Monday, 23 August 2010

Energon Bruticus Maximus

AKA... erm... Bruticus... just Bruticus.

It is perhaps fitting that this, the final Energon Gestalt, gets a bit more detailed treatment than the other two... though I've already seen that some photos are technically missing... the two choppers don't get their square-on views, and there aren't that many of the fully-formed Bruticus. Oh well...

I picked up the whole set in one hit - highly unusual for me, considering it wasn't the boxed set - at Auto Assembly 2010, largely because I really wanted one version of this or another to go with my on-order Crossfire upgrade set, and the repainted, RotF-packaged version wasn't available. This is a far more garish set, and possibly won't suit Crossfire's muted tones... but I'm willing to take the risk. And if it turns out that I can pick up the repaint later, I've got the original Energon set as a backup. I call that a win-win situation, personally.


Bruticus Maximus is named in reference to the G1 Combaticons' combined form but, while the G1 team included such diverse alternate modes as a space shuttle, the Energon, Maximus-suffixed version has the standard pairs of two vehicles - in this case, a tank and a helicopter.

So... who do we have in this team..?

Blight & Kickback
Vehicle Mode:
Tanks are, let's face it, a bit of a staple in the TransFormers lineup. A brief trip over to TFU.info suggests something in the region of 50 TransFormers, over the years, that could easily be described as tanks, though naturally some are repaints. Not included in that selection are Blight and Kickback, the original uses of the Energon gestalt twin-barrelled tank mold, later used as one part of the TransFormers Collectors' Club membership gestalt released one part per year from 2005-2009.

It's hard to complain about this mold - it's very solid, looks like a heavily-armed, futuristic tank, and has just the right about of molded detail to prevent it appearing plain. Sure, the treads are molded solid and it rolls on two pairs of wheels on each side, but it looks great.

Blight is clearly modelled on G1 Swindle's colourscheme... though he's a much more acidic yellow than his predecessor, and his purple is far darker and more metallic. I cannot imagine in what situation a tank like this might be deployed, but it would certainly be effective against an enemy afflicted with a collective migraine - the colour alone would have them surrendering, running for the hills, or just killing themselves.

Kickback, meanwhile, is a slightly more sober green. Still far from the standard military olive drab, but in something approaching the right ballpark.

The twin-barrelled turret offers full 360 degree rotation and, while the barrels don't angle up a great deal due to flimsy joints and interference from other, structural parts, you get the impression neither of these two would have any trouble aiming. The Energon weapon adds a further two barrelled cannon, with what looks like a radar dish at the back
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Robot Mode:
Here's where the name Kickback seems to make sense - not only in reference to the feedback from firing the guns, but as a homage to G1 Kickback: the tank treads separate from the main body and hinge round to the robot's back, giving the appearance of wings, much like those on the Insecticon. The don't angle upward, however, so it's not a perfect homage... and probably not even intentional...

Blight's similarity to Swidle becomes even more pronounced in robot mode, with additional dashes of metallic purple becoming visible on his body and legs, while Kickback remains just as green-and-grey as he was in tank mode.

They feature absolutely massive, flat, square feet - formed from most of the front of vehicle mode - which sadly don't improve his stability a great deal, since most of their surface area is sticking out front, and this mold has a tendency to lean backward thanks to those 'wings'.

Nevertheless, this is a fairly stable - and, above all, poseable - mold, with the twin barrels now mounted on their forearms, and a rack of launchers of some kind on either side of their heads. In this mode, the Energon weapon is actually quite cumbersome, but works well enough.
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Limb Mode:
Since there's a discrepancy between the instructions and the packaging artwork, it's pretty much left up to the owners' preference which character forms which limb. The tank mold, by default, is basically a brick of a limb... but some brave souls create an elbow out of the waist/hips by flipping the treads away. It works well enough in either form - as an arm, it's heavily tooled up... as a leg, it's rock solid and very stable.
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Stormcloud & Blackout
Vehicle Mode:
Helicopters are, let's face it, a bit of a staple in TransFormers... erm... Sadly, they don't tend to be done very well. There's something about the form of a helicopter that makes if very difficult to translate into a viable robot. More recent models, like RotF Evac and Galaxy Force Live Convoy/Cybertron Evac, have been able to create a better balance between the appearance of each form, but there's always some kind of compromise.

Meanwhile Stormcloud and Blackout don't even attempt a compromise - after all, not only are they robots in disguise, but they are parts of a gestalt. It is that, more than anything, that informs their appearance. Hence, they are very bulky, blocky helicopters, which would surely be unable to fly... or land, given the absence of either landing gear or runners.

Stormcloud's name belies his appearance - vibrant orange with a very warm brown, and metallic blue accents. Firestorm might have been a better name, considering this eyewatering colourscheme, but that might have been a bit too close to Firebolt - one of the components of Superlink Superion - or Storm Jet - the main body of Energon Superion Maximus. Blackout is a similarly unsuitable moniker - OK, he's grey... but he's also quite vibrantly purple. Sure, that's a typically Decepticon colour... but the name just doesn't fit the paintjob.

