NECA's movie figures started out as a line dedicated to a single film - Hellraiser - but soon expanded to include a generic line that encompassed all movies. Now they're doing the same thing with videogames: originally they had a line for Resident Evil 4, and now they've gone wider with "Player Select." There are three figures in the initial wave, including that archaeologist from Albion, Lara Croft.
The daughter of Lord Henshingly Croft, Lara was brought up in the secure world of aristocracy - wanting for nothing, she was surrounded by servants, social events and high society. But on the way home from a skiing trip, her chartered plane crashed in the Himalayas. The only survivor, Lara learned how to depend on her wits to stay alive in hostile conditions a world away from her sheltered upbringing. The experience had had a profound effect on her: unable to stand the claustrophobic suffocating atmosphere of upper-class British society, she realised that she was only truly alive when she was travelling alone. Over the following years she acquired an intimate knowledge of ancient civilizations across the globe. Famed for discovering several ancient sites of profound archaeological interest, she made a name for herself by publishing travel books and detailed journals of her exploits.
It's been a decade since Lara Croft first appeared on the scene, winning over gamers with her small outfits and big guns. In that time, she's been held up both as an icon of modern feminism and an example of sexist pandering. She was originally supposed to be a guy, when the game was in development - it was changed when the focus of the game switched more to puzzle solving than action. There have been Lara Croft figures before, but it's safe to say that none of them looked like this.
Lara is 7" tall, and moves like most of NECA's movie figures: balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, pegs at the biceps, boots and gloves, plus a really nice balljoint for her chest. It doesn't turn spectacularly well, but it does move forward, backward and sideways quite nicely. It's understandable that the complex holsters
prevent the figure from having hip joints, but you have to admit, NECA could easily have put swivels right beneath them, in the mid thigh. But would that really have added anything?
The sculpt, by Ray Santoleri, is beautiful. Lara is long and leggy, and while she doesn't really match a real-world woman, she does match the exaggerated look of the game. This figure is based specifically on Tomb Raider: Legend, the latest entry in the series, so she looks more human than previous figures, and is wearing different clothes. Even subtle things, like the back of her knees or the leather of her boots, are detailed well. I think she's even got a little camel toe going on, there. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail that falls forward over her shoulder.
The paint is both good and bad. The highlights, shadows and modelling are generally good, particularly on her skin, and for the most part the colors stay where they're supposed to be. However, that's not to say there are no problems. The edges of her shorts tend to get sloppy, and the face can be an absolute mess, particularly around the eyes. I had to go through an entire case worth of Player Select to find one that even looked this good. Lara is not a figure you can order blindly.
There's a UK-exclusive "God Save the Queen" variant of Lara with a Union Jack on her shirt, as well as a variant of Hitman's Agent 47 in a white suit, which is packed in one out of every five cases. But for old-school Tomb Raider fans, NECA missed out on a variant that would have been smart and simple: put her in a teal shirt, like she wore in the original games. But hey, buy one and customize it yourself.
One thing this figure undoubtedly does right is the accessories - Lara's always packing an arsenal when she goes digging, and this figure does not disappoint. She's got her dual USG .45 match pistols, a shotgun and a military grade 40mm concussion grenade launcher.
She also has four grenades, but they're permanently attached to her belt. Aww, so sad. The pistols fit in the holsters on her hips easily enough, but getting the shotgun into its place on her backpack is a bitch and a half. There's a small strap back there, but you have to pry the damn thing away from her body before you can even hope to fit the gun in there. Coming directly from Tomb Raider: Legend, she also has the game's version of the legendary sword Excalibur.
The weapons are all detailed just as well as the figure,
from the raised waffle pattern on the grenades to the light texture on the pistol grips. The magazine drum on the grenade launcher actually spins, which is pretty cool. The figure has a simple disc base, with the pegs offset to accommodate her contrapposto stance. Since one of her feet is lifted slightly off the ground, the peg goes into her toes. Since there's less room in the toes, the peg is shorter. That shows someone was paying attention, and that's what we like to see.
Four companies have made Tomb Raider figures over the years. ToyBiz was first, with a horrible piece of crap. Then came Playmates, who made some absolutely kickass game figures and some swiftly forgotten movie figures. SOTA did an excellent job on the figures for the second movie, but nothing more came of it. Now NECA has given us the best-looking Lara to date. She's got some inescapable paint problems, and is light on articulation, but this is still a pretty good figure and worth buying - but only if you can see her in person.
But wait, there's more! There's also a talking 12" version, which we'll now go over to Artemis to learn about.
This won't be a full review, since for the most part Big Lara is the same as Little Lara. The sculpted pose is more or less what you get, though the arms and head have a bit of mobility,
good for some minor tweaking - balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps at the sleeve lines, and swivel wrists at the gloves. To accommodate the internal electronics there's no torso joint, so she's immobile from the chest down to the boot tops, where there are swivels.
Like Little Lara, the sculpt is attractive and impressive, but the paintwork is mediocre - the shorts and holster straps are so-so, coverage on the metal belt buckles is seriously haphazard, with skin tone showing through, and the skin tone shading on her stomach is somewhat over-enthusiastic, making her look a bit sunburnt. The effort has obviously been concentrated on her face, where she has quite effective eyes, gloss finish and everything, and full, glossy lips - she's on-model for her CGI self, but the Angelina in her shows through a bit. Her hair is dark brown with a red highlight, and though it's not the most polished work it's pretty decent. One distinct advantage she has is that she's really 12" tall, rather than the near-enough that a lot of "twelve-inch scale" figures get - she stands out nicely, even among other large figures.
Like her diminutive sister she has a spread of weapons - twin handguns, shotgun, grenade launcher, and the weird-looking Excalibur. The sword splits in two at the guard so you can get it into her hand, and though her fingers are sculpted for triggers, she looks okay holding the sword instead. Like their owner, the accessories have decent sculpts and so-so paints - they're not Cy Girl standard gear, but they're good enough not to detract from Lara. The shotgun slips into a strap on her backpack, and as yo found out, that's no easy feat - putting it in backwards is the easiest way, but it's not something you'd want to do a lot, so don't stow the shottie until you're pretty sure you won't change your mind and want it out again.
Apart from being generally big and gorgeous (so far as the sculpt and paint go), the point of 12" Lara is that she talks. She has six soundbytes:
- "Grand entrances are always impractical - it's what makes them grand."
- "Well, this is a tomb - I'll make them feel at home."
- "From this moment, your every breath is a gift from me!" (that one spoken with heavy breathing)
- "Death by irony is always painful. Amateurs!"
- a tingly glittery kind of sound effect (without having played the game, I can only assume it's relevant somehow)
The volume is fine, as is the accent and voice acting (so far as you'd expect, anyway) but the sound quality isn't - the speech is slightly muffled and more than slightly tinny, and all in all disappointing considering how far miniature audio equipment has come from the day Barbie spoke her first words. There's an on/off switch just beneath Lara's backpack, and a smooth button on her lower back triggers the soundbytes - always starting with "grand entrances..." and cycling through in order. It's not much to write home about.
Much like Anniversary Lara, 12" Legend Lara is just what you see in the box - her articulation and the audio feature don't add much value to her, so make up your mind based on what you see, and don't except to be surprised by anything you find after you open up the packaging.