Monday, 21 December 2015

Combiner Wars Streetwise

Back in the days when Generation 1 toys were available in the shops, Streetwise was the only one of the Protectobot limbs that I was unable to acquire. Looking at that toy now, it's a complete mess - most of the gestalt limbs showed terrible signs of the compromise between vehicle, robot and limb modes, but the way Streetwise was built left him perpetually leaning forward, with his chest and shoulder line about level with his 'toes' and his back stepping gradually backwards as it dropped toward his legs due to the weird transformation jointing. He also had a weird collapsing-bonnet-belly-flap (seemingly quite fragile, given how many on the secondary market are without it) making the torso look very awkward, though it's not entirely clear whether it's meant to be collapsed for robot mode, or just when Streetwise is functioning as Defensor's leg.

Let's hope there's none of that with this new Combiner Wars version...

Vehicle Mode:
While G1 Streetwise was a similar kind of car to G1 Prowl (albeit smaller and less detailed), the Combiner Wars version is a more futuristic, hardcore pursuit vehicle with massive bullbars on the front, a fairly low profile and plenty of sleek curves everywhere. The proportions seem a bit weird, particularly in terms of the width of the windscreen versus the overall width of the vehicle - it looks like a one-and-a-half-steater car, at most - but complaining about proportions in a toyline where a car is as big as a helicopter seems a bit redundant.

This version of Streetwise is also rather more extensively decorated than the original, though the distribution of paintwork is heavily weighted in favour of the front of the vehicle. Even there, it seems half-hearted, or just plain lazy. The bonnet has a large block of matte blue in the middle, ignoring the natural curves of the area and most of the molded detail, featuring both the Autobot insignia and the word 'POLICE' within. On the plus side, I'm always a fan of painted headlights, and the molded detailing of Streetwise's is brought out nicely with the coat of silver paint. The presentation of the bullbars is just plain weird, though - rather than simply paint the bars themselves, the entire area, including the section of bonnet 'behind' the bars and the additional lights, has a coating of gunmetal paint. It's down the sides that things start to get rather disappointing. In fact, the paintwork basically stops rather abruptly almost halfway down the sides, where a sweeping area of blue paint has just enough space to accommodate the word 'POLICE' again before cutting off at an angle that matches one of the transformation seams. The sweep of the car sculpt continues, so it would seem natural to continue the paintwork. It has been suggested that the next section was molded in what is described as 'unpaintable' plastic, and the appearance of CW Dead End would seem to support this (Takara Tomy's Unite Warriors version gets around this by being plainer in vehicle mode, much more G1-like!). The lightbar is completely covered in a very glossy red, while the windows are an extremely dark gunmetal. Surprisingly, the miniscule rear windscreen also got a coating of this paint, very much against Hasbro's trend but, somewhat less surprising, that's the only paintwork on the rear of the car, and it doesn't actually fill the entire rear windscreen. Despite lots of molded detail for lights and other high-performance car details, none of it is painted... and having a couple of boxes - and the combiner wrist port/exhaust pipe - molded in red plastic makes them look decidedly odd against the otherwise uniform off-white of the car. While it's becoming increasingly common, it's still disappointing to find that the hubcaps are unpainted, as that would have made a huge difference to vehicle mode.

While Streetwise's hand/foot gun looks pretty good on his roof, despite exposing the gestalt's fingers and thumb, it is very loose - in fact, it's probably the loosest connection I've found on any of my Combiner Wars figures. The socket is shallow, certainly, but that's not the cause of the looseness. Still, it doesn't feel so loose that it's in danger of just falling out, and it clearly has no problem rotating as a turret, so I guess its looseness isn't a huge problem. His main weapon - something like a triple-barrelled pump-action shotgun by the looks of it - doesn't really fit vehicle mode in any convincing way. It fits the roof socket or the sockets just behind each of the front wheels, but looks out of place wherever it goes. Whereas some weapons - including the club/tonfa packaged with Dead End - can pass for exhaust pipes, Streetwise's shotgun is clearly just a shotgun, and looks pretty daft mounted on either side, whichever way it points. It almost would have made more sense to stick to the Dead End weapon, as that could almost be a police-issue nightstick.

Robot Mode:
Where G1 Streetwise was a bit of a mess, the CW version looks far more coherent and well-designed. Obviously, he has a huge chunk of his vehicle mode stuck on his back, but even that improves on the original. He's quite a beefy robot overall, with chunky arms, enormous lower legs (with virtually no differentiation between 'shin' and 'foot') and even comparatively puffy thighs, since there's so much space inside his lower legs. Thankfully, unlike some CW figures, the inner parts of his lower legs are covered over, so he looks nice and solid. The only downside is the rotatable red socket, which should only shift from its vehicle mode position when Streetwise becomes an arm for Defensor, but it looks a bit crummy just stuck there on his inside leg, and feels quite floppy.

