Wednesday, 3 July 2013

War for Cybertron Soundwave

I should stress, first of all, that this is the first release - the Deluxe, not the all-singing, all-dancing Voyager which can make use of the 'data disc' minions.

Transformers have always seemed to be an ideal property for videogames, making it baffling that Hasbro haven't pursued the idea more thoroughly. That said, what few games there have been were largely terrible - I believe the game based on Armada was better-received than the TV series (not hard!), but it took until High Moon Studios' War for Cybertron, a game which recounted the beginnings of the war which eventually let Optimus Prime, Megatron, et al to leave their home planet and wind up on Earth. It was only natural that Soundwave would play a part, but how did he turn out?

Vehicle Mode:
There's not much to say about this. Soundwave as an armoured car? How did that happen? It's one of the least imaginative designs from a game that was, by most accounts, pretty impressive... but I've always been in two minds about the character designs. Most of them are boxy and angular, paying suprisingly little homage to any of the designs that have gone before. On the one hand, it's good that the developers took the time to craft something unique, and the robots mostly look amazing, with all kinds of animated detail all over their bodies... but the vehicles..? On the other hand, some designs have been truly terrible, and just don't translate into plastic... which is all kinds of stupid, considering the game exists - at least partly - as advertising for a toy line.

'Cybertronian' alternate modes have rarely worked well enough for me. Most seem to be an excuse to shoehorn a decent robot into something that's described as a vehicle of some kind, but generally either looks like a mess of parts or a folded up robot (RotF The Fallen being a prime example of both!). Soundwave looks like a jumbled box on wheels with inexplicable claws on the front, a ridiculously open rear and some rather hopeless gaps in his sides, amongst all those weirdly-angled bits. The window on the front doesn't look like a windscreen, but then it need not be so, as Soundwave wouldn't have had a driver.

I guess this is slightly better than transforming him into a Cybertronian street lamp, as per the G1 TV series pilot, and it's certainly more functional than a tape deck, Soundwave's iconic form, but there have been better interpretations of Soundwave. He's also remarkably bland - mostly blue, with grey parts, and the outer prongs of his 'cowcatcher', along with some random panels, painted silver. There's a sort of lilac colour used to highlight some parts, representing the purple glow exhibited by Decepticons in the game, though it's used mainly on the wheels, where it blends in a little too well. The window on the front is lined with a metallic yellow (not quite gold) to further reference the G1 character's chest.

Two weapons are included with this model - the shoulder launcher and concussion blaster (while, strangely, the Voyager Class version only has the shoulder launcher). Both can fit inside the vehicle, behind the non-windscreen, or can be attached to either side, just above the rear wheels. Both are fairly boring, lacking any significant decoration (silver on the barrel of his blaster), though they do have bands of transparent purple around their midsections.
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Robot Mode:
While robot mode is an overall improvement on vehicle mode, it is so purely because (a) it looks like a robot and (b) there are sufficient familiar elements to identify him as Soundwave. Considering the weird alternate mode, it's surprising that this isn't more accurate to the CGI from the game.

Just like in vehicle mode, Soundwave's colour scheme conspires to make him look pretty dull. The purple highlights aren't as obvious in robot mode, nor do they stand out especially well. This leaves him looking largely grey and flat-blue, with his prominent shoulder spikes and feet made silver. Other than the head, the window in his chest is the part that most clearly telegraphs who this is. The War for Cybertron design was typically full of angles and sharp, pointy bits, which seem unnecessary for the likes of Soundwave, but this model has even more. Proportionally, he looks a little better than the more recent Voyager, though on both the bicep parts seem very thin in comparison to the rest of the arms.

Something he has in common with WfC Megatron is that his feet are molded and painted details on the inside of a couple of massive plates from vehicle mode. This leaves him with odd blue patches around his toes, which just seems unnecessarily ugly.

The head sculpt is certainly one of the better contemporary interpretations of Soundwave, but it's lacking silver paint on the 'vents' either side of his faceplate, and he stands as another example of Hasbro's bizarre fixation on painting over what would have been perfectly serviceable light piping. This is made all the more irritating by the fact that the transparent purple section is glued in place, rather than screwed, making it a tricky problem to correct.

The weapons, bearing superficial similarity to batteries (as per the G1 model, though not as effective), can be stored in his chest cavity just as easily in robot mode as they can in vehicle mode. They seem a little small and stubby, and the handles feel as if they're positioned a bit too far back on both. I'm also a bit dubious about the silver barrel of the concussion blaster, since it's only friction holding it out when extended.
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The strangest thing about Soundwave's transformation is that very few parts line up especially well for vehicle mode - through poor design rather than mold/fit defects - and the two panels hanging off his shoulder spikes in robot mode exist solely to cover his head in vehicle mode. It's neither an elegant transformation nor an effective one, since his alternate mode is so off-character and nondescript.

His articulation is decent enough, though the ball-jointed shoulders are made rather awkward by the spikes and panels, the hips are prone to slipping back into 'standing straight', and the ankles don't have a great deal of effective range. He does have some wrist articulation, though it's hampered somewhat by the surrounding panels.

By and large, I prefer this to the newer, Voyager Class version - it's just that little bit neater and better-proportioned. The colour scheme should have been bolder, or just a bit more varied. It lacks the data disc minions, but gains Soundwave's full complement of weapons. It's still not an especially great model. Even if I were tempted to get the larger version, he doesn't seem to be available in the UK as yet, even though his minions are warming shelves in toyshops everywhere.

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