Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hunt for the Decepticons Payload

AKA Revenge of the Fallen Generation 2 Long Haul.

There are a couple of reasons I wasn't interested in picking up RotF Long Haul, not least the difficulty I would have had in trying, since he's not now getting a UK release. The main reason, I guess, is the very bland colour scheme. Sure, it's traditional Constructicon Green... but that's pretty much all it is. The few painted details - a touch of metallic paint here, a reference to vehicle mode detail there - don't break up the sea of green at all. Payload, on the other hand, is molded in black and yellow in almost equal proportions and so makes a functional G2-referencing RotF Long Haul.

This toy isn't even part of the RotF line - it's part of the new, yellow-packaged, general purpose, TransFormers-branded line which will cover pretty much all the new releases... at least until the third movie comes along.

Vehicle Mode:
Considering the main part of a dump truck, by necessity of purpose, is a whopping great space in which things are carried, it's quite surprising that a remotely convincing robot can ever be derived from such a vehicle. In the days of Generation 1, Long Haul's bed became his legs, and so didn't really offer much storage space. The bed on this model is certainly artificially shallow but, when it can also hinge back like a functional dump truck without harming the transformation, such trivial details can be easily overlooked.

Payload isn't a plain yellow and black dump truck - he has a darker wash bringing out detail and giving the impression that this truck has been used, and the tyres are a strange brownish colour, suggesting an accumulation of mud and dust from many years of work.

The colourscheme, whether by accident or design (most likely the latter, considering how sneaky Hasbro can be with such things), neatly references the Generation 2/UK release of the Constructicons, where green became yellow, and the dark, bluish purple became a warmer, more saturated purple. It actually suits the vehicle mode far better.

Despite his relatively small size (actually quite big for a contemporary Voyager, but still quite small), Payload certainly gives the impression of mass. The cab is tiny compared to the rest of the vehicle, indicating this this is one of those huge dump trucks used on large-scale building/excavation projects.

Some detail is missing, however. The packaging depicts Payload with grey/silver boxes next to the cab, whereas they're unpainted yellow plastic on the toy. Still, as is often the case with recent releases, it gives the customisers something to do on an otherwise very well-realised model.

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Robot Mode:
Here's where the differences between Long Haul and Payload become more apparent. While Long Haul was basically a wall of green with a few minor painted details, Payload actually comes across very much like a movie-styled G2 Long Haul in terms of colour placement - black head and forearms, with a fair bit of purple detailing.

There is something not quite true to the movie model about the way the wheels sit over his shoulders, but there are fixes for that available on the internet. Other than that, and the comparatively long, slim legs, it's pretty accurate to the original design. The long arms (a common design element with the other movie Constructicons) are powerful-looking, and end with thick-fingered hands - definitely not one for delicate work, is Payload.

The sides of the truck bed are attached to each arm for a reason - they house Payload's spring-loaded blades. At the flick of a switch, they pop out... offering quite a challenge to Optimus Prime and his comparatively short blades. If RotF Prime and Long Haul/Payload were in scale, Prime would be dwarfed. It's also worth noting that, while Long Haul's transparent plastic was colourless, Payload's is a nice, rich red, much more in common with the super-heated metal of the movie weapons. There are strange markings on these things... part of it looks like Cybertronian writing, part of it just looks odd.

The model is quite poseable, though the arms are somewhat awkward. They rotate just below the shoulder, and the elbows hinge without any rotation - much like just about every iteration of Bumblebee - so he's rather limited in what his arms can actually do in a convincing manner. While the knees are double-jointed, only the lower joint offers much movement, and the ankles don't have a particularly good range of movement.

One detail I really liked on this model - small and pointless though it may be - is the disc in the chest that rotates when the head is turned. Mech Alive didn't really get much use, on the whole, but things like this are welcome and amusing.

On the subject of the head, unlike Long Haul, Payload's eyes are light-piped. Unfortunately, with the enormous rig on his shoulders, over his head, and hanging down his back, precious little light gets through... so they may as well have painted them, as with Long Haul.

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Transformation is relatively simple on this one - the most complicated part is getting his legs stowed, and that's a case of having vehicle panels as far out of the way as possible before even trying. The rest is largely just a case of getting the truck bed panels aligned and plugged together.

When a new mold comes out, particularly based around a G1 character, I'm normally quite keen to get the first iteration... but Long Haul just seemed so bland. When it was announced that he probably wouldn't be released in the UK, my disappointment was very short-lived. I picked up Payload at the London Film & Comic Con, and am perfectly happy for him to serve as RotF G2 Long Haul.

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