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City Hunter Predator

Predator 2
by Monkey Boy

Sometimes, as a toy reviewer, you have to stand back and take a look at the state of action figures today. Case in point, we live in a time where Predator figures feature amazing, movie-accurate sculpts and tons of articulation. I hate to seem like an old fart, but "in my day" Predator toys were marketed mainly to children, featured the "Big Five" in articulation, and had unfortunate names like "Renegade" or "Lava Predator" or "Spiked Tail" (seriously, "tail"?). They didn't much resemble the films' Predators; back then the "Elder" Predator wasn't based directly on one seen in any movie, but rather was bright orange-red and featured two extra thick dreadlocks that would whip around as an action feature. A small part of me feels some vague nostalgia for the days of Kenner figures, as well as a hint of amazement/amusement at the fact that back then toys based on R-rated properties could be watered down for the kiddie market.

But most of me is just glad that at some point someone came to their senses and realized you could make movie accurate high quality Predator figures instead of brightly colored atrocities. While NECA is knocking them out of the park today, it was McFarlane who gave us our first real Predator figures, with their Alien & Predator box set way back in Movie Maniacs series 5. MM6 would give us two more Predators, this time with much more articulation, a trend that would continue into McFarlane's line based on the Alien Vs. Predator film.

Eventually NECA would take over the reins with figures from Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, but it wasn't until their line based on the film Predators that they would really begin to shine. Since then, the line has shifted to encompass the first and second Predator films, and that brings us to this review, the City Hunter from Predator 2, part of the fourth series of Predators figures.

This figure is an important benchmark, because it was the "City Hunter" figure in McFarlane's Movie Maniacs that gave us our first well-articulated Predator figure. As is typical with McFarlane figures that attempt articulation, they were kind of an awkward, wonky mess. It was difficult to tell what was going on in some areas, like where armor ended and skin began, and it was nearly impossible to get a natural pose out of them. Still, since they were all that were available, fans ate them up.

Thankfully (and we're finally getting into the review part here) NECA's City Hunter has none of those wonkiness issues. That isn't to say it doesn't have issues of its own. Sculpt, however, is not one of those issues, as Kyle Windrix and Trevor Zammit's new Predator base body is full of accuracy and detail. The main body is shared between all the figures in the fourth series of Predators, but bits like the armor, loincloth, head and forearms are unique. I'm pretty sure City Hunter shares his head with the Shaman Predator, although the dreadlocks are unique to each figure (much to yo's chagrin).

City Hunter gets a large separate chest and back armor piece that includes a plasma caster mounted on a track that runs up the left shoulder. The caster itself can rotate and pivot on a balljoint, and is overall a much better piece than the loose and awkward hinged arm mechanism featured on the Movie Maniacs VI City Hunters. His gauntlet on the right arm features a set of retractable claws, and there's a space on his right thigh armor to accomodate the included smart disk weapon. The loincloth is made up of separate front and back pieces that each wrap around the waist via a rubber strap. It allows for more mobility in the hip joints but takes some time to position in a way that looks right.

The sculpt is top-notch, and reproduces the source material extremely well. The paint, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Paint has always been the Achilles Heel of this series, with some figures (like the open-mouthed and masked Classic Predators) coming out great, while others (the closed-mouth Classic, the masked Berserker) have been messes. The City Hunter has elements of both extremes. The armor pieces are great, looking like worn, beaten copper, and the skintones of the main body are done very well.

The paint on the netting is a mixed bag; it matches up with the sculpt on the torso, but not so much on the legs. One wonders why the netting has to be sculpted at all, when it's probably thin enough to work as a painted element and that would eliminate the possibility of mismatched paint apps, which seem to have run amok with this series. We know the un-netted sculpts exist, since all the two-up prototypes have real netting and bare torsos, so why not just shrink down those sculpts and paint on the netting? The sculpted netting does add more detail I suppose, but not making sure the paint matches up can really do a disservice to the figure.

Then there's the head. The City Hunter has a very intricate diamond pattern on his forehead, which is understandably difficult to reproduce on a figure this size. McFarlane tried, and what they came up with was okay. It wasn't great, but it was recognizable and did the job. NECA has attempted a more complex paint app, but the end result just doesn't hit the mark. Looking at the prototype photos on the package, you see what they were trying to achieve, but on the final product the diamond pattern looks more like a grid or a criscross, and the split black triangles that run down the center are meant to read as black diamonds, but they don't. The total package is serviceable, I suppose, and it has grown on me to the point where I don't dislike it as much as I did initially when I saw it, but there's no denying that there's a huge gap between what it should look like and what it does look like.

The rest of the head is done well, with the work on the eyes, tusks, teeth and the inside of the mouth all looking nice. For some reason, the yellow color used on the rest of the body's skin is absent on the head, and the figure suffers for it.

Where the figure suffers far less is in the articulation department. As I said, none of the wonkiness of McFarlane's old City Hunter is present on NECA's new body, which features a balljointed neck, peg and hinge shoulders and elbows, balljointed wrists, balljointed waist, peg and hinge hips, peg thighs, double-hinged knees, and balljointed ankles. The range of the elbows is a bit limited, but overall this guy has some amazing posing possibilities, even though the articulation remains pretty hidden. All the joints work well, with none of the stuck paint NECA has struggled with in the past.

The figure only gets two accessories, a smart disk and a sort of man-purse attached to a string, which is disappointing considering all the gear the City Hunter used in the movie. The net gun on his leg is non-removable, and even it it was, there's no handle on it and the City Hunter's hands aren't made for grasping anyway. The Predator's combi-stick, or spear, is nowhere to be found. That doesn't mean we'll never see it though. NECA is saving it for the Toys Я Us exclusive two-pack which will feature a masked City Hunter and a weird mid-cloaking monotone Berserker Predator that I'm sure everyone is just dying to own.

While the City Hunter's sculpt and articulation are amazing, the paintwork is just average, especially on the forehead. The head is what most people are going to see first, and it's a shame that such a complex design doesn't get its due here. But as I said (for me anyway), it's not a deal-breaker. Although for those less obsessive and completist than myself, it may behoove you to pass on this guy and pick up his masked twin, since it avoids the forehead issue and comes with more accessories. Of course, since it's part of a TRU exclusive two-pack, you have to make sure that 1) you can find it, and 2) you're willing to pay a premium to get an extra figure you likely will toss aside as soon as you open it.

-- 12/20/11

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