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The Pyro

Team Fortress 2
by yo go re

"Mmmmphh-mmmmphhh-mmmmphh."

Only two things are known for sure about the mysterious Pyro: he sets things on fire and he doesn't speak. In fact, only the part about setting things on fire is undisputed. Some believe his occasional rasping wheeze may be an attempt to communicate through a mouth obstructed by a filter and attached to lungs ravaged by constant exposure to his asbestos-lined suit. Either way, he's a fearsome, inscrutable, on-fire Frankenstein of a man - if he even is a man.

Mmph mmmph mph-mph mmph mmmmph! Mmph mphna mprh. Mmphn nhya. Mmphn frphha herrpha. Mhnk nhya mgh mhph. Mmphpry! Mmmphya harrgh mrgha hrghgph? Hurrururururu! Mrh! hrt hr nha phrnt yrh mrprph! Hudda hudda huuh! Mmmmmmmrrrrrrrpppghhh! Mhhhhoooooo! Egh yrgh mghma! Yrghfrgh! Wrmphlrgrh, Mrpha! Mmmrpgh crpyha drghya! Mmmh, Mmmh! Murr hurr mphuphurrur, hurr mph phrr.

*cough cough* Sorry about that, had something in my throat.

The first series of NECA's Team Fortress 2 was a major success, with most stores selling out while the toys were still in preorders, and my local TRU never bothering to shelve them at all. So although I love the game, I missed out. But because NECA's not dumb, they're following the Reliable Excavation Demolition versions with Builders League United recolors, so I preordered as soon as I could.

NECA is known for highly detailed, incredibly realistic figures based on movies and videogames - but what that really means is that they're good at deplicating the specific details of any given design, so it should come as no surprise that the figure's sculpt looks in three dimensions exactly the way it looks in the game. These aren't the first "animated"-style figures NECA's done, but they're certainly the most ambitious. TF2 characters all look like they stepped out of a particularly violent Pixar movie, and even their body types are designed to provide distinctive silhouettes so you can tell at a glance who you're fighting. The Pyro is one of the shortest classes in the game, beaten only by the diminutive Scout, and yet this figure stands over 6" tall - Heavy's going to be huge!

The figure is chunky and stylized. He's wearing a blue asbestos suit, large black gloves, and tiny boots. Her harness is soft PVC, allowing it be free-floating while still flexing with the figure's movement. The three orange napalm grenades on the chest are non-removable, but that's the way it is in the game, too: they're just a decorative element. And of course, the tank that holds his air supply is attached to her back, and given the appropriate paint apps: black gauge, yellow and green tank. The lower legs have a dark drybrushing, to make them look scorched. There's no "Optical Mask" tampo on the nose, though.

Pyro's articulation is plentiful, but not ideal. The main problem is that it's hard to tell what kind of joints many of them are, so it's hard to tell how they're supposed to move - and since finding a replacement for a broken figure is unlikely, I'm worried about breaking something. Some of the joints are easy to identify: the head is a tight balljoint, and the neck is a swivel/hinge; the shoulders and knees are swivel/hinged; the wrists are balljoints; the feet have hinged toes, swivel/hinge ankles, and hinges where the boot is folded over; the torso is hinged, and the waist swivels. All those are easy to figure out. But what about the elbows? There's clearly a hinge joint there, but it doesn't seem to swivel. Except it's ball-shaped, so you'd think it does - and a little bit of elbow grease reveals it does! But where the arm disappears into the glove, is that a swivel, or a balljoint? Same goes for the legs: there's a hinge on the body and a swivel on the leg, but is that joint where the legs go into the pelvis a swivel? Is it a balljoint? Or is it just a peg and I'm putting damaging stress on it? We just can't tell.

The Pyro comes with two accessories, both standard starting equipment for her class: the Flamethrower, and the Fire Axe. Really? Just two? Every class has three weapons - main, secondary, and melee - but the toy is short his shotgun. The homemade design of the flamethrower is an example of TF2's brilliant art direction. Just look at the thing! It's got a propane tank as its primary fuel canister, and the handle is a gas pump! I have no idea who designed this beast, but it's genius. The Flamethrower can be held appropriately in both hands, though the "over the head" taunt pose is sadly beyond her. The fingers on the right hand are curved, but they've done the wrong way: the index and middle finger are curved, while the ring finger and pinky are straight; it's supposed to be the other way around, with the distal pair curved (to hold the handle) and the proximal pair straight (to reach the trigger). That's, uh... whoops?

Though the Pyro wields the Flamthrower righthanded, he uses the Fire Axe like a lefty - this girl just can't make up his mind about which way she wants to go! Come on, man! The axe is just an axe; no clever design here. She can do his "guitar" taunt, though her fingers are still in the wrong position for that one.

One problem with the Pyro (that will probably be endemic to this whole line, given the way Valve designed the characters) is that the thin ankles coupled with a heavy upper body mean it's hard to keep him standing. There are peg-holes in the heels, so it would have been nice if NECA had included a display base to help keep her upright. Maybe designed like a capture point, so it looked appropriate under his feet? Of course, we also would have liked more/different weapons, but it's easy to see why NECA went with the base set: if you go for specialized ones, you're guaranteed to piss someone off by not making their personal favorite.

The set also includes a card (reproducing the Pyro poster art) that has a special code you can redeem for a free in-game item. Yes, everybody gets the same item. And since this is Team Fortress 2, the item is a hat. Specifically, the Respectless Rubber Glove, which is basically the Engineer's normal glove jammed down on the wearer's head like a rooster's comb. If only the toy came with one, too!

The Pyro goes back and forth as my second- or third-most favored class in Team Fortress 2 (and I'll tell you the others when we get to them), so I was really glad that he was in the first assortment. The release isn't perfect, with its balance problems, its mystery joints, and its choice of weapons (add me and you'll see that I play Backburner/Flare Gun/Homewrecker - gotta protect those Engies!), but it's still a great release. If I'd ever seen the RED figures I'd have gotten them and ignored BLU, but either way, I'm down to buy one of every class.

-- 06/09/13


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