Saturday, 27 November 2010

War for Cybertron Optimus Prime

When the game TransFormers: War for Cybertron was announced, it came as no surprise when a related toyline was revealed shortly thereafter. Coming in as part of Hasbro's general-purpose umbrella line, Generations, WfC figures are all - somewhat disappointingly - Deluxe class, though no less complex for that.

War for Cybertron is a supposedly canonical telling of the beginnings of the war that brought the TransFormers' homeworld to the brink of destruction. It charts the rise of a tyrannical Decepticon leader called Megatron, and the attempts by the Autobots to band together under a new, untried leader to save their planet. When first introduced, this new Autobot leader is known simply as 'Optimus', and seems to take on leadership by much the same means as John Connor in the Terminator story - he's the only one able to do it when the time comes.

At first, I wasn't inspired by this line. Cybertronian forms seem pointless - the point of this toyline is that the TransFormers are Robots In Disguise... and their homeworld forms are either too alien or too recognisable and similar to their Earth disguises to warrant much interest. However, the complexity of the engineering and the overall aesthetic slowly won me over... and while I suspect I won't be buying all the WfC figures, the first wave and some of the later entries might end up on my shelves.

Vehicle Mode:
Well, no surprises here: Optimus (Prime) is a red and blue truck. Sure, the front end looks something like a very stylised Rolls Royce Silver Dawn, or that style of old car, but the overall bulk, the four wheels at the back and, let's fact it, those almost omnipresent smoke stacks mark it as a truck. A Cybertronian truck, but still just a truck.

Which is part of why it's so strange to find this model as a Deluxe rather than a Voyager at the very least. There's plenty of detail, but surely bigger would have been better?

I must admit, I really don't like this vehicle mode. It seems cheap and lazy, designed purely argue "Trukk Not Munky". It looks awesome, fearsome even, from the front... but every other angle is really quite dull... And the way the blue side panel lines up suggests that part of the panel just behind the front wheels should have been painted blue to match the rear but, if I remember correctly, this is exactly how the colouration is applied on the videogame model.

Paintwork is sparse, with a touch of silver here and there, and a 'glowing' pink for some details. These parts, in the game, are actually illuminated... but I'm sorry to say that these photographs are an accurate representation of the rather flat coral pink.

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Robot Mode:

This ain't The War Within, let me tell you... in many ways, this is a very new, almost daring interpretation of the Autobots' leader... and yet it retains almost all the design cues of the very first. WfC Optimus is very stocky - robot mode, more than anything, begs to be a larger size class. It's not perfectly accurate to the videogame model, but a Deluxe, however overengineered, never could be... and make no mistake, this thing is overengineered. All that said, it allows for pretty decent articulation and, while the feet aren't as stable as they could be, the end result is very dynamic.

Paintwork is just as sparse in robot mode as it is on the vehicle, but more references to the original, G1 Prime are apparent, from the silver 'vents' on his shins to the silver stripes on his forearms. Molded detail is far more interesting and apparent in robot mode, and I was particularly tickled to find a molding on the back (obscured normally by the plate that forms much of the top and front of vehicle mode) that is somewhat similar to the Autobot insignia.

The head mold, too, is awesome - it retains enough of the typical Optimus Prime design elements to be immediately very familiar, and yet it's new and different enough to stand out. Despite being an earlier form of Optimus Prime, going by the story, the head seems colder, meaner, more robotic than some that have been made over the years. It's also one of the few - so far - to feature active light piping. Both Megatron and Bumblebee have the coloured translucent plastic needed for light piping, but the eyes are painted over.

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When I refer to this model as being overengineered, what I mean is that transformation seems, at first, to require some parts to move through others. Of course, this is not actually the case - you simply need to move some parts halfway to enable other parts to complete their movement. And while robot mode might make it look simple enough - like you'd just need to flip up the crotch-guard and yank the roof plate over his head to make the front of the vehicle - it's far, far more complex than that. Also impressive is the number of small plates that just hinge around from one point to another - his shoulders/front wheel arches being a particularly effective example.

All this, and it's incredibly poseable. The feet, while mounted on a double ball joint - are the weakest part, and are just not stable enough. However hard you try, WfC Optimus Prime has a tendency to stand back on his heels. The articulated toe pieces, while only there to facilitate transformation, do actually help him adopt some pretty dramatic poses.

Also reasonably impressive is the gun - it has a spring-loaded foldaway mechanism for mounting on the rear of the truck, or on robot mode's back... but it comes with a hair-trigger that doesn't really like staying locked. Supposedly it's designed with a view to mounting it on his arm as if the gun is sprouting from his wrist... but since it plugs into the outside, rather than into the wrist area (with the fist folded back down), it's not very effective.

Still, on balance, this is a more-than-decent figure. Robot mode has impressed me much more than I expected, which goes some way to counter the unimaginitive vehicle mode.

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