Naked Snake (Big Boss) + The Boss
MGS Snake Eater - Hot Toys

"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."
A huge thank you as always to our gracious host Mr Michael Crawford.

I’ve always been up front about the fact that I’m no gamer, sure I knew my way around Castle Wolfenstein back in the day, and I could complete Doom and Duke Nukem without getting a scratch on me! Yeah I was so sad that I became accustomed to what was around every single corner, boy those pipe bombs were handy, however that was on my old power Mac… the joys of the console have so far eluded me. Partly this is due to a lack of time, and partly by design, (knowing my addictive personality I’d never talk to my wife and kids again… fact!).

However, there are some games that are so iconic that they have entered the pantheon of pop culture to such a degree that you would have to have been living under a rock (or perhaps on the Isle of White) to not be aware of them. One such game is Metal Gear Solid, which believe it or not is now 25 years old. That very first version of the game  (then just called Metal Gear) was designed for the MSX2 computer platform way back in 1987 (yep, I have no idea what that is, but I bet Mike does). However, as hardware and software evolved so did the game. It was pretty much the first time that a game focussed more on stealth and intelligence gathering over shooting the crap out of something moving or blowing it up… but there was plenty of that as well… win- win buddy!

The back-story followed the adventures of an operative named Solid-Snake, Liquid-Snake, Snake-Eater, Naked Snake… or Big Boss, and that is all one guy… confused… you will be! And to get to the top of the tree in his particular field of expertise Big Boss has obviously got a colourful history, and like all true heroes, from Perseus to Luke, or King Arthur to Potter, he had to go through some rigorous rights of passage and trials and training. We all know what an important part the mentor of our chosen hero can play in a story, and so it is that like Ip Man to Bruce Lee, The Boss is to Big Boss. Her shadowy silhouette has hovered over Snake since his early days, watching and forming him into the covert killing machine he is today.

And so it is fitting that Hot Toys first two releases from this ground breaking game should be the two most important of the Bosses, unless of course Hot Toys hit us up with a figure of Bruce Springsteen for the M-Icon range anytime soon… Whoa, whoa, whoa I’m on fire,  ad-lib to fade, (hold lit lighters aloft).

Meaning that if you are a long time fan of the game these must be like a certain kind of manna from heaven. We had some solid versions from Medicom a few years back (that went for silly money on the secondary markets) and there have been no end of bootleg unlicensed figures as well (but that’s IP theft whichever way you look at it). However, here at last we have 1/6th figures that stand to the right scale next to the rest of your collection, that aren’t…

A- Ridiculously fragile!
B- Illegally produced!

Now we just have to pray that they flesh out the MGS universe with a selection of other characters, but for now, lets look at the first two, can they ever live up to expectation?

Packaging - ***1/4
These are two attractive boxes with a rather cute gimmick. When first met with them all you see is an overall green camouflage effect, unless of course they are in dense undergrowth in which case you wont see them at all! The front has the game logo-type and character name and is held shut by magnetic clasps at the side, this unwinds to reveal a brief bio alongside a full figure image from the game on the inside flap, with a large acetate window opposite through which you can see the fully constructed figures. The inner trays slide out and are completely collector friendly, with no annoying twisties or wires.

Now, that cool gimmick is the fact that these are heat sensitive on the ‘covers’. Just take a hairdryer, pop it onto a high setting and blast the front sections for a few seconds and the faces of Big Boss and The Boss will magically appear (check out my demo here- A small detail, but a cute one I think you will agree.

So, two well constructed and nicely designed boxes that I came close to giving a full score… but we all know that we need to keep those high scores back for when they knock it out’a the park, and though showing some original flourishes, these don’t quite go that far for me.

Sculpting - Solid Snake****, The Boss ***1/2
Under the art direction of KoJun these two are both the work of Jung Ju Won who also gave us the rather impressive Red Skull head recently. Of the two it goes without saying that most people will recognise Naked Snake as far more iconic figure than The Boss! I wasn’t that aware of her character until I did my research and found out just how important she is within the canon of the MGS universe.

