NECA's Gears of War 3 SERIES 1
Marcus, Clayton and Anya usher in an exciting new era of GOW action figures...
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Ever since it's explosive debut in 2008 (read our very first review HERE), NECA's line of Gears of War action figures have had two things going for it: A meaty 7 inch scale (consistently value-priced at around $15) and awesomely sculpted good looks. Articulation, on the other hand, has been a slow, evolving process; each assortment tacking on more and more useful joints, but failing to completely knock it out of the park.
With their eagerily awaited new figure line based on Gears of War 3, NECA has promised the most articulation - not just on a Gears figure - but ANY action figure they have produced to date. "30+ Points of Articulation" according to the sticker on the package, a number sure to please the most discerning collector. So did NECA finally perfect their Gears of War action figures? Read on...
The Carmine Brothers Reunited
Before we discuss that magic number of "30+", thanks are in order for the amazing sculpt and paint work on these new figures. While NECA has pretty much mastered the realistic look of battle-worn armor, cloth and leather on their figures, their work on Gears of War 3 is absolutely phenomenal. Much of that praise can be attributed to EPIC and their slick new design work on the Gears' characters. The war on Sera has raged on for years and its effects are clearly evident on Marcus Fenix and company. Pieces of armor have been stripped away to accommodate for the warmer combat climate and/or from brutal over-use. The result lends the characters - and action figures - a very nomadic, mercenary-like appearance; their trademark Lancer assault rifles one of the last remaining reminders of their former military life. They still fight for the COG cause, but more out of necessity than by command.
The new slimmed down armored look makes this the most appealing Marcus Fenix for me; his clearly visible Lancer and skull tattoo screaming his loyal allegiance. This Marcus also features the best facial sculpt yet, NECA's talented team nailing his stern, weary expression to a tee. Subtle stubble, wrinkles and pits etch Fenix's face like a worn mountain. Textured details like this adorn every piece of Marcus' wardrobe as well, the sculpt work on his pants, boots and utility belt simply breathtaking in their intricacy. To ice the cake, Marcus features an all-new Gears of War weapon: The Retro Lancer.
Replacing the iconic chainsaw bayonet for a long, steely blade, the Retro Lancer is captured here in flawless minature form. It's also one of the easiest weapons for the figures to wield making displaying them with the rifle a pure joy. With the chainsaw Lancer having been done to death, it's really a shame that all three of the new figures didn't include the Retro Lancer - or even two weapons for that matter. Unlike past assortments, there is no bonus pistol or grenade; spiraling toy economics no doubt playing a part in their demise. However, the fact that these figures still retail for around $15 each is remarkable.
Clayton is a whole other story, the last of the Carmine brothers ripped and looking totally badass. By far my favorite Gears figure produced, Clayton bristles with coolness - from his awesome COG helmet (I have a weakness for helmeted, faceless sci-fi charcters) and personalized armor ("Grub Killer") to his intricate arm ink (bullets and a tribute to his lost brothers) and skull adorned knee guards. Carmine comes with the chainsaw Lancer, a weapon that actually fits his hellbent lust for revenge on the Locusts. I gave him the Retro Lancer, however, my favorite new weapon for my favorite new figure.
Anya Stroud marks the first female Gears of War figure NECA has produced, and personally, I think she came out terrific. There's been some mumbling about her hair, but in person it's really not that bad. She's a soldier now, not some pretty desk girl - though her beauty is still quite evident in her face sculpt. Being part of the opposite sex, Anya's entire body is an entirely new slimmed-down design. Not being as bulky as Marcus or Clayton has its benefits - Anya's 30+ points of articulation really shine through. While she comes with a chainsaw Lancer, posing her with the Retro is an absolute blast; her right cuffed hand perfectly molded to grip the rifle's forward grip. Getting that same hand to squeeze into the chainsaw Lancer's guard is a bit finicky, but can be done.
This brings me to my main topic: Articulation. Let me count the ways:
+1 Ball-Jointed Head: For slight, but cool head cocking.
+6 Swivel/Hinged/Ball Shoulders: These joints are the most profound new addition. Basically there is a swivel that connects to the torso that allows the entire arm to swing forwards or backwards. Then there is a ball-joint that connects to this for full 360 degree arm movement. Lastly, a hinge allows the arm to swing up and down.
+4 Double-Hinged Elbows: For extreme flexibilty and better weapon grasping
+4 Ball/ Swivel Hands: Not only can the hand rotate in a full circle, but it can be bent back and forth at the wrist.
+1 Ball-Jointed Waist: Another very useful piece of articulation.
+6 Swivel/ Hinged Thighs: This is a nice joint that NECA has been using quite frequently of late. It allows the figure to do a full split, but is most useful for broad battle stances.
+4 Swivel/ Hinged Knees: Combined with the thigh and feet joints, TONS of lower body poses are possible, including running.
+4 Swivel/ Hinged Feet
Grand Total = 30 Points of Articlation
Yup, that all adds up to at least 30 points. Not sure where the "30+" comes from, unless you count the ball-jointed waist as multiple joints. As flexible as it is, this could very well be the case. Still, a jaw-dropping abundance of articulation. Best of all is how well NECA concealed or incorporated these joints into the sculpt. Thanks to all the armor, most of these joints are sight unseen - simple amazing. If I had any complaints, it would be for NECA to strengthen some of the joints. I did encounter some loose wrists and the waist on my Marcus was a tad wobbly. Some extra quality control needs to be added in order for these to be absolutely perfect. Another recommendation I'd make would be the addition of a swivel cut in their upper forearms. While the figures CAN grip their weapons two-handed, it's bordering on frustrating. A cut in the upper forearm would go a long way in improving this.
These small issues aside, NECA really deserves to be commended for a job well done. It's staggering to see how far their Gears of War action figures have come from since their start in 2008. With a little extra TLC, NECA's Gears of War 3 figures will be perfect. The amazing amount of well hidden articulation combined with awesome sculpting, paint work and chunky 7 inch scale - all still priced at $15 - amounts to action figures no collector should overlook. It is also very exciting to imagine how this will influence future, non-Gears of War NECA offerings. NECA's Gears of War 3 SERIES 1 are hitting retail now. Highly recommended.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of NECA