Player Select: Duke Nukem Forever
I have a confession to make. Here we go. I’ve never played Duke Nukem 3D. I’m well familiar with the character, but I’m a classic gamer raised on shareware my dad would bring home from work like Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Blake Stone, and the original Duke Nukem by Apogee Software, back when it was a 2-D sidescroller where you had to find keys to unlock the color-coded doors to get to the next area. Highly addictive and fun, some numbnuts went and turned him into a friggin superhero in the mid-nineties. Oh well.
A big shout out goes to my fiancée, Katastrophik, for finding this guy for me. I’ve been waiting for weeks for him to show up in the Louisville area but had no luck until the lovely lady flew into a TRU on the other side of town and called to see if I wanted anything. Let’s hear it for the ladies who put up with us and even support this crazy little hobby of ours.
“I thought you call me…sexy.”
“Only when we’re alone.”
“We ARE alone.”
“Mmm, come on then, Sexy.” – Doctor Who
This may not be my Duke Nukem, but he sure is a sexy beast. The sculpting on this guy is absolutely fantastic. From the vein-y musculature toe the wrinkles in the fabric, every detail is captured beautifully and I daresay looks even better than the game model that we’ve seen to this point.
All of this is supported amazingly by very subtle choices of paint wash, bringing out a lot of depth in the sculpt but without getting into the cartoony realm. I didn’t pick out the paintjob myself, my lovely lady friend did, but she said the only real problem spots she noticed in the lot were stray paint marks here or there or how the 5 o’clock shadow is represented.
You may notice the paint on his chin is a bit uneven, but from most angles it doesn’t bother. As you can see, the face is quite different from the game art depicted on the box, which has Duke sporting a much younger look and almost reminds me of a young Keifer Sutherland in his Lost Boys years. This, however, also looks different than the game model and from what I’ve seen so far the depictions of him in the new game vary depending on the source, so the approximation of the likeness is great and they captured that smartass smirk perfectly.
Just look at that hair. Flattops are incredibly hard to capture in 3 dimensions in the same way that shaved heads are, the hair is just too fine to do it justice. But here NECA absolutely crushed it with a marvelous mane whose detail can only be matched by its cartoonish shape. The sculpting on the hair alone is enough to make me love this figure, but you can expect that level of detail everywhere, as there’s no area on him that feels “soft” or unrefined.
Unfortunately Duke only comes with two very small accessories, a Colt 1911 w/ mounted laser and his trademark cigar, both as detailed as they can be. The 1911 has a gold slide and a metal spec dark gray/black paintjob on the ivory-gripped frame. They even went as far as to paint the grip screws and medallion. The cigar features an orange painted tip to simulate being lit and even a sculpted chewed up end where it’s been in his mouth. Pretty amazing for something scaled to fit a 7” toy. His hands are sculpted to hold each well, and his pistol hand is compatible with weapons from other Player Select figures like Army of Two or RE5.
Duke has very large and thick feet which makes his weight very easy to balance and adds a lot to the play feature of the toy. Honestly, the figure just looks amazing and gives me rigor mortis of the peen. That’s like a thing, right? Like a normal thing?
Anyways, if you wanted to find fault with the sculpt or paint, you could complain all you want about pegholes on the joints, but if you don’t think a toy should look like a toy then you don’t know what one is and need to go buy statues instead.
And the controversy begins.
Duke Nukem is among the super-articulated category of Player Select figures. He features a double ball neck, ab crunch, waist swivel, hinged elbows, ball wrists, H-style hinged hips, swivel thighs, double jointed knees with a truly impressive range of motion, and those wonderful ball ankles that I mentioned in the previous Isaac Clarke review, which give a wonderful side to side and forward and back motion.
The quick ones out there might have noticed that I didn’t mention the shoulders. That’s good. You’re learning. Just like Christopher Lambert in The Hunted. Good for you! The shoulders here are what have fans in such an uproar on the webernets. NECA tried something new here to mixed results. Instead of a swivel hinge shoulder and swivel biceps like most figures in this scale have, they gave him ball and socket shoulders (think DST’s BSG figures) and a pivot bicep that moves forward and back instead of side to side.
Now this has pros and cons. The good news is that most arm movements can still be approximated with this joint system and despite what a lot of people are saying, you really need to try it out before you judge it. The bad news is that because the articulation doesn’t allow the arms to rotate out, it can be difficult to make his arms hang naturally. In the front and back pics up in the aesthetics section, you see exactly how far they can move down in the standard position.
The mixed news in all of this is that it’s a new type of articulation. If you’re someone who is a toy enthusiast, you will love having the opportunity to try and see what kind of range you can get out of the arms and how to pose them cleverly. If you’re someone who likes the classic and simple design of the older shoulder style, then this may not be your cup of tea.
I think the arms, while somewhat problematic in their look are great and were a great solution to figuring out how to have him be able to hold his cigar to his lips without having to add chest pivots and double elbows.
As I mentioned the feet are huge and the balls in the ankle are very tight and sturdy, making deep stances very possible without risk of him falling over.
The new articulation might take some getting used to, and some divots or ditches in the sides of his chest might have made them more “vanilla-pose friendly,” but I for one think it was a bold move and am delighted that we have companies out there still willing to take risks and try new things while keeping the price at the same point it’s been for the last several years. You simply do NOT see that these days, especially in the collector market. Well done.
Katastrophik picked this up for $14.99 at TRU in Louisville. This guy, with all his articulation, paint, and excellent detail is now officially cheaper than DCUC at some places and is crushing the likes of Mezco, DC Unlimited, Diamond Select, heck EVERYBODY in the collector aisles in terms of value for cost. While everyone else is removing articulation or raising prices to keep it in, NECA is inventing new types of articulation and it seems like each new wave of figures is getting more articulated while staying around that same 14 to 15 dollar price point.
While this is a far cry from the Duke Nukem I grew up with, NECA has a way of making me try new games by coming out with amazing figures of their heroes.
At 15 bucks, he is really a steal and will add a really nice bit of color to your Player Select collection. At least compare him with other things in the store you might spend 15 bucks on before you pass.
Duke Nukem Forever may be the game you’ve waited years to play, or may just be another title in the mer de noms in the game industry today. Either way, the action figure is a solid buy for any fan of the game, of action figures, or of the evolution of toys. Remember, when we stop appreciating the risks our toy companies take, we begin to stagnate in a neverending deluge of repaints, repacks, and a general sense of non-surprise in the hobby we all love so much. Give the toy a chance. If you hate it, NECA is open to feedback on its Twitter page, but don’t go in there all in a huff if you weren’t willing to take them at their word. At this point, they’ve earned at least that.
Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a toy. Open the darned thing.