Her look is strong, and even though she flashes quite a bit of flesh, is strangely asexual. Her long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a tight fitting sneak suit unzipped to the waist, shows off a fine, if somewhat battle damaged chest and abdominal area, criss-crossed with scars. Her stern focussed features and expression display an androgynous chiselled face, this is what might be described as a ‘handsome’ woman rather than a pretty one. It is however the lack of cutesy ‘characterisation’ that makes her look very real world. This is after all a femme fatale… with the emphasis on ‘fatale’. A woman with a military background, more accustomed to slitting throats and neutralising targets than applying this seasons latest lip-gloss. As such she has a well observed portrait that would also fit any number of female military bashes, and I’m particularly liking the detail on her hair in the way it has been sculpted around the ponytail. As I mentioned above her chest and torso are designed to be displayed (as they are in the game) so the rubber/silicone parts that cover these areas are unique to this character, showing as they do her ‘Frankenstein’ like raised scaring. REASON XXX. This feature is obviously important to the way she is depicted within the game, but I have to admit I prefer her with the suit zipped and buckled. Its far more ‘covert militaristic’ than the rather macabre ‘fantasy post-op’ that her unzipped look gives out… in my opinion anyway!

Snake’s features are also lean and chiselled, with more than a hint of a young Clint Eastwood hidden within them. His beard growth is well handled and gently blends into the jaw-line in a very convincing way. Now, if I was to be hyper critical, I’m not sure the hair style that Snake sports is anything resembling standard issue for a military operative, even a covert ‘secret’ one. His semi red-neck mullet would surely put him at a disadvantage in a close quarters hand to hand battle (but the same could obviously be said of The Boss’ ponytail as well). However, tonsorial styling aside the actual sculpting on the hair for both is outstanding, with plenty of deep crisp and highly precise detailing. To aid in keeping that mop out of his eyes… sorry, eye, Snake has his trademark bandana wrapped low over his forehead. This element is also well handled, and combined with his iconic eye-patch it helps complete his look. And even though I have reservations about that hairstyle, at least his bandana gives him the look of a grizzled old Vietnam vet, instead of a hippie dropout stoner.

Both also come with a selection of extra hands to interact with their specific accessories, all are well proportioned and detailed, but at the price-point these are selling for I think a few extras might have been in order.

So, to sum up, these are two great looking sculpts, both have just the right degree of ‘real world finish’, without straying too far from the source material. For me Snake manages to just pull ahead (pun intended), but I’m not sure whether that has more to do with my familiarity with the character or the actual quality of the work exhibited.

Paint - ****
Considering these two characters have never existed in anywhere else other than cyber-space, they both look spookily real… but just have a hint of ‘other worldly’ fantasy about them (I guess Solid Snakes eye-patch helps add to that front). So the fact these are from a virtual world hasn’t stopped JC Hong and his talented crew in making these look as realistic as possible. All the requisite work is there on skin colouration, with rich warm hues bringing the flesh tones to life, and the delicate detailing on the skins mottling still bears the closest of scrutiny. We live in charmed times, where we can photograph a 1/6th figure, then enlarge those photos and still be able to appreciate the fine detail and incredible clarity that we see.  Of course companies should always strive to improve upon every aspect of their product (whatever it might be). But to those collectors out there that have been in this hobby for the long game, you will know what I mean when I say the new generation of collectors just do not know how good they have it. However, with the rising levels of price, so rises the expectation of the quality delivered for your outlay… which is where the non-constructive critical whining starts! Now I don’t expect people who review cars to be mechanics, but I do expect them to understand the limitations of what is realistically deliverable today, dependant on your budget and choice. If you want to purchase a run-about, I would hope your expectations are lower than if you want to purchase a statement sports car… we get what we pay for!

Luckily there is virtually nothing to whine about here. As I just said, the skin is all beautifully rendered and the hair is finely applied to enhance the sculpted elements. All of the eyes are immaculately painted, showcasing that signature wet look perfected by JC,  (even if there are only three ocular orbs between the two) The hair has just the right amount of detail to help bring out the sculpted elements, meaning I can find nothing to realistically fault in this category.

Articulation - ***
Beneath those beautifully designed but sadly restrictive outfits are two bodies that have a good range of mobility, meaning my score here is based upon not only their functionality, but also the way the suit designs impact on their ability to pose. There is no way on Darwin’s Earth that I would ever try to strip these two figures down, especially Snake, as he seems to be surgically inserted into his, but you can get a good idea of what to expect beneath those layers by looking at my old True-Type round up here.

So to sum up, you will get a good range of general standing and moderate action poses, but don’t expect any particularly deep or extreme stances, as the rigid boots and fabrics used, do mean some of the famed TT mobility is lost. The legs, especially around the groin come off the worst, but don’t expect to raise their weapons up to sniper like positions, as the arms also suffer, meaning it just ain’t gonna happen! It means we end up with figures that look great on the shelf, and are infinitely more fun to display than a statue (as even with a limited range, the choice of pose is still there), but if you were expecting Spiderman/Black Widow levels of suppleness, you will be disappointed.  

