Over the years there have been a number of lines that have tackled the Alien licence. From Kenner in the early 1990's through a number of Far East kits and models to the McFarlane releases in the early 2000's. But it has been the guys at NECA who have taken the Alien licence to the next level and doing what many fans have dreamed of for a number of years and are bringing us a consistently scaled line from the Alien movies. Starting in 2013 with the Xenomorphs themselves, NECA then brought us Colonial Marines and their fantastic Alien Queen (see our review HERE). This was followed this year (2015) with Bishop, Kane, Ripley herself and we will be ending the year with Amanda Ripley from the Alien Isolation video game. Before Series 6 hits however, it is time to welcome the P-5000 Power Loader... and boy is this thing impressive.
For many the P-5000 Caterpillar Power Loader is part of one of the most iconic scenes in the sci-fi horror genre. The machine was essentially a futuristic Fork Lift Truck, but was later turned into a weapon in the climax of the 1986 Aliens enabling our heroine Ripley to defeat the Alien Queen.
Retailing in the UK around the £85 mark this is not a cheap piece, and when you first pick one up you may find yourself looking at the box and thinking "is that it". Size wise it is no where near that of the Alien Queen packaging from last year. It is more comparable to that of the NECA ED-209 from Robocop. There is no perspex window, but instread the box is beautifully decorated with actual images of the model itself and also features its companion Ripley figure (sold separately). The scenic settings of the model photography is stunning and I kind of wish NECA could bring us prop packs as well as figures to enhance our display with the type of backdrops they create for their promo images and trade fair displays.
Out of the box, and the Power Loader is sandwiched between two interlocking perspex trays. Once prized apart the loaded comes out pretty much fully assembled, you will find a small plastic bag taped to the perspex and this contains two hands and two aerials - make sure you don't throw these away. The hands will come into play later, and the aerials are designed to slot into two sockets either side of the flashing light on the top of the loader. The aerials are a tight fit and I would leave these off until you have got a pilot in place.
The first thing I did was just appreciate the sheer design on this vehicle. Have a look at all the rear hydraulic pipes and consider the design work that went into getting those all in place without impeding any movement. Play with the arms which are articulated at both the shoulder and elbow, and feel the ratchet within each joint that will stop the arms dropping under their own weight when posed. Look also at the rear hydraulics that all move with the vehicles articulation. The claw hands rotate fully and also open and close ready to be clasped around the throat of any passing Alien Queen.
The legs are similarly articulated with ratchet joints at hip, knee and ankle. The weight, and therefore balance of the loader, is pretty much spot on. Even with the arms outstretched the vehicle is not top heavy and still stand securely on the weighted feet. The pilots cage lifts up and over the head and then there is a working seatbelt system. I would have preferred an instruction sheet at this point. I figured out the aerials, but I wasn't sure if the seatbelt actually came apart and was worried that these may not be designed to be pulled apart - it would have been nice to have had confirmation in advance of trying. My one gripe so far, and it is minor, is that I am not sure I like the cloth type mesh over the drivers cage. I think I would have preferred a more robust version and I worry about this discolouring and perhaps fraying in the future.
This vehicle is essentially the second part of a 2-part set and only by combining it with the previously release Ripley 7" figure do you get the full effect that NECA had planned. Ripley needs a bit of "work" before you strap her in place as the driver. Firstly you need to remove her ammo strap which has to be carefully stretched over her bent elbow and then her head. You also need to pull off the original hands that came with Ripley. These pop off reasonably easily, but my advice is to NOT put the new ones on just yet. Unstrap the seatbelt on the Power Loader and Ripley slots neatly into the compartment, with her feet locked into the feet controls. Once strapped back in you can lock down the protective cage and then the fun begins.
My advice here is to have a bit of patience with getting Ripley to hold the arm controls as it has the potential to frustrate a lot of people. The easiest way to do this is to put the loose hands on the control levers first then carefully move the loader arms and Ripley's arms till they are in the right position - don't forget the levels slide up and down the arm to help. Once you have got the position you should then be able to clip the hands into the wrist.
NECA have ticked off plenty of positives so far. The Articulation is really good, the weight and balance is spot on and the Ripley figure fits neatly into place - albeit a little fiddly. The final element is the paint and decor of the loader, and thank fully NECA have done this justice as well. The loader is essentially a flat yellow colour, exactly as per the film prop, but it has been decorated with a number of decals which add directly to the realism. There are hazard chevrons added across the arms and legs of the loader as well as red warning labels and arrows that all add to the reality of the piece. There are a couple of well placed company logo's and an embossed manufacturer stamps on the arms. On top of the decals and base colour, it is the weathering that finishes the whole piece off. There is a wash applied to the machine which gives the impression of a well used machine rather than being fresh out of a factory. Around the joints the paint is applied to look like hydraulic grease, and then the hydraulic rams themselves are a clean and shiny silver as you will see on any hydraulic machinery.. There is also a few silver chips and scratches where the marines have had a few dings in the loading bay.
I have seen a number of Power Loader products from the Halycon models to the Sideshow 1/6 version. I also owned the Aoshima 1/12 scale version, which was in my opinion the best Power Loader released... until now. NECA trumps all of these. At an £85 price point the detail on this model is fantastic. The articulation is well done and realistically engineered and the ratchet joints mean that despite the size and weight the item holds the poses really well. The Ripley figure fits really well and the two were obviously designed together and not done as an after thought. I also like the fact that NECA didn't pack Ripley with the loader and charge an extra £20. If I am nitpicking a working warning beacon would have been awesome, but I appreciate would have also driven up the price.
If you are an Aliens collector, then you must have this. It is a display piece and it needs to be handled as such but once set-up it is a thing of beauty and can score nothing less than a 5 out of 5. And we haven't even mentioned how this piece lines up with the Aliens Queen from last year, if you have both pieces - and as you will see from the pictures below - you have one hell of a diorama on your hands and a true centrepiece for any Aliens collection.