Sunday, 28 April 2013

TransFormers (Movie) Payload

While the live action TransFormers movie had a limited cast of robot characters (and far too many humans, but that's another post altogether), the videogame based on the movie allowed for an extended line of new toys based on characters developed specifically for the game. Problem was, all the new robot designs were basically drones... Hasbro had to turn them into something else.

Payload is one just one such example but, while some of the other characters created from videogame artwork had their monocular drone heads replaced, Payload was one of those who did not. So, how does a videogame TransFormer translate into plastic?

Vehicle Mode:
All things considered, the dramatic possibilities of a Decepticon who disguises himself as an armoured car are pretty much endless, and the same design could easily have been repurposed as a SWAT truck or similar. It's actually pretty bizarre that something like this design didn't appear in any of the three live action movies made so far.

The temptation, with a vehicle like this, would be to make it very plain and flat - after all, the largest part of the vehicle is a container - but even the flat panels at the back of this truck feature a fair amount of molded detail, some of which even detracts from the very visible seams of the transforming parts. There's a double-hinge toward the rear which makes things seem a little less than solid, and it's very difficult to get it lining up properly, but this is a pretty detailed vehicle mode for a second tier character. From the textured metal truck bed to the details on and around the rear door, this is a very impressive model.

Paintwork initially seems a little sparse, and the prevalence of grey plastic masquerading as bare metal led me to bring out my paintbrushes and try to match the silver paint at the very rear of the vehicle's sides along the rest of the flanks and on the front grille. Upon closer inspection, however, the bulk of the cab is molded in translucent grey plastic, and painted over in blue. The stripes on the hood and the tampographed logos on each side probably took up most of the rest of the paint budget but, somewhat remarkably, this is one of the very few models that had most of its lights picked out with paint. Orange lights on the grille and roof are complemented by - gasp - rear signal lights. I mean, seriously, there are versions of Bumblebee without painted tail lights! OK, this is a movie model and therefore got somewhat preferential treatment... but it's a movie model of a character who only appeared in the game as a drone.

If I had a complaint about this vehicle mode it would be only that Deluxe Class was too small, though I'd never expect Hasbro to go Voyager on a non-movie character, however often that actually happens.
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Robot Mode:
There's only one word to describe Payload in robot mode, and that's 'weird'. The large, round, single eye makes for a rather boring head sculpt, though they have tried to liven it up with a few added details on top and at the back. He's a short, stocky robot with powerful-looking legs, Popeye-style forearms and rather vicious claws.

And then there are those massive panels hanging off his shoulders, almost like wings. Contrary to what one might expect, they're not featureless on the insides (on the contrary, there's loads of extra detail in there), but they do peg together in such a way that the detail can no longer be seen, apart from the two turbine-like things at the top. Maybe they are supposed to be wings... after all, he has Hermes-like foot wings, so maybe Payload was some kind of armoured courier? His brief bio on the US packaging could be seen to suggest this, certainly. There's even more molded detail elsewhere, too, particularly on the insides of the legs and feet, some of which could have done with a bit of paintwork to bring it out. Maybe I'll fill that in myself at some point.

The main feature of this model is the torso-mounted grabby-claw thing (being it's 100% canonical name, obviously). It's a neat feature by which pushing on the vehicle mode's front grille, the claw extends from Payload's stomach area and snaps shut at its fullest extent. Not quite sure how that fits with the rest of the robot, but the characters adapted from the videogame were notoriously bonkers, frequently with some strange feature stashed in their bellies. Swindle got a massive gun, Payload got a claw.

The downside to this feature is that it leaves a rather massive (7.5cm!) spring-loaded post sticking out of his back. Sure, it's replete with molded detail, but it's still an otherwise redundant piece of plastic, equivalent to twice the depth of the torso.

Payload's robot mode gets a bit more colourful thanks to some metallic cyan details on the upper chest, upper thighs and forearms and on the outer parts of the belly/claw centre, but I ended up adding more silver paint to his kneecaps and inner thighs, which are molded to look like the textured metal on the sides of the vehicle.
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Aside from the aforementioned difficulty in lining up the panels of the container area, Payload's transformation is interesting and fun, very clever in some ways, but somewhat frustrating because of the tendency some parts have to pop off. I ended up glueing in place the head/shoulder assembly, the front grille and the belly plate on the claw, and found it surprising - not to say disappointing - that this sort of thing hadn't been done in the factory. The other frustration is getting the front of the truck to fit behind the grille (so much for gluing it in place being a good idea!), but I've found that unfolding Payload's 'toes' is much more easily done after getting the bonnet in place and pegged together.

As far as poseability goes, I have only one real complaint about Payload: that his 'collar' restricts the movement of his head to the point where it might as well be completely fixed in place. Other than that, he's pretty amazing, though mine is let down by rather loose ball joints for the hips. The arms don't suffer any restrictions from the massive panels hovering over his shoulders, his large feet are both stable and poseable, and he even has that Holy Grail of TransFormers Joints - the waist swivel... though that is required for transformation.

I've read that Payload was a bit of a shelfwarmer, and I'd imagine the massive plunger sticking out of his back is a big part of that. Some customisers have even removed the claw features and affixed the front grille to his feet. Personally, I'm quite fond of Payload, though I do wish he'd been given a more interesting (not to mention more mobile) head sculpt. What's really interesting to note is that the toy is far better looking than the videogame CGI (see the Payload page on the TF Wiki). Had this mold been reused - particularly if it had been given a new head - I probably would have bought another version... Payload is well-articulated, dynamic, covered in detail and a massive improvement on the design from which he's derived. In all honesty, the only real problem with the claw gimmick is how much shelf-space it requires.

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