REVIEW: NECA'S Half-Life Gordon Freeman and Left 4 Dead Smoker
A Valve Double-Header...
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When NECA announced last year that they had acquired the Valve license, gamers immediately picked their favorite titles and began waiting for the cool collectibles to come. For some, the anticipation has been over Portal, NECA satisfying that hunger with an awesome Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device replica. Others have been looking forward to Team Fortress 2, with action figures coming out later this year, as well as Left 4 Dead, with a bloated Boomer zombie released this summer and the sick Smoker being part of today's review. For me it's been primarily about Half-Life, a 1998 video game that revolutionized the way first-person shooters were made. As a PC gamer raised on shoot 'em ups like Doom and Quake, Half-Life - and the 2004 sequel Half-Life 2 - totally rocked my world with it's smart, interactive game play. It's taken an unimaginable 14 years to get an action figure of Half-Life's main protagonist, the nerdy scientist-tuned-hero Gordon Freeman, but the wait has been worth it.
The Gordon Freeman action figure stands a NECA standard of 7 inches tall, fitting in perfect with their past video game figure releases. Dressed in his orange Hazardous Environment Suit (HEV suit), the sculpt perfectly captures Gordon's classic look throughout the series. Of particular note is Freeman's incredible head sculpt - especially his glasses. You don't see specs on too many action figures of this scale, and when you do, it's usually one hot mess of the glasses being oversized, or simply painted on. With Gordon Freeman, NECA has sculpted the glasses as a separate piece. While they are not removeable (thank goodness - you'd loose 'em fast!), the realism they bring to the figure is remarkable. The articulation on the Gordon Freeman action figure is also amazing, NECA going all out with joints. His head, shoulders, wrists, thighs, upper torso and feet are all nice ball-joints, while his elbows and knees are a cool fusion of hinge/ swivel. For such a simple guy in armor, NECA has knocked it out of the park with display options.
Gordon's true action figure accessories include his trademark crowbar, one of the coolest weapons to ever be introduced into a video game - the Gravity Gun, as well as a biological explosive, the "bug bomb". The crowbar fits firmly in Gordon's right hand, while the bug bomb rests in his left open palm. Oddly, the bug bomb features a peg hole, however no peg is included. A peg would have been nice to place the grenade more firmly in his hand, or attached to his waist (there's also a small hole on his butt). Gordon grabs the Gravity Gun with the addition of two alternative hands. These bonus hands aren't required, as Gordon can hold the gun with his closed crowbar hand, however they are more tailor-made just for the gun and allow him to fire it two-handed. Like the bug bomb, there is no place to stow the Gravity Gun on Gordon when not in use, a shame since a simple peg system would have worked wonders for plugging it onto his back. These are all minor complaints though, as I plan on having Gordon Freeman "classically" displayed with his crowbar in hand... fighting off the best accessory EVAH`- a headcrab!
The Gordon figure is worth buying just for this awesome little critter - a defining creation of the Half-Life series. Heck, it's the first thing you fight... with your crowbar no less! Measuring two inches long, the headcrab menaces with a stellar sculpt and fantastic paint apps. Its front legs even pivot 360 degrees for some various poses. What's really fascinating is the deep cavity in the creature's mouth. In the game, the headcrab is responsible for turning hapless humans into zombies - headcrab zombies - with the beast clinging onto its host's head, becoming the head. With the hole so deep on the headcrab accessory, could a headcrab zombie be around the corner? It would be an incredible reuse. I'd also LOVE to see a bag of headcrabs offered. Just like four or five of the cool creatures sold by themselves.
Speaking of zombies, the other action figure I have up for review today is from one of the greatest zombie games ever made, the survival shooter Left 4 Dead. Extremely fast paced, the game pits four player-controlled human "Survivors" against hordes of the undead. The emphasis of this game is "teamwork" - to go lone wolf in Left 4 Dead is to be, well, dead. For their Left 4 Dead action figure series, NECA has focused on the infected - gruesome zombies each with their own distinctive look and attack. Following the Boomer released this summer comes the Smoker - a vile boil-covered creature that uses tentacle-like tongues to snare its victims. The Smoker gets its name for its raspy voice and constant coughing, presumably because the person was a smoker before becoming infected.
Where the Boomer was massive in girth, the Smoker towers in height - measuring a good 8 1/2 inches tall. Like the Gordon Freeman figure, the Smoker comes loaded with articulation. Zombie's moving like stiff corpses? Not in Left 4 Dead! There's a ball-jointed head, which is slightly limited due to it's boiled-over sculpt, but still allows for some great tongue-lashing poses. Also ball-jointed is the Smoker's shoulders, wrists, waist, thighs and feet. Swivel/ hinged elbows and knees round off the Smoker's impressive display of movement.
Accessories for the Smoker are two lengths of bendy tongues. There is a short tongue measuring about 3 inches long, and a long tongue that reaches out a good 6 inches. Both tongues plug firmly into the Smoker's mouth via a peg and hole system. Once attached, let the posing fun begin! Even the attached tongue on the back of the Smoker's head is bendy! The bendy tongues, combined with the Smoker's hyper-articulation, really adds up to a fun figure to play with.
It feels like an eternity since NECA announced Valve video game action figures, but that wait is finally over. Sure we still have many Left 4 Dead zombies to get to and more Half-Life figures - such as the super cool Combine - are a must. But NECA is off to a very solid start... the fact that we even have Valve action figures after all these years is miraculous. Thanks NECA, keep 'em coming.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of NECA