Sunday, 2 February 2014

TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave

It's been absolutely ages since I last bought an official TransFormer on import... The last time I did it regularly was the Galaxy Force line or Binaltech, though I have picked up a few Alternity models. For the most part, though, Hasbro has done a reasonably good job of bringing figures into UK toy shops, and in some cases their products have been preferable to those from Takara Tomy, if only because they're cheaper.

For example, in the main, Takara Tomy's take on the TransFormers: Prime figures has been a bit weird. The initial run of toys were partnered with 'Arms Microns' - a fairly cool extension of the Unicron Trilogy's Mini-Cons - but with virtually non-existent paintjobs supplemented only by stickers. When Hasbro introduced Beast Hunters, Takara Tomy repurposed the remolded Prime figures and Predacons, adding them - somewhat incongruously - to their TransFormers Go! line. Had I the slightest interest in the Prime Predacons, I'd certainly prefer to buy the Japanese versions simply because they look classier. Only one new figure held any interest for me, however, and that was Shockwave. But while Hasbro decked him out in a rather dull, flat purple, Takara Tomy adjusted the saturation to maximum, giving a much more satisfying colour to the Decepticons' imposing cyclops. Thus, TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave went onto my Christmas list... and I shall be forever grateful to my girlfriend's parents for picking him up on my behalf.

Vehicle Mode:
Although I used the term 'vehicle' loosely. Sure, he's a tank... that much is obvious... but he's also a pretty 'WTF' kind of tank, just like his Dark of the Moon and Superlink incarnations. In fact, to be perfectly honest, the only reason it can be identified as a tank is that it has a honking great cannon.

I'm pretty sure I've railed against the concept of 'Cybertronian Modes' in other posts. It strikes me that, all too often, the concept is used as an excuse rather than as a design choice. This model, particularly in its alternate mode, is damning evidence of this terrible habit. Granted, on their home planet, these sentient alien robots may not be 'robots in disguise', but they sure as hell need to transform into something that doesn't resemble to robot performing a bizarre and painful contortionist act.

Asymmetry is something I tend to enjoy, but when the top of the vehicle is plainly composed of the robot's left arm folded up over the chest, and the bottom of the vehicle has the right arm hanging off it (with its hand quite visible under the front window of the vehicle), it just looks lazy. This isn't a vehicle that was designed, it's the result of a robot design which clearly could never transform into anything sensible. Thus, the rear end is covered in spikes for no obvious reason, the midsection looks incomplete, and the front is clearly just a pair of legs.

Making matters worse, the honking great cannon is rendered almost useless by the fact that it can only ever fire forward. Sure, it has a joint - the robot's elbow - but the cannon plugs onto a large square post, fixing it in place. It can't even tilt, let alone rotate. On the upside, it does mean that the geared feature functions more easily - push the large grey button at the back of the cannon, and the barrel spins rapidly, causing its side panels to swing outward, revealing what looked like it might be a launching missile but is, in fact, just a short-ish piece of translucent orangey-red plastic fixed inside.

What's also painfully obvious is that the model's paint job is optimised entirely for robot mode. The 'tank' only avoids being plain because the paintwork on the cannon is decent and because that amazing purple plastic is awash with metallic flakes. None of the paintwork is extensive, by any means, but most of it is metallic, in several colours and shades.

Since this is a Beast Hunters model, he comes with strange, 'beastly' attachments - a pair of rubbery claws for the front wheel sections and a strange, almost insectoid 'faceplate' with, quite appropriately, a single green eye. On the Hasbro version, these parts are a garish orangey-red, while the parts included in this version are a flat grey, much the same colour as the other rubber parts, such as the spikes and the rear treads. There's no paintwork on the claws, and the bare minimum on the 'face'.

Robot Mode:
This incarnation of Shockwave, while clearly a homage to G1, carries just as many references to the Superlink and Dark of the Moon versions, not least that the honking great cannon is absolutely massive. It's neither as long as the former's nor as bulky as the latter's, but it still seems somewhat oversized. Whereas G1 Soundwave supposedly replaced a damaged hand with a blaster, most subsequent interpretations of the character have his entire forearm weaponised.

Similar to the Superlink version, his rear treads don't so much transform as just flop down onto his back, though this model does feature a rather interesting trick - the lefthand treads unfold from their housing and plug into his gun arm as a sort of ammo belt. While I like this feature, it does hamper the treads' ability to fold down onto his back - they're held out somewhat due to the construction of the model, and there's no way of pegging them into place... but that rubber strip is too stiff, and moving his arm around in any way causes the treads to stick out even more.

Earlier I commented that his colourscheme and paintjob were optimised for robot mode. All this actually means in practice is that the most extensively painted parts are visible from the front and sides. He's still largely composed of the beautifully rich and saturated metallic flake purple plastic, but now the slightly darker metallic purple paint (which seems more blueish in my photos) turns up on his shoulders and right forearm. The legs feature dark gunmetal knee spikes, while the feet and calf muscle analogues are a slightly lighter gunmetal plastic, again with metallic flake. The tops of his oddly-shaped feet have details picked out in both silver and an actual metallic blue, which also appears at the elbow on his gun arm. Other than that, he has a couple of details on each shoulder which are picked out in a sort of 'War for Cybertron'-style 'glowing' pink.

