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Gordon Freeman

Half-Life 2
by yo go re

Usually when NECA releases a videogame figure, it's shortly after the game has come out - but in this case, it's been 8 years since the game in question was released. (And yet, because I just played it for the first time last year, this release seems perfectly timed to their usual schedule. Go figure.)

To some, he's the savior of humanity: the One Free Man who will lead us to victory against our alien oppressors. To the Black Mesa Science Team, he's Dr. Freeman: MIT graduate, research scientist, handy with a crowbar in a pinch. But to the rest of us he's simply Gordon Freeman, Friend of Vortigaunts, protector of scientists (except for Dr. Breen), tireless foe of the endless Combine army. Gordon is Everyman. He is us. When Alyx Vance gazes into Gordon Freeman's eyes and gives him that special look (you know the one), you know it's meant for you. Because you are Gordon, we all are. As long as he's on our side, humanity still has one last hope. Don't let the horn rimmed glasses fool you: he might be a geek but he ain't no nerd.

He ain't? I mean, he's not? He's a theoretical physicist from MIT whose doctoral thesis was titled Observation of Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Entanglement on Supraquantum Structures by Induction Through Nonlinear Transuranic Crystal of Extremely Long Wavelength (ELW) Pulse from Mode-Locked Source Array: of course he's a nerd! And unless you count the obsessive way he breaks crates with his crowbar, we don't know that he's ever displayed any geeky tendencies, either. It might be better to say "he might be a nerd, but he ain't no wimp."

Gordon Freeman may be a typical voiceless videogame protagonist, but at least he gets a face. Granted, you never see it, since this is an FPS, but it's plastered all over the cover of the game, so the toy definitely had a specific benchmark to reach, and it does so quite well. The goatee, the glasses, the low-maintenance hairdo... they're all here.

The figure is in NECA's usual 7"(ish) scale, and meets their usual high standard for sculpt and articulation. Gordon's wearing his Hazardous Environment (HEV) suit, which is seen briefly in the game before he puts it on and it disappears from our field of view. The suit is blocky and angular, and appears to have an undersuit made out of some sort of high-tech chainmail. The feet have the proportions of a pair of rubber galoshes, but are still clearly metal armor when you get in there and look at the details.

And proving that this HEV Suit has done its job plenty of times, there are subtle "battle damage" things sculpted all over the body: scratches, dings, pockmarks from gunshots, and slashes and claw marks. Gordon would be meat if not for his HEV! There are two holes on the figure - one on the waist, another in the center of the back - that look like they were intended for pegs, possibly to allow the weapons to attach, but no pegs are included. We asked NECA about them, but did not hear back from them by press time. Maybe there are plans for future Gordons with different gear?

He has the game's trademark λ symbol on the center of his chest, which has several meanings: in-game, Lambda Complex is the part of the Black Mesa Research Facility where Gordon worked (so naturally his work suit would have that marker on it), but by the time of Half-Life 2, it had become the symbol of the human resistance movement; out-of-game, λ is the scientific notation for decay constant, which is itself related to the study radioactive half-life. Plus, if you really squint, it could almost pass for a graphic of an arm raising a crowbar, which completely suits Gordon.

As we said, the articulation is good. Gordon has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, balljointed wrists, a balljointed torso, V-crotch with hinged hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and balljointed ankles. The right leg was detatched at the thigh when I opened the figure, but it went back together with no problems. Additionally, it was hard to get the chest joint moving, but a little applied force took care of that. The orange panels on the thighs are soft PVC, so they can flex out of the way when you're posing his legs.

The figure comes with two sets of hands, each designed specifically to hold different accessories. First we have a red crowbar, the series' (and Gordon's) trademark weapon. It's... well, it's a crowbar. What is there to say? It's curved at one end, it's got pointy bits, and it's painted to look like a real item that was painted and is now fading. It fits in the tightly closed right hand. It must have been gang-molded with his glasses, because there's translucent plastic beneath the paint.

Next up is a pheropod, a glandular sac harvested from a dead Antlion (one of the alien monsters in the game) and used to control other Antlions. You squeeze it to summon four antlions to your side, and throw it to have them attack whatever it hits. It's about the size of an onion, and all striated - and in a truly excellent bit of sculpting, there are grooves designed to perfectly accommodate the splayed fingers on the left hand. They don't stand out when it's not in his hand, but allow him to hold it perfectly.

The other two hands are both used to hold the ZPEFM. You know, the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator? Fine, the "Gravity Gun," you luddite. The crowbar may be emblematic of Half-Life as a series, but the Gravity Gun is the symbol of Half-Life 2. This version looks terrific! The packaging credits Brad Haskins with "fabrication," so we can only assume this is his work. How complete is the model? They've even sculpted the duct tape that holds the power gauge in place! Outstanding! And yet, it's not the best accessory in this set.

Gordon has to share space in the tray with one of the cranial-conjugal parasites that have come to Earth in the wake of the Black Mesa Incident - aka, a headcrab. I can remember one of my roommates in college playing the original Half-Life on a computer he had set up in the kitchen (long story), and freaking the hell out the first time a headcrab appeared on screen and leapt at the "camera." And now we have a plastic one.

The headcrab is a little bit more than 2" long and 1½" high, and has wrinkly skin. It has two long, hooked front legs, and two thick, stumpy ones in the back. On its belly are various black fangs, all surrounding a large, lipless "mouth" that seems to be splattered with blood. And if that's all we got, it would be still a pretty neat piece; but NECA, always looking to go the extra mile, did us one better.

Headcrabs, in the game, latch onto unsuspecting victims and turn them into Headcrab Zombies: sinking its hidden beak into the host's skull, it takes control of the brain, and thus the body, but somehow still leaves the victims disturbingly aware of what is happening to them. Anyway, the "mouth" part on the headcrab toy is a separate plug that you can pry out of the body - and clearly NECA was intending this, because it's not glued in place, and the interior is still fully sculpted. With the plug out of the way, the void is large enough to fit over any 6" or 7" human's head! Here, look at it on a Resident Evil zombie:

Brilliant! How perfect is that? It's worth buying Gordon just for the Headcrab Zombie possibilities.

But it's also worth buying Gordon because he's a great toy himself. An excellent sculpt, plentiful articulation, cool accessories... the only bad thing about him is trying to find one right now. He's surfaced at some Toys Я Us'es, but not many, and they're trying to charge $24 for him. You can order him cheaper than that through your local comicshop (which is why you're reading this review now instead of, say, in another month or two when TRU finally gets on the ball). Hopefully the Half-Life 2 line will expand, so we can get Alyx Vance, and maybe an Antlion, or some Combine guards... and of course, our real hero, Gordon Frohman.

-- 12/23/12

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