Compared to some Combiner Wars figures, Streetwise has quite a bit of robot-specific paintwork, from the masses of red on his forearms - not even the same red as was used for his vehicle mode lightbar! - to the dark gunmetal on his shins (possibly a reference to the G1 figure having the vehicle's rear windscreen down there?) and the metallic-looking black paint on his chest flap which sort-of substitutes for the original's windscreen-uniboob. There seems to be a heck of a lot more detail to him, certainly when compared to the Aerialbots, but also compared to some of his team mates, and there's even molded detail both on the area of torso behind the chest flap as well as the reverse of the flap itself.

However well-built Streetwise looks, his hand/foot weapon still looks completely oversized in his hands, and doesn't exactly look 'Police issue'. The shotgun, meanwhile, could easily be a Cybertronian riot gun, except that it appears to have a telescopic sight attached to the top, and possibly a laser sight tagged onto the bit that could be the shotgun's pump. The whole thing is painted a light-ish gunmetal, and it looks pretty good from a distance. Up close, it's a jumble of gaps that might almost be called 'strategic molding' if the end result didn't look so cheap and knockoff-like.

Streetwise's G1 head - as far as I can tell from photos online - tried very hard to be detailed, but ended up with a weird sort of flattened beak look. This update takes the old, boxy design and improves upon it in every way imaginable, not least by adding more depth of detail and clarifying everything with colour. Thus, his antennae and central forehead crest are picked out in red, the latter wrapping all the way round to the back of the head, while the face - with its semi-battlemasked look - is all silver, with the large, angular eyes picked out in a nice Autobot blue. Personally, I think this is one of the most distinctive Protectobot faces in the whole set, and it's certainly my favourite.

Streetwise's transformation is deceptively simple, but actually quite involved. Whereas most Combiner Wars figures' lower legs open from the soles of the feet, Streetwise's open from the sides, then clip (not very securely) into his red kneecaps. The front of the car hinges onto the robot's back on an arm which allows it to rock back at the same angle to reveal the head (for robot mode) or swing back so the bonnet lines up against the flipped-up windscreen, keeping the head concealed on its separate hinged flap (for limb mode). Initially, I found the red hinge that moves his bonnet to be rather reluctant to get into its proper limb mode position, and had to force it past a certain point. This appears to have been caused by some mold flashing which wore away quickly. I do also find that mine doesn't peg together very well as an arm - the forearm had a tendency to separate while posing, but it's not too bad if I'm careful. In the midsection, the arms simply swing up into shoulder position allowing the ball joints full freedom of movement.

And there is certainly a good deal of movement. The ball joints alone allow quite a range for the arms, but they're supplemented by the almost ubiquitous bicep swivel (at a slightly odd angle on Streetwise, not that it really affects anything) and, while the elbow is the usual single hinge, it offers a decent range (a fraction over 90°) as it's placed so far forward. There's even a bit of movement in the wrists, though that's largely just to swing them back into the forearms for transformation. Somewhat surprisingly, while there are large plates of vehicle shell extending up from Streetwise's shoulders, they don't clash with his backpack. The head is on the usual ball joint, but - as has been quite common - barely offers any up-and-down-looking movement though, in Streetwise's case, that's as much to do with his chin as the sculpting of the head around the ball joint itself. The legs are about average for Combiner Wars - which is good - but, while the 'feet' are large and offer decent balance, the angle they're sculpted at looks a bit odd to me, and it can mean that some poses only have one foot properly flush with the surface he's standing on. Streetwise is one of the few Combiner Wars figures thusfar to have actual waist articulation - rather than a swivelling crotch wedge - without any hindrance to the mobility of the hips.

There's no doubt that this is an enormous improvement over the G1 model. Reusing molds may well be frowned upon by the fandom but, when a mold is this good, both Hasbro and Takara Tomy may as well get as much use from it as possible... and this basic structure has proven to be quite adaptable, having been used already as Dead End, Wildrider (aka Brake-Neck, easily among the most ridiculous alt-names Hasbro have used), and Prowl, with Smokescreen on the way. I don't plan on getting any of these others myself, as I have Classics Prowl and FansProjects' Stunticon-analogues, but there's a good chance this mold - or a variation of it - will end up being reused at some point, and I'd almost say it's worth getting in its own right.

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