The geared feature on his weapon arm works just as well in robot mode as it does in vehicle mode, though the large rubber spikes at the elbow seem to be a bit more obstructive as part of an arm. They don't actually get in the way, but they're certainly unnecessary details and, being made of rubber, are liable to get distorted.

Shockwave's TF: Prime head sculpt is probably the most complicated one he's ever had - lots of interlocking panels and, yes, even more spikes, surrounding that great big eye. It's kind of what I would have expected for the live action movie character, rather than the smooth and curvy thing we got. Just about every version of this toy - even the SDCC exclusive - is lacking paintwork on the head. The spikes may be made out of dark grey rubber, but there's not quite enough contrast in the molded details of his 'face', so a bit of black paint would have been helpful. What's awesome about the head sculpt is the light piping for his eye. Again, a bit of black paint in the details would have been nice, but it's good as it is. The only drawback is that the light input is at the back of the head rather than being on top, as it usually is with a Shockwave. Thankfully, though, there isn't too much behind the head blocking light on its way in.

The 'beast' parts make even less sense in robot mode than they did in vehicle mode. The rubber 'claws' attach to his shoulders, and entirely the wrong way round, at that. The insectoid 'face' thing attaches to his chest so it almost looks like armour... only not. It also doesn't attach very securely in either mode.

It's actually faintly insulting to say that Shockwave transforms. He basically falls over on his back with his legs spread, one arm behind his back and the other on his chest. It's a simple enough conversion, but I found that his arms have a habit of popping off at their bicep rotation joint, because the shoulder swing joint isn't entirely adequate. Also, the slide joints to move the feet into position in each mode are ridiculously tight, and one actually caused a minor but bloody injury to my thumb on one occasion.

His articulation is about as good as any of the TF:Prime figures that have silly feet. The toes tilt forward only because of transformation, and there's no other ankle articulation, so his stability comes down to the sheer size of his feet and the fact that he balances quite well on their edges. The arms are pretty good, but his right hand has an incredibly tight ball joint which, on mine, just plain refuses to rotate. The head only rotates from side to side, but can turn a full 180° (which it needs for transformation). It really could have used a ball joint, but at least it's not fixed in place.

The gun arm is an interesting feature, but not especially well executed. For one thing, it's just too darned large (even if it is proportionally accurate to the TV show). For another, the way it's molded almost seems back-to-front. The elbow has more movement backwards - due to transformation - that it does forwards. My main issue, though, is that the geared feature seems more than a little pointless - no such action occurs in the TV show when Shockwave fires his weapon.

I cannot understand for the life of me what Hasbro were thinking with the 'beast' parts. They never turn up in the TV show and they don't suit Shockwave in either mode. The use of soft rubber makes them annoying to attach, so it's rather disappointing that Takara Tomy stuck with them rather than including an Arms Micron... particularly when Shockwave has an ideal connection point on his right arm. A repainted version of Arcee's blade Micron would have been a cool reference to the weird blade thing worn by the live action movie Shockwave.

Shockwave is one of those figures I wanted to like more. The character in the TV show is what the G1 character should have been - a cold, calculating scientist. Sadly, in their efforts to create a cool robot form, the series' designers created an 'impossible' transformer what could never have had a worthwhile alternate mode and, since he never adopted a terrestrial disguise, we're lumbered with yet another silly-looking alleged tank. Some of his features are great, but even this excellent Takara Tomy paintjob isn't complete. While the San Diego Comic Con version isn't wholly TV accurate, its paint job is probably superior in that it's more extensive and detailed... Though the model is scarcer and so likely to become more expensive on the secondary market over time.

I like this model... but I do feel it's a bit of a wasted opportunity. Maybe, one of these days, someone will make a truly striking and remarkable Shockwave that transforms into something worthwhile. Until then, TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave will have to do... even if he does have to remain permanently in robot mode, and without his 'beast' parts.


  1. I just got this figure off ebay for the sole purpose of displaying him in robot mode, so I don't really care so much how crummy the tank mode is, but I will point out that his rear treads do a little bit of transforming - you can pull them out to the sides so that they are more in line with the front legs, making the "H" tank appearance complete.

    Also, you can make the tank tread stiffness work to your advantage. Instead of bringing it directly forward as in your picture (and most pictures you'll see), wrap it around backwards first so that as you pull the gun-arm forward to pose it, it actually helps keep his backpack pulled down against his back -

    1. Hiya Anonymous Reader, and thanks for the comment, and particularly the tip regarding Shockwave's treads/ammo belt!

      I'd noticed the sliding for the rear treads, but couldn't figure out which mode it was meant to service as it looks weird in either (hence no photos)... Though I guess, as you say, it's intended to equalise the front and back sections into the traditional 'H' format.

      Like you, I display Shockwave in robot mode, but still feel it was a wasted opportunity, when he could have been given a more convincing alternate mode and still been a striking robot. Even 'Cybertronian' forms can be more imaginative than rubbishy tank...