I grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune and countless other sci fi staples when I was a kid, but the one that always stuck with me most was Aliens. It was my first scary movie, the first sci fi flick I ever watched that set a fire in me like no other. From the first time I watched it at age eight, on the edge of my seat with a blanket halfway over my eyes, I had two thoughts: “I hope Ripley gets out of this alive,” and “I want some Colonial Marines action figures!”
There’s been a few attempts to translate Aliens in toy form, but none really worked– Kenner’s 90s line was fun, Mcfarlane Toys did a few decent statues, and Hot Toys produced some very pricey Marines with no one to fight, but it’s NECA that finally got it right. And man oh man, did they get it right!
The first wave of Aliens includes two marines, Hicks and Hudson, as well as an army-builder friendly Xenomorph warrior, and all three are fantastic. Everything about these toys is great– the likenesses are spot on to the movie appearances of the characters, the detail in the sculpting and paint apps is crazy good, and they’re loaded with articulation and accessories.
Hicks and Hudson are the first truly great Colonial Marine figures we’ve ever seen. Both figures wisely share a base body featuring loads of articulation, including a ball neck, ball shoulders, hips and abs, injection molded elbows, hinged swivel wrists, double knees and ball ankles. This is enough to replicate a wide variety of great poses, including any of their multiple accessories, and it’s tough to find a pose for either jarhead that doesn’t look awesome. Hicks includes his pulse cannon, as well as a shotgun with a holster that slings over his shoulder, while Hudson comes packing his own pulse gun, a steadicam that plugs into his back, and the tracker he uses throughout the film. The troops get extra points for being able to hold all of their equipment, which is always a welcome touch.
The portraits of Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton are phenomenal– Hicks is the definition of cool and focused, while Hudson is captured with his desperate, “about to break” grimace. If I had one complaint, the paint apps on their faces are a bit heavy, which drowns out the quality of the sculpts, but both are so good that they still shine. Little details help distinguish both characters nicely, such as the bandaged arm and sleeve cuffs on Hudson and the bullet holes through the shoulder pad of Hicks.
As stoked as I am to see NECA do such a stellar job on the Marines, they’re only half of this line, and the new Alien warrior is every bit as good as its opponents. NECA has tackled the Xenomorph before, but this new version ups the ante, with an all-new sculpt that shows how far the company has come over the past five years. The new creature includes a hinged jaw with an extendable tongue and a bendy tail, and it’s jam packed with even more articulation than the Marines.
The new Alien gets a ball neck, ball shoulders, abs and hips, double jointed elbows and knees, hinged swivel wrists and ankles and hinged toes, making this the most super articulated Alien we’ve ever seen. The creature is painted with a glossy finish to replicate its bug-like exo skeleton, and a brown wash which fits well with its overall design. The figure will get a new blue deco in the upcoming second assortment, which will make a nice variety while paying tribute to the film’s stylish use of lighting.
All three Aliens figures look astoundingly great, and feel like definitive versions of these iconic characters. But what’s more important is their total playability. These toys are highly articulated, and despite all their layers of parts they’re well engineered enough to feel sturdy. I’m not sure if it’s wish fulfillment over dreaming of these figures for a quarter century, or just because they’re so much fun to pose and mess around with, but I have not been able to stop playing with these guys for days now. I can’t remember the last time I carried toys around with me from room to room so I could keep playing with them. These guys totally brought me back to that, and I couldn’t be happier.
There’s lots of toys that I appreciate on a technical level, with the astounding sculpting and design work being employed by many collector-oriented toymakers today. And sometimes a figure turns out to be so much fun, the grown up in me takes a back seat because I’m too busy playing with it. But it’s rare to find a toy line that nails both conditions, that makes me feel like a collector appreciating a toy company at the very top of their game, while sending me straight back to my childhood with how awesomely fun the toys themselves are. Aliens absolutely did that for me. I cannot imagine a toy line better than this in 2013, and I cannot wait to see what NECA has up their sleeves next!