Accessories - ***1/2
The Video Masterpiece series usually comes with a good range of weaponry and sure enough these two are packing enough combined heat to demolish a small principality (though most of that is courtesy of the Boss’ warhead, known lovingly as ‘Davey Crockett’). So what do we get, well put succinctly Naked Snake has-
4 Extra hands
1 Stoner 63 light machine gun
1 XM16E1 assault rifle
1 FP-45 Liberator EZ tranquilizer gun
1 M1911A1 automatic pistol with suppressor
1 close quarters knife with sheath
1 survival knife with sheath
1 RGD5 hand grenade
2 Smoke grenades
1 set of binoculars
1 food ration tin
1 cardboard crate/box
1 M18A1 claymore ‘trip’ mine
1 Figure stand with Solid Snake nameplate and MGS logo

And The Boss has-
4 Extra hands
1 black hooded cape
1 ‘Davy Crockett’ nuclear rifle
1 Transport case for said weapon
1 M388 ‘Davy Crockett’ warhead
1 Transport case for said warhead
1 M231 Firing Port weapon… or ‘Patriot’ machine gun
1 close quarters knife with magnetic sheath (though I fail to see what it sticks to)
1 Figure stand with The Boss nameplate and MGS logo

Everything without fail is well detailed and shows a great degree of finely observed elements from removable magazines to cocking mechanisms. If you are familiar with 1/6th military weapons you will know what to expect. I’m pretty much set on posing Snake with the Stoner and The Boss with the Patriot as both weapons can be held and positioned reasonably well (be prepared to experiment and futz though, as those suits do hamper the more extreme poses). I also found that the different hands designed to interact with the weapons swapped over pretty easily, actually, let me rephrase that… too easily! It’s not such a problem with Snake, as his gauntlets tend to hold pretty well on the whole, but The Boss’ were a bit of a nightmare. I pushed pretty hard, but they just seemed to lightly ‘grip’ the forearm, rather than the peg and hole properly engaging. This resulted in a rather frustrating photo shoot that entailed far too numerous ‘reattachments’ than I would usually tolerate. I’d say if you are a simple pose and display collector this won’t be a problem… if however you are someone who reposes a lot, or a collector who likes to photograph your figures in various stances, you may be in for as frustrating a time as I was! Both characters come with knives that are well detailed, but they fail to have tight grip hands to use them (a spot of Blu-Tack will be required).

I’m going to freeform and scatologically look at the kit that the pair are equipped with, rather than covering each item in a dogmatic item by item form. As lets face it, many of us know what to expect from the more simple items with no moving parts. And thus, from a design perspective I love the look of the compact EZ tranquilizer gun, it has a compact and robust ‘tool’ like appearance that is fitting for a seasoned killer, but it’s the ‘Davey Crocket’ missile launcher and warhead with the accompanying transport cases that take the crown for most detailed and groovy items in the arsenal. The warhead and launcher are in two parts, the main body of the ‘rifle’ can be placed into the longer of the two cases, but it seems to be something of a Chinese puzzle getting it to close whilst the launcher is inside it… leave that one with me, but if its possible I can’t work it out! Then the warhead can also be separated into two parts, as the main ‘bomb’ section disengages from the rod that connects it in the launchers barrel, this part can then be housed in the case that holds it. The case has a lift up lid then two side mounted gull-wing panels that flip out to the sides to expose the rack designed to hold it in place… very nice!

Amongst his bits and pieces Snake has a set of bins, these are again well detailed, but because of the lack of extreme mobility in the arms, it means he can just about effect a double handed grip, but can’t raise them convinvingly to his eyes, and as there is co case for them I fear they are destined for a life of darkness in the box. The last item worthy of special mention is the ‘kit form’ cardboard crate that comes flat-packed with Snake. However, not having played the game I have no idea of its relevance. I simply folded mine into position to place it in the background. There are however a couple of patches of ‘packing tape’ that can be cut into strips and used to run along the edges and joins, should you decide to make it a more permanent display item.

So, a fair haul, but for the price these sets demand I wouldn’t expect anything less, and the quantity isn’t quite as exceptional as it was with those early Resident Evil figures.

