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Predator 2 Pack

NECA Reel Toys
by Monkey Boy

Today, we take a look at NECA's second Toys Я Us-exclusive Predator-related two-pack, released just in time for the end of 2011. Earlier in 2011 they gave us their Classic Alien & Predator 2 Pack, featuring the original "xenomorph" Alien and the "closed-mandibles" classic Predator, with... mixed results, shall we say?

This time, the set focuses solely on Predators, albeit from different films. I was all set to bash the first figure in this set, a version of the Berserker from Predators, for being a useless variation nobody wanted, but I was politely informed that it was in fact due to fan interest that the figure was created.

The Berserker Predator is the ultimate hunter. Born with superior physical abilities and intelligence, he was the youngest Yautja to ever kill a Xenomorph [Alien] and reach Young Blood status. Considered a prodigy among his clan, he quickly rose to almost legendary Warrior status; achieving more kills than any Predator of his generation.

When NECA first released teaser pics of this set on its Twitter account, it became pretty clear early on that one of the figures would be the masked City Hunter from Predator 2, and NECA was quick to let fans know that this was the only time in the forseeable future that the masked City Hunter would be seen at retail. The identity of the second figure wasn't quite so clear (no pun intended... read on). While it was evident that the figure was some iteration of the Berserker from Predators, and it was also shown to be partially molded from translucent plastic, it didn't seem to be your typical "stealth" variant.

The parts that were painted seemed to be all the same color, which didn't make much sense. Some thought these pre-production images indicated prototypes that hadn't been painted yet, but packaged pictures of the set revealed that this odd, monochrome/clear Berserker was in fact the final version.

What the figure actually recalls was a NECA SDCC display featuring several of their Predator figs, one of which was a "camouflaged" Berserker done in brown and clear in front of a backdrop of trees. Real three-dimensional scenery. When lined up properly the figure blended in. Apparently fans began clamoring for it, and NECA is delivering it with this pack.

While it seems NECA is giving fans what they want, this fan is a little bit stymied. I don't really see the appeal. While the idea is semi-clever, it really means there's no point in this figure being as articulated as it is, since moving any joints flubs the illusion. Also, did we really need another Berserker? He's identical in sculpt with all the other Berserkers, and he's now tied with the Classic Predator in the amount of figures NECA has released of him, which is odd considering he's not nearly as iconic, and the four Classic Predator figures actually represent two technically different characters from two separate films.

Couldn't we get a half-solid, half-clear "phasing" Berserker with standard colors on the painted bits? Or how about a Berserker that corrects the messy torso paint of the original (it could have had a bloody face to indicate the "final battle"). Why include the Berserker at all? Why not give us a Falconer with his trademark (and as-yet-unproduced) robo-bird? Or a clear version of the City Hunter or Classic Predator? On the one hand, I tip my hat to NECA for producing a figure fans asked for, but personally it leaves me a bit cold.

One of the youngest members of the Lost tribe, the City Hunter arrives on earth during a record heat wave in Los Angeles, CA. He has been sent on a mission by the Elder to acquire honorable trophies. Armed with an arsenal of weapons that include a throwing disc, plasma caster, wrist blades, spear and net gun the City Hunter stalks the urban jungle in his quest for prey.

The reason everyone is buying this set is, of course, for the masked City Hunter. Other than the head, this figure is the same as the single-packed City Hunter in both sculpt and paint. Which means it's a very well done figure, for the most part. The issue of matching the body netting paint with the sculpt is still prevalent, but there were enough two-packs on the pegs at TRU that I was able to find one with minimal errors. It's possible this issue doesn't bother other people as much as it bothers me, and the mismatched netting isn't really evident except on close inspection, but I really wish they could fix this at the factory level, since it was never a problem before this series of figures.

The newness of the figure is the excellent masked head sculpt, and since there's no complex pattern of tribal forehead paint, he ends up looking a lot better than his unmasked counterpart. The sculpt on the mask is very good, with lots of detail. The mask is rough and pitted, and the eyeholes have some nice detailed screen texture. I absolutely love this figure. If you can find an example with matched-up netting, it's the perfect representation of the City Hunter.

Since both these figures are re-hashes, the articulation is the same as their original figures, which we've reviewed. The Berserker is done in the old style with V-crotch hips and single-hinged knees, while the City Hunter gets the new style with balljointed hips and double-hinged knees. As I mentioned, the articulation on the Berserker is a little superfluous, since he's useless if he doesn't match his backdrop. But the City Hunter moves great and looks great in many different poses, just like the unmasked version.

The main draw of this set beyond the masked City Hunter is the multitude of accessories. The single-packed CH definitely got shorted, only packaged with his smart disk and man-purse, but this two-pack more than makes up for it. City Hunter gets two versions of his spear, in retracted and extended modes, and they both look very nice and detailed (and in-scale, which is more than can be said for McFarlane's version, which admirably but unsuccessfully attempted to make the spear functionally retractable). He gets a glaive too, which fits on his thigh armor just like the other version, and he's got the trophy purse as well. There's also an interchangeable left hand so he can actually hold his spear. Finally, the figure includes a human skull and spinal column. It's the same one packaged with the SDCC exclusive "Gort" Pred, but it's clean instead of bloodied. He gets a nice complement of stuff, though I can't help but state the obvious: where's the interchangeable lower left arm with bloody stump? Wishful thinking I suppose.

Berserker gets some accessories of his own as well. In addition to the card-stock backdrop, he gets two interchangeable extended wrist blades: one clear, one silver. He also gets an excellent "Super Predator" skull, which looks great and features a hinged jaw. It's a nice addition and is perfect for display next to the Classic Predator skull that came with the previous two-pack.

So is this set worth it? It's not cheap, and while the City Hunter is an awesome figure, the gimmicky Berserker repaint doesn't thrill me. Besides being Predators, the figures aren't related in any obvious way, and it seems like the Berserker is kinda just needlessly keeping the City Hunter from being packaged singly. While it's admirable that they attempted something "new," I really can't stop thinking about other things they could have done.

It sounds like I'm coming down hard on this set, but it's only because I really really love the masked City Hunter so much. I know with a company like NECA, survival in today's market is a tough game. We've seen companies like Palisades and SOTA go under, while other companies like Mezco flounder. So far, NECA seems to have found a way to keep going. So I can't fault them too much for trying to pad out a two-pack like this, especially when there apparently was a genuine interest in a figure like the camo Berserker. I might be in the minority, but the figure leaves me a little cold.

-- 01/07/12

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