the single-packed Little Sister available in the U.K., so I could have one Little Sister for every Big Daddy I own, but that’s a separate issue.
Product Development: Randy Falk
Sculpt: Jason Frailey, Chris Gawrych
Paint: Jon Wardell, Geoffrey Trapp
Prototypes: Adam Smith
Photography & Packaging: Nicole Falk