Outfit - both Aesthetic ***3/4 Functionality **1/2
These two are wearing distinctly different outfits, but ones that look to have come from the same designer. Both are described as sneak suits, which is obviously meant to hint at their ‘fabric engineering’. These are garments that if worn by a real world covert ‘ninja’ assassin would create minimum friction, be highly flexible, silent, insulating and breathable, not to mention offering some state of the art protection from a stray bullet or glancing knife strike.

So, being the most hi-tech of garments they are fabricated to look like a fan-boy, cyber-warriors wet dream. Snakes is predominantly grey with black sections and flashes of orange, whilst The Boss has a more ‘space age’ looking white and silver ensemble. Both have rigid sculpted boots, that are well detailed, but sadly mean we lose virtually all articulation at the ankle, save for the ability to turn. The rest of the outfits are made from synthetic ‘pleather’ with some sculpted armoured panels (more obvious on Snake who has a formed chest piece). They also feature a network of flexible laces that criss-cross over the limbs, up and down the arms and legs and also over the shoulders. These are made of fine thread like elastic, so have the ability to stretch as you move and position the limbs.

The Boss’ suit can be worn open to show off here scared chest, however not being a gamer, this might be considered an ‘important’ look, but its not one I favour. The straps up the front of her outfit (which have fine wires concealed in them to aid in posing) can be buckled over her front when the suit is zipped. For me this looks far better, and from the images I Googled, it does seem that she wears it this way as well! Over the suit she wears a simple/classic military webbing belt, but has no pouches or accessories attached to it.

Snake on the other hand has a webbing belt that has numerous pouches for his radio, water bottle and various utility pouches ranging from small to very large. This addition again helps Snake look far more militaristic than his ‘space age’ counterpart. After all, it these are meant to be ‘ninja’ stealth suits, the flashes of orange on Solid Snake’s suit are bad enough… but to be white and silver is virtually unforgivable. However, the truly unforgivable thing is just how restrictive these two suits actually are. Yes, they look great, but the mixed fabrics and panels, together with the rigid panels and detailed seams, end up making these difficult to get any truly deep or extreme poses… which kind of defeats the object!

Fun Factor - ***
In terms of actual play value, these do come up a little lacking, but that has nothing to do with the quality. It’s purely a bi-product of those highly detailed outfits and the materials used to make them. The loss of articulation this inflicts can’t help but impact on their ‘play’ value. Of course they look stunning, and once kitted up and posed they will look killer in any collection. But as I said above, but shall reiterate here, if you are the type of collector who favours a more extreme pose, or one that likes to photograph your figures in a variety of poses, you might find these a little frustrating at times.

Value - **1/2
Whoa Nelly, these two babies have an eye-watering RRP of $214.99 a pop, and that price does appear pretty darned hefty to me! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we broke through the $200 ceiling with the DX range and oversized figures. It doesn’t bode well for future VGS releases as the licences are obviously hefty. However that can only account for a relatively small portion of that price. The upwards trajectory of recent figure pricing is a feverishly debated subject amongst collectors, in fact it was a topic on our recent pod-cast (that you can listen to here, episode 6 it also features a candid interview with Brant Bridges the CEO of Sideshow collectibles.

Quite what will happen with these constant hikes in price is anybodies guess, but there comes a point where you price yourself out of the market… could that possibly happen, who knows?

It certainly makes you realise what a bargain the recent Hot Toys DX Luke Skywalker double pack was, and considering that retailed for $300 it’s a sign of the times that I find myself even saying that!

These definitely seem like figures that should be in the $180 area, making them feel a full $35 more than they should. Of course that is based on the full RRP being charged at Sideshow, you may find some better options in the where to buy section.

Overall - ***
These are two hugely attractive looking figures, can’t argue with that! However, the price is what I consider to be very high (OK, I know some will argue that is becoming the norm, but equally a growing number of folks are feeling ever more alienated and priced out of the hobby, which is never a good thing). Then on top of the price there is the issue with the hampered mobility because of the outfits. So for me these add up to two high quality figures that although fantastic looking, do not quite add up to the sum of their parts!

Where to Buy -
The official importer of all Hot Toys products into the North American territories remains Sideshow, and at the time of writing both were still available for the full RRP of $214.99

Or you could save over $20 by purchasing at TFAW who have both for a more reasonable $193.99.

BBTS also have both for a cheaper $199.99.

Or you can try eBay where prices are between $189.99 up to $264.

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This product was provided for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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