Around 1993 or so, my dad finally bought a new computer to replace our family’s aging IBM Compatible. While I had played a few computer games on that machine, almost all of them were adventure games like King’s Quest, Police Quest and LucasArts titles like The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion and Loom. But with this new PC, my dad brought home a game that absolutely rocked my world: Doom II.
While people often point to Wolfenstein 3D or the original Doom as the first major first-person shooter (FPS), I think Doom II made the bigger impact, mostly because it was the first to be sold in stores. It’s fair to say I was completely, utterly addicted to it for quite some time. I played a lot of the mods, too, particularly Army of Darkness Doom. Many new FPS titles quickly followed, such as Descent, Star Wars: Dark Forces and, of course, Duke Nukem 3D.
Originally the star of a 1991 side-scrolling platform game and its sequel, Duke hit the big time when developer 3D Realms decided to capitalize on the growing FPS fad by turning him into a buffoonish parody of an action movie hero. Similarly, the game itself referenced anything and everything from 1980s action film culture. Duke’s lines were swiped from movies like Terminator 2, They Live and Army of Darkness; levels frequently featured references to movies like Aliens and Predator; and even the “Doomguy” himself appears (rather dead) in a secret area. Oh, and don’t forget a healthy dose of strippers, cigars, and beer. Duke was a walking cliché–and then some–but that was part of his appeal. He’s Dutch from Predator, Rambo from Rambo III, and the entire cast of Team America rolled into one jeans-bulging package.
And of course, he was tailor-made for toys. I still remember my glee at discovering this figure at my mall’s Electronics Boutique, courtesy of Resaurus (may it rest in peace). This was at a time when videogame-based action figures were still very rare. Quickly followed by several other figures from the game, Duke was the figure that put Resaurus on the map. Even now, thirteen years later, I still own the Resaurus figure–it was a classic, from a time when you could still walk in a toy store and be surprised at what you found.
I won’t go into the story behind the tortured history of next month’s Duke Nukem Forever. Suffice to say, while I’m excited for the game (the demo for those who pre-ordered the game hits today), I was even more psyched by the news that NECA was giving us an updated, super-articulated action figure of Duke. Is it everything I was hoping for? Read on!
Packaging: Packaging consists of the standard NECA clamshell, with the videogame’s box art on the front. I’m not enamoured of that art, but that’s not NECA’s fault, really. The back of the package has some amusing flavor text explaining how awesome you’ll be for owning this six-inch totem of Duke.
Design & Sculpt: For the most part, the sculpt (by Alex Heinke) is superb. The level of detail is up to NECA’s usual standards, from the tiny folds of his shirt to the texture of the leather on his boots.
One thing to note is his shoulder straps: in order to preserve the abdominal articulation, NECA sculpted the grenades/pouches as separate pieces, with the bottom of the straps being part of the ab sculpt. That means if you see the pouches don’t quite line up with the figure in the package, don’t panic–it’s supposed to be like that.
I do have two criticisms of the sculpt. When compared to less detailed lines like DC Universe Classics and Masters of the Universe Classics, they feel like nitpicks; however, if you’re going to produce a figure this detailed, you’re going to be held to a bit of a higher standard. My first issue is the lack of texture on the jeans; I would have liked to see something like NECA’s Bionic Commando figure. As it is, they seem more like leather, but since they’re blue I’m assuming they’re supposed to be jeans.
The second issue is the head sculpt. While it does capture Duke’s douche-ish charm–and features some amazing detail work on the flat top–it’s a bit too square. Duke’s face looks taller and thinner in most depictions.
Plastic & Paint: NECA has had a history of being hit-and-miss with their paint applications, but I think lately there have been more hits than misses. Duke’s a hit. The work on the t-shirt and hair is particularly good, and they actually get a decent-looking stubble effect on the chin.
NECA used to have a lot of trouble with flesh tones, with many characters looking like corpses, but they’ve rectified that recently, and Duke looks suitably healthy, except perhaps for his hands. The wash on the skin is slightly overdone but it’s not too bad.
Aside from some stray marks here and there, the rest of the figure looks fantastic.
Articulation: Duke is very well-articulated. You can see the visual representation in the photo at right, but for those of you who are visually-impaired or a search engine bot, here’s the breakdown:
- Ball and socket neck
- Ball and hinge shoulders
- Hinged biceps (see below)
- Hinged elbows
- Ball and socket wrists
- Hinged abdomen
- Swivel waist
- H-hinge hips
- Swivel thighs
- Double-hinged knees
- Ball and socket feet
While most of the joints are great, instead of the swivel biceps seen on MOTUC or DCUC or Marvel Legends, we get these hinged shoulder joints, which function as oddly as they look. They don’t limit posing as much as you’d think, but I don’t think they serve any positive purpose. You don’t win anything sculpt-wise, because the way the deltoid overlays the swivel joint looks much weirder to me than the biceps/triceps swivel on DCUC/MOTUC. It’s like he has this big, round, flesh-colored shoulder armor.
I’d love to know why NECA went this route–and why they never seem to try the more standard biceps/triceps swivel on any of their (human) figures, as far as I can recall. I’d find it hard to believe this was cheaper to produce than a biceps swivel.
All that said, the biceps don’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that I can’t get Duke to hold his arms down straight–this is as low as they go. While you can still get him in plenty of great poses, this more than anything is what costs him half a raven-point.
Accessories: Duke comes with two accessories, a cigar and his newly iconic golden gun with laser sight. So no, there’s not much here. I suspect the reason for it is all the articulation, which greatly raises cost. That said, I assume Duke gets his hands on a jetpack at some point during the game, and given how central that accessory is to the character, here’s hoping we get a jetpack version down the line.
As for the gun and the cigar, he can hold each in his right and left hands, respectively. However, I do wish NECA had made the left hand a trigger-hand as well, so that he could duel-wield the various weapons I’m going to pile onto him.
Quality Control: No issues, aside from paint variations. I did dig through a few different pieces at the store until I found one I was happy with, but the differences were very minor.
Overall: Here’s the thing about this figure. While it doesn’t come with many accessories, Duke is one of those figures–like Deathstroke–who you can give just about any 1/12th-scale weapon to and he’ll look awesome. I’ve already started.
While I’m a Duke fan, I’m guessing a lot of collectors who aren’t will still pick up this figure due to its quality. This is one of NECA’s best efforts yet, and if anything, it makes me wish they would give at least one of their Terminators this same level of leg articulation.
And you can’t beat the price on today’s market. For $15 (at Toys R Us, where I got this figure) you get a 7″ figure with great articulation, great sculpting, and no major QC issues.
Here’s hoping this is just the start of a whole line of DNF toys…I want my NECA Pig Cop.