As mentioned, the helicopter is a bit of a brick, though the main and tail rotors to spin when flicked. The Energon weapon attaches to the undercarriage - such as it is - but seems to act primarily as a tail gun - there are two small guns facing forward, but they're largely obscured by the body of the helicopter.
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Robot Mode:
And here we see why helicopters are not ideal alternate modes for small scale TransFormers - that tail only ever seems to hang off the back. To be fair, though, Movie Blackout suffers the same problem, so it's not always simply a matter of scale. Pretty much everything about this model is par-for-the-course - the cockpit becomes his enormous chest, the rotor blades fold down the back... flipping the tail fin/rotor assembly round is a nice touch, and reduces the length of tail hanging off the back. This mold is a huge improvement on the likes of G1 Protectobot Blades... but that's about the best you can say.

The colourschemes are more of the same in this mode - though Blackout seems more purple and less grey - and, if Blight and Kickback suffered from awkward Energon weapons, they're probably glad they're not putting up with this pair's oversized mess. It's possible to detach the outermost guns and plug them into the holes in his forearm-wings, but that leaves the central portion lying around uselessly, as it cannot attach to anything on its own.

Thanks to a whole load of ball-joints and very little in their way, Stormcloud and Blackout are extremely poseable, and the tail doesn't get in the way too much... in fact, for some poses, it can be used as an additional point of balance.
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Limb Mode:
There seems to be  a mold defect on this set, that means the Energon weapon really doesn't like to attach as a foot. As soon as the 'leg' is lifted, the foot drops off. Thankfully, it fits much more snugly as a hand and, while there's no way to fudge any elbow articulation, I prefer using this mold as an arm anyway.
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Barricade
Vehicle Mode:
While the G1 Combaticon leader was an enormously long truck with a double-barrelled cannon mounted on its rear, Barricade is much more compact, and comes with a whopping great missile launcher... meaning he's probably far more manouevrable and more heavily armed than his predecessor. Then again, saying that might just incite a flame-war... a limited number of missiles, versus a repeating, heavy-gauge gun turret? But wouldn't Onslaught have to be facing his enemy at all times, while Barricade can fire in any direction while driving in another?

Oh, who cares?

Barricade is, by military standards, every bit as garish as his team... Sure, he's largely grey, but that blue is a bit bright... and he even features some of Blight's acidic yellow. Furthermore, his alternate mode suffers not only from Visible Robot Head Syndrome, but Visible Robot Crotch Syndrome as well... still, it's not immediately obvious that's what it is unless you're really looking...

I'm actually surprised by how well-balanced this mold is - I was half expecting that any attempt to point the launcher backward would cause the vehicle to tip up at the front, but it appears quite stable... I guess there's just enough bulk up front to keep it on the ground.
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Robot Mode:
Barricade would be a very flat-looking robot were it not for the enormous Vehicle Mode Backpack he carries. Certainly, were it not for the fact that he's the torso in a gestalt, this could probably have been avoided but, thanks to a pair of blocks that flip out from his heels, he can keep his balance even with all that extra bulk on his back.

His colourscheme is more evenly distributed in this mode, but no less garish for it... It simply works better because it's a robot standing there in grey, black, metallic blue and acidic yellow.

This is probably the best of the three Energon gestalt leaders, because he's both solid and poseable, which thankfully carries through to his torso mode.
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Torso Mode:
And now the reason for the enormous Vehicle Mode Backpack becomes apparent - it folds out slightly to form the chest of the gestalt. It seems a little long in the waist, but looks pretty good overall, and is certainly far more solid than Storm Jet/Afterburner, and less afflicted by large vehicle mode parts than Steamhammer.

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But the combined mode is the most important one, surely, and Bruticus Maximus doesn't disappoint. He's big, bulky, and very solid. Leaving aside the looseness of the foot on the helicopter limb it's very well balanced and can adopt some great poses. A full range of articulation and a decent footprint adds a great deal of play value - this one, more than any of the other Energon gestalts, feels like one large action figure that can break down into several smaller ones, rather than a bunch of small figures that can sort-of plug together to form a larger one.




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Bruticus Maximus as displayed (L-R) in the instructions, on the packaging art and, finally, in 'Awesome Mode', which is the stopgap until my Crossfire Explorer and Munitioner turn up... Explorer (Blast Off) will replace Stormcloud, Munitioner (Swindle) will replace Blight... and, lo, shall Blackout be renamed Vortex, and Kickback shall be Brawl...


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The colourscheme is the biggest stumbling block for Bruticus Maximus... the Revenge of the Fallen boxed set of repaints offers a far more sober and subdued look, while this one is bright and colourful, almost to the point of not really looking that menacing after all.

One thing I find very odd about this set is the choice to use transparent blue for the Energon parts and the light-piped eyes on all the figures... Traditionally, blue has been an Autobot colour... it suits Superion perfectly, but looks somehow wrong on Bruticus Maximus. Constructicon Maximus uses a mixture of blue (for the limbs) and a very dark purple (for Steamhammer and the gestalt head's light-piping) and, let's face it, Energon wasn't the most consistent line.

Considering how reluctant I was to buy any of these figures when Energon was in the shops, I'm very glad I picked this set up at Auto Assembly. I'd already experienced both limb molds and the torso mold as parts of the TransFormers Collectors' Club membership gestalt Nexus Maximus/Prime, and I'm very pleased with this original version.

...But I'm still going to try it with the Crossfire set, when I receive it...

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