Tuesday, 27 August 2013

FansProject Crossfire 02B - Munitioner

Following on from Explorer/Blast Off and completing the grand saga that is FansProjects' second Energon/Superlink gestalt upgrade, Colossus, here we have Munitioner (aka Swindle) and 'Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kit B', taking the place of the Energon/Superlink component known as Blight (Swindle in Japan), the tank which was done up in an approximation of G1 Swindle's colourscheme.

The packaging, naturally, matches that of Explorer, with the model depicted in photographs on the front, and half of the upgraded Bruticus image on the back, along with details of the other additional pieces within. Inside the box is a similar split-level plastic bubble arrangement with Munitioner, his vehicle mode weapon and a couple of Bruticus parts on top, and a whole array of weapons and parts (including FansProject's take on the gestalt's head) in the lower part. One look at this box, and you know the contents are something special.
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Vehicle Mode:
Of all the TransFormers Humvees, it's strange to find that the one that looks most like a real-life Humvee is a third-party creation. That wide, flat bonnet and completely vertical windscreen is distinctive, yet rarely duplicated. G1 Swindle was an ugly, boxy and generic jeep-type vehicle, so it's nice to see FansProject choosing something realistic as the vehicle mode for their homage to the Decepticons' munitions expert and one-man black market.

The molding of this model is surprisingly intricate, with all kinds of vents, hatches and external petrol/water tanks featuring quite prominently, and a lot of subtly raised detail on the bonnet. Even the rear of the vehicle - traditionally overlooked in TransFormers toys - is reasonably detailed, though it does lose points for realism because the gestalt limb joint is clearly visible right in the middle.

Another sacrifice made for the sake of the gestalt mode is right on the front of the vehicle, where two rather prominent posts stick out of the grille and a wide tab juts out of the bumper. They aren't molded to look like anything the vehicle mode would actually have so, conspicuous as they are, I can only assume you're supposed to ignore their existence.

There are lots of visible seams on Munitioner, some of them in quite unsightly places. Very rarely are the natural seams of the car followed, with the car's shell breaking in the middle of windows on the sides. The large hinge toward the rear lets you know that a massive chunk of the vehicle will be hanging off his back in robot mode, but the same could be said for G1 Swindle.

Munitioner comes armed with some kind of combination cannon/rocket launcher, which gets mounted in the roof hatch. This would tend to make it rather difficult for anyone to use the hatch... or the launcher, for that matter... but it looks pretty cool, considering it's basically nothing more than a collection of tubes connected by a few panels. Being attached by what looks like a standard 5mm peg, it can rotate freely, but doesn't tilt.

Paintwork is minimal, as the bulk of vehicle mode is molded in a drab, desaturated sandy yellow. It suits the vehicle perfectly (better than G1 Swindle's curious shade of orange any day), and means that very little paintwork was required - the windows are painted a strange sky blue (black might have looked better... though I guess one could argue it's mean to represent a reflected desert sky), the headlights and indicators are picked out in silver, orange and red, there's a metallic grate on the bonnet and the hubcaps are painted silver. The weapon is a nice, dark gunmetal colour.
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Robot Mode:
Despite the fact that this looks completely different to G1 Swindle, there are sufficient similarities - if not to the toy, then to the animation model - for this to undoubtedly be a homage to that character. The drab yellow paint job is supplemented by plenty of purple on the chest, as well as touches of the same sky blue as is used for vehicle mode's windows, while his forearms and upper legs are black apart from a few painted details. In terms of his overall look, he's everything anyone could want out of an update Swindle model - bulky without being boxy, appropriately coloured... and armed to the teeth.

Because, naturally, his vehicle mode weapon can be used as a handgun now. It's at a strange angle - always pointing up slightly, but it's perfectly serviceable as a hand-held launcher. For those who prefer to leave that for his vehicle mode, however, he has the same pair of alternate handguns as Explorer and can wield them very effectively.

The head sculpt may not feature Swindle's trademark huge optics (I tend to think of them as being like Ray Bans), but he does have the smirk of a trader who knows he's always getting the best part of any deal. It's a nice contrast to the blank faceplate of Explorer, and really adds to the character of this model.

As with Explorer, Munitioner does have a large backpack - the tail end of his vehicle mode, roughly a third of the vehicle's length, and almost its full height, were it not angled down toward the back. Whereas Explorer's backpack is nothing more than the front of the vehicle mode, Munitioner's also houses the joint for his leg form, making him that little bit more back-heavy. While he does have a large heel spur to enhance his stability, it's not quite enough for some poses, and he has to be balanced quite delicately.
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Accessories:
As would befit G1 Swindle, Munitioner comes with the bulk of the weapons, including - perhaps most importantly - the transforming machine gun/rifle for Barricade/Onslaught and the gestalt. There's also another foot/missile pod, a pair of four-barrelled cannon things and another set of the handguns which combine into shotguns for the gestalt. Even without the weapons that come with Explorer, Munitioner could set up as a weapons dealer.
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For the most part, Munitioner is easier to transform than Explorer - there's only one fiddly bit but, unfortunately, it's quite a significant one - since the feet are made up of the windscreen and a small portion of the car's roof, getting them back into place, past the roof and aligned with the folded up arms, can prove very fiddly... and the hinges that turn the front of the car into his knee-guards are a bit floppy and ill-fitting.

Articulation is stunning, taking the back-heaviness and balance issues into account. The range of motion offered by all the joints is superb. Weirdly, I'm having the same trouble I had with Explorer, figuring out the full "18 points of articulation" claimed by the packaging - I can make up to 16, and that's by counting four joints at the elbows (each arm has both a hinge and a ball joint at the elbow). Still, when you have this many ball joints, and you're beating the heck out of just about anything offered by Hasbro - even in the three years since this model turned up - no-one should begrudge FansProject a small overstatement like that.

G1 Swindle has to be one of the worst official TransFormers of all time, and not just because he's part of a gestalt. The design was terrible, with the brick-like robot formed of the back two thirds of a very boxy vehicle. His shoulders were at his elbows, and his knees were at his hips. Munitioner is an excellent homage, but a vast improvement in just about every way... And with FansProject going from strength to strength in their G1 gestalt remakes, I'll be keeping a close eye on their future output.

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