Sunday, 11 January 2015

TransFormers: Prime Knock Out

TransFormers: Prime may not have had the most extensive cast, but it certainly had its fair share of characters, from old favourites reimagined, to entirely new creations. One fan favourite (at least going by the copious fan art out there) was the suave Decepticon 'medic', Knock Out. His enthusiasm for his work would have been endearing if it weren't for the fact that his work was invariably quite nasty, his dialogue - delivered with relish by Darren Norris - is among the best in the series, and his 'bromance' with Breakdown was fun while it lasted.

Sadly, TF Prime's toyline was plagued with poor realisations of the CGI and obvious signs that Hasbro were cutting corners in both construction and paintwork... so how does a fan favourite like Knock Out fare against economic downturn?



Vehicle Mode:
At first glance, Knock Out's vehicle mode isn't bad... he's a curvy, yet powerful-looking sports car, just like in the TV show. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to spot the shortcomings. For starters, the shade of red used seems rather anaemic - it's red, sure, but it's not the super-rich bright red of the character in the TV show. Then there's the paint job, with a mismatched and desaturated burgundy all over the place, clashing horribly with the red plastic, a half-hearted spray of silver on the sides in place of the swishy linework and then, to add insult to injury, the hubcaps aren't painted. When vanity is one of the main personality traits of a character, you really can't skimp on their paintwork. Hell, I'd be willing to overlook the fact that the rear window is painted over in the burgundy rather than highlighted as a window (the dark gunmetal of the grill would have worked!) if it weren't for the fact that the rear lights, etc have also been left entirely unpainted.

One interesting feature is that the headlights are a separate piece of transparent, colourless plastic, but the red plastic behind them was left unpainted, so they don't stand out at all well... The Takara Tomy version came with headlight stickers to go over the clear plastic.

Granted, all this gave Reprolabels the perfect opportunity to fix the figure but, seriously, Hasbro, calling this 'a missed opportunity' is a huge understatement.

Making matters even worse, the two 5mm sockets molded into his sides, just in front of the rear wheels, are rather too prominent. They really didn't need to stick out at all, and the way they're molded, you can't easily convince yourself that they double as the opening to his petrol tank.

It is possible to mount Knock Out's weapon in either socket but, since only the weapon has only one peg, molded onto the larger of the two parts of the spear, it has to remain in one piece, meaning one socket is always unoccupied. I have to confess that, even so, I prefer this to the mountings given to the Takara Tomy 'Arms Micron' version, which manage to be even more intrusive.
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Robot Mode:
If vehicle mode was bad, this thing looks even worse - Knock Out's CGI model is very stylised and stylish, and his transformation clearly involves lots of intricate panel folding, not to mention a certain amount of bending, none of which can be translated into a Deluxe class plastic model.

The shoddy paint job of the vehicle mode carries over into robot mode, where there's essentially no robot-specific paintwork other than the silver of his face. A touch of the flat burgundy on his shins would have been an improvement, even if it is the wrong colour.

Also, like many of the TF Prime toys, Knock Out looks terrible from behind because he's so hollow. His 'body' amounts to a grey plastic 'spine' to which the shoulder pads and chest attach, leaving him very gappy from many angles, and the backs of his legs are left completely open. Some way of folding his rear wheels into his lower legs would have made a huge difference, and improved his silhouette immeasurably.

The head sculpt is probably the one saving grace of this figure, though even that is not quite right - the smirk is a bit too even, the central crest seems too tall, the angled crests either side are too shallow, and the protruding 'ear' spikes are - quelle surprise - unpainted. It also loses out by being mounted a little too low, so his chin ends up obscured by the top of his chest plate. The red part of his chest sits much lower in the CGI but, even if it could be hinged lower on the toy, the grey plate on which the head is mounted is attached too low for it to make any difference unless it could be tabbed in somewhere higher at the back.

The weapon is a strange choice, because Knock Out more frequently used a drill or a saw transformed out of his wrists, so this staff doesn't seem to suit him (particularly compared to Ratchet's scalpels). It's rather cool that it can be held in both his hands thanks to his ball-jointed wrists, and than it can split into a sort of prod and a small mace... but the lack of paintwork - especially on the twisty energy spike at the tip - is pathetic. When not being used, it can be mounted on one of two 5mm sockets on his back, which looks pretty cool.
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Knock Out is probably one of the most consistently mistransformed figures from the TF Prime toyline. Even if the arms are correctly transformed (rather than leaving them extended, with two elbows each) the chest is frequently left in its vehicle mode position rather than dropped down so that his head sits in between his 'raised' shoulderpads, or the headlight-boobs are left hanging halfway down his chest rather than having them clipped in at the top (granted, they don't clip in very well, but the notch is obvious enough). Certain aspects of his transformation are hardly intuitive, but the jointing in his chest surely wouldn't be there if it weren't supposed to slip forward and down? By and large, it's a fairly simple process, though his arms sometimes catch when flipping them out from vehicle mode, and getting the roof and windscreen to peg back together can be a pest. The worst part, I've found, is getting the legs to collapse back into their vehicle mode position as the thighs and hips aren't very cooperative sometimes.

His articulation is broadly pretty good, but the legs really aren't built for poseability, nor the feet for stability. The car door windows can interfere with his biceps, and the head doesn't move very well, despite being on a ball joint. Part of the problem there is that it's mounted on a spring-loaded plate that doesn't tab into anything in robot mode, so attempting to move the head often makes it wobble down into the body.

The Knock Out toy came in for a lot of criticism for not looking much like the character in the TV show but, considering how complex his CGI is, that's no surprise. The designers of this toy had a nigh impossible task even before taking into account the move to more simplistic models and reductions in manufacturing costs and, while I wasn't initially convinced that I'd like this model, it has turned out to be one of my favourites. The toy is not without flaws - not least the terrible, lazy paint job - and the choice of accessory was decidedly odd, but as a transforming toy, Knock Out is actually pretty cool. It'd be nice to see what could be done in a larger size class... but Hasbro seems to be shrinking everything these days.

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