Saturday, 10 May 2014

Cybertron Smokescreen

If there's one thing Hasbro does well (by and large, with some glaring exceptions), it's repaints. All too frequently, the first run of a mold ends up quite plain, lacking paintwork, particularly as the engineering became ever more complicated. Repaints, when they happen, have a tendency to be G1 references or out-and-out homages. Since Galaxy Force seemed from the start to be a great big G1 fan-gasm, it's no surprise that some of its repaints take the idea to the next level.

I noted in my write-up of Autovolt that his mold was the closest thing to the G1/Diaclone standard the toyline had seen in many years - the hood becomes his chest, the legs fold down at the back (yet from the front)... He even has shoulder launchers as his key-activated gimmick. All things considered, it should have been a no-brainer to make a couple of new heads and turn him into Bluestreak/Silverstreak/Streak, Prowl, maybe even Jazz...

But, no. For the Cybertron line, Hasbro never remolded and only repainted the Autovolt once... As Smokescreen.

Vehicle Mode:
Consider, for a moment, that Smokescreen was the only one of the Diaclone-originated Fairlady models that actually got remolded vehicle parts to complete the 'rally car' look, and it seems strange that Hasbro didn't change a single thing on this Bugatti Veyron-inspired vehicle. The garish colourscheme, vaguely patriotic as it is, just doesn't suit the refined, elegant lines and curves of this model - it looks as though someone played a particularly cruel practical joke on the owner, and tried to turn it into a sporty clown car.

The majority of the paintwork seems focussed on the front of the vehicle. Granted, there's a lot of less apparent paintwork on the sides and roof, because pretty much that entire section of the vehicle was molded in transparent cyan plastic, so the doors and roof required a lot of paint coverage in deep, semi-matte red, glossy white and metallic cyan just to make them look right. On the front, there's more of the metallic cyan and glossy white, plus some silver on the framework over the grille and on the headlights. It's also nice to see silver covering all the vehicle's hubcaps. Just to prove that, despite the weird vehicle mode, this really, really is Smokescreen, they even stamped '38' onto the doors... but it's a rather half-arsed decoration: small, so as to fit snugly in the area without any molded detail, and very basic... If I'm not mistaken they used the font Impact. Seriously, Hasbro, were you even trying?

Also disappointing is that, rather than trying to make spoiler weapon really suit the rest of the car, it remains largely black. Only a tiny section where it meets the back of the roof is painted red. The missile launchers are likewise black, with only the tiny missiles themselves painted silver. All things considered, I reckon these parts should have been molded in red, with the 'engine' part of the spoiler weapon painted silver... and maybe a bit of blue detailing on the spoiler itself. That would have made all the difference to this version of the mold.

On the upside, there is some more silver paint on the back of the vehicle, highlighting some of the rear indicators... pretty minimal, though...
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Robot Mode:
Here's where the lack of remolding becomes quite jarring, because Smokescreen's head is identical to Autovolt's except in colouring. Granted, G1 Smokescreen had the same head as Prowl and Bluestreak except for the colouring but on a model that small, they could actually get away with it. With a mold like Autovolt's it's impossible to pretend that such a detailed head sculpt is anything other than identical. Making matters worse, the altered paint scheme somehow serves to highlight the similarities rather than the implied differences. Both have the central crest of their helmet painted in an orangy-yellow colour (albeit metallic on Autovolt), and having the 'head lamp' things painted red, to match the rest of the head, does nothing to disguise them on Smokescreen. I could almost understand if they'd made the central crest red and the sweeping parts either side yellow, as that harks back to G1 Smokescreen... even if his head was blue rather than red...

All that said, Smokescreen somehow manages to look far cooler in robot mode than he did in vehicle mode. The colour on the car hood manages to differentiate him from Autovolt far more successfully than the head, and the paintwork on the arms and lower legs seems more substantial than that of the original iteration of this mold.

The handgun is just as unwieldy as ever and, again, really would have looked better with a different colour scheme. The shoulder launchers are one of the better Galaxy Force/Cybertron key-activated gimmicks but, molded in black, they don't quite suit the model as well as they could.
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While transformation is obviously identical to that of Autovolt, I have found Smokescreen's poseablilty to be slightly improved due to tighter joints. The knees in particular are a huge improvement on those of my Autovolt and the hips, while not perfect, are strong enough to counter the inherent back-heaviness of the model.

I'm in two minds about Cybertron Smokescreen. On the one hand, it's a very cynical cash-in repaint of a fairly cool original model and the improved ball joints are probably more luck than anything else. On the other hand, it just about manages to maintain its own unique indentity in robot mode. It's almost tempting to suggest that all of the black plastic parts should have been molded in a dark-ish grey, and the tyres painted black (as opposed to painting the hubcaps silver, as with this model), just so this could look that little bit more G1-accurate.

As a fan of the mold, I grudgingly like Cybertron Smokescreen, but wish that a bit more time and effort had been put in to the homage.


  1. I didn't really care for this colouration, having already got Crosswise and Botcon Jazz. But then I read your "Sporty clown car" comment and he seems more justifiable now.;)

    I like this toy, cool car, ok robot and good use of the key gimmick. I agree though, it isn't really a Smokescreen without some imagination.

    1. Smokescreen does seem to get a bit of a raw deal - the worst, perhaps, being the Classics version. Personally, I'd say even the Masterpiece version came out as the weakest of the Fairlady models because that head sculpt is just too close to the terrible G1 animation model, while the rest of the model was nice and detailed... Despite all the flaws of the Binaltech line, that version of Smokescreen rocked, and the Masterpiece deserved another head sculpt like that one...

    2. Interestingly, the garish cartoon head is what sold me on Masterpiece Smokey. I don't think I would have bothered if they didn't include it. Although the racing kit he came with was nice too.

    3. I guess there's something to be said for toon accuracy... But I'm one of those weird people who only started reading the UK Marvel comics while they were in their 'fairly accurate to the toys' art phase ('The Enemy Within', 'Raiders of the Last Ark') and started hating it when it switched to the animation model art style. Plus, these new Masterpiece models are just detailed enough that the toon-style heads look out of place to me.