The last thing I want to do here is recount the tortured and well known history behind Duke Nukem Forever. Suffice it to say the game lingered in development limbo for nearly 20 years before finally shipping last year. The final product was not only disappointing but it was easily one of the worst games I’ve played in a long while. It was poorly designed, occasionally broken and just no fun. But worst of all the gimmicky gameplay seemed to entirely miss the point of what Duke Nukem was all about: Blasting the shit out of stuff. You could argue that the developers tried to reinvent the game for a new age, but the point is that Duke Nukem should do what he does best, shoot things and make quips. A old school style shooter in the mold of Serious Sam or something like that could have been a fun nostalgic romp, not the crap we wound up with.
Nonetheless, I love Duke Nukem. He’s an important part of my gaming youth. I even read his funny books. I was on board way back when the now defunct Resaurus was making Duke Nukem figures and so it was only natural that I would get around to buying NECA’s recent treatment. Let’s check him out.
If you’ve picked up any of NECA’s recent releases, then you know what to expect from the packaging. Duke comes in a compact clamshell with a printed insert. I like this packaging as you can easily razor along the back to get at the figure and then you can return him to the package without it looking like it was ever opened. They obviously had a lot of fun when writing the copy for the package and it shows. It even recommends you take him out with you for adventures like some kind of strange My Buddy doll. There’s no need to take Duke seriously and NECA certainly doesn’t.
The sculpt here is pretty good. Its a more realistic looking Duke than we’ve ever seen, which is a reflection of the better (and yet still dated) graphics from the recent game. The figure does have a bit of a hunched over look, but its nothing to get too upset about and in a sense I guess it stresses his whole ‘roided out gorilla look. The sunglasses are sculpted onto his face, but they’re done so well that they really do look like they could be removed. Speaking of his face, Duke sports a great little over confident smirk that suits the character really well. There’s not much to say about his outfit. He’s wearing a red wife-beater, fingerless gloves, blue jeans and boots. Its all nicely detailed right down to his iconic belt buckle. The ammo straps are sculpted as separate pieces and hang loose down near his belt to allow for his torso articulation. The flesh paint features a bit of a wash to give him a slightly dirty look, which I think looks rather good.
So let’s talk articulation. Duke has some seriously weird ass articulation. He’s quite poseable, but NECA devised some truly and inexplicably awkward designs for his joints. His neck is ball jointed, which is normal enough, although he has very little up and down movement. His shoulders are ball jointed, but might as well just be swivels because he has very little lateral movment. But then he’s got an additional pin joint just under the shoulder, which seems redundant. The figure would have been better served with a swivel cut here. The rest of the arms are pretty standard with hinged elbows and swivel wrists. His legs have normal movement at the hips with the addition of another oddly placed pin joint that gives his legs lateral movement. You then have double hinged knees and swivels in the ankles. Lastly, Duke can swivel at the waist and has an ab crunch in the torso. I have no idea what happened here, particularly with the shoulders and the hips, but it seems like NECA went out of their way to needlessly reinvent some very conventional points of articulation. Like I said… weird.
I can’t say that NECA has ever been heavy handed in the accessories department, and Duke here is par for the course. You get an automatic pistol and a cigar. That’s it. It feels woefully light, considering Duke should be a one-man walking arsenal. Where are the trademark weapons from the game? Where’s the Devastator? The Shrink Ray is even mentioned in one of the quips on the package, but its nowhere to be found. How about a friggin Pipe Bomb or combat knife? You don’t even get his Boomstick. Resaurus’ figure came with a bunch of cool accessories, here you get bupkis and that’s almost as disappointing as the game. I’ll admit the cigar is a cool little accessory and he can even hold it quite well, but the lack of an alternate head with the ability to hold it in his mouth seems like a missed opportunity.
Duke originally retailed for around $15-17 and you can still grab him at most Toys R Us stores for around that price. I got him on clearance through an e-tailer for $10 shipped, so I’m going to cut him some slack. It really is generally a nice sculpt and the articulation is perfectly serviceable albeit oddly designed, but ultimately the lack of accessories hurts this figure a lot. If you’re really jonesing for a Duke figure I suppose this one ain’t bad, but you might be better off hunting down the old Resaurus version. It may be a much simpler sculpt, but its as a toy its a lot more fun.