Blackjack's Review: Strafe
Crossbow, Missile, Sword (2x)
The moment I saw Strafe on screen in the fourth movie, I know I was going to get his toy. The simple awesomeness of a two-headed pterodactyl monster covered in spikes is just too difficult to resist! And stock photography does make him look pretty impressive. I’m sure it would be hard to top the solid goodness that is Scorn, but Strafe’s CG model is one of the most mental-looking creations ever to come out of ILM. I was extremely curious just how good Hasbro’s rendition of it would be, considering that Strafe is arguably the Dinobot to get the most screentime.
Borrowing his name from a G1 Technobot, Strafe shares his alternate mode with the G1 Dinobot Swoop… except that Swoop turns into an awesome robot pteranodon, whereas Strafe turns into an even more awesome two-headed, two-tailed pteranodon monster. He looks just so awesome on screen and completely in line with the movie Dinobots’ whole ‘weapon of mass destruction’ aura.
It took me quite a while to hunt Strafe down too; the version in the Robots in Disguise subline, which is distinctly more simplified and aimed at younger children, is everywhere but the one I wanted was the one from the Generations subline. And, well, Strafe is a tough beast of a toy to crack down. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I picked him up, really, considering I was blown away by Scorn’s awesomeness whereas Slug was a massive, massive disappointment. Strafe sort of falls somewhere in the middle of those two spectrums.
Strafe transforms into a two-headed Pteranodon monster. Well, at least he tries to. He’s got the wings, the tail and the two monster heads down, but his legs are ridiculously clunky and massive for a bird of prey, especially one comparable to the CG model seen in Age of Extinction. The way that his hip is sculpted, there isn’t even a way for his legs to align flush to his body so as to give the impression of a sleeker frame. To make things worse, the toy makes no attempt to hide Strafe’s robot arms, having them weakly peg onto the underside of his wings. The end result makes Strafe look a lot less like a flying bird of prey (well, lizard, technically, but whatever) and more like an angry two-headed duck.
To make things worse, Strafe, having a larger surface area than most deluxes on account of his wings and tails, is packaged in robot mode, and to get him to fit there his two whip-like tails, made out of soft, rubbery plastic, are forcibly bent to curl inside a deluxe class packaging. Mine are bent to the left at a curved angle, and while it’s not a particularly bad position, it’s not something that’s particularly favourable for such a long and thin appendage. Strafe’s rubber tails – most notably the hinge where they are attached to his body – are something that I fear will be the subject of many damaged Strafes in the future.
Still, while there is a lot to complain about Strafe, there is a lot to love about him too. Instead of being completely silver like the movie’s version (what is it with Michael Bay and completely silver robots?) Strafe is coloured a nice deep shade of blue, with black accenting the rims of his wings, his head and his feet-claws. The blue tapers off to a metallic shade of blue-gray on both his wings and his tails, and the same colour decorates his dinosaur head. His eyes are coloured a shade of Allspark blue. It’s a far more cohesive palette than Slug’s, for sure. It does allow a lot of details to blur together, but that’s okay.
Strafe’s two dinosaur heads look exactly like their screen counterparts, like the savage mutated robot pteranodon that he is. Both heads are on individually mounted hinges. Their mouths can open wide, they can look up and down, and they can turn their heads slightly inwards. They’re jointed somewhat at the base of the neck thanks to the transformation scheme. It’s not a perfect articulation on the head, but still, it could be worse.
Strafe’s feet… well, his claws can bend slightly, but he can’t bend his knee in beast mode – only rotate it. His thigh is on a ball joint but as mentioned before the hip design doesn’t allow it to stretch parallel to his body, so he can’t replicate the iconic scene seen in the trailers where he grabs Bumblebee.
His wings are a bit of a letdown as well. They’re impressively large and pretty and decorated, but the articulation suffers somewhat from a lack of ball-jointing. Each wing is hinged mid-way near the claws so Strafe can bend them, or fold them if he wants to perch down on the ground like bats (and pteranodons) do with their actual wings. But the base where the wings (and robot hands) are attached to Strafe’s body aren’t on a ball joint so while Strafe has full 360 rotation and can flap them and swing them downwards, they cannot point upwards more than a splayed horizontal angle. They can move a significant amount, though – they can mimic a divebombing position, or spread wide, or mimic a perching pteranodon as mentioned above.
The base of his tail is hinged, and the tails themselves are made out of soft plastic so you can pretend those spear-tipped things are stabbing into hapless Decepticons as Strafe descents like a vast, predatory bird. He comes with a lot of accessories, too. His crossbow is decorated with the same sharp ridges on the rims of his wings, and can be plugged onto his back, and the instructions recommend plugging the two thin, needle-like swords to be pegged into one of the two or three pegholes under his wings… but this makes him look even more cluttered so I leave them off.
Overall, Strafe has so much potential with this mode and it’s a shame it’s so problematic.
Like practically all Age of Extinction toys I own so far, Strafe comes out of the box mistransformed. In addition to his wings all bunched up against itself, and the tail warping because of how it was forced to fit in the package, Strafe’s feet are done in their beast-mode configuration, making him look a bit worse than he actually is. Strafe is really a pretty decent toy. A bit dull thanks to being comprised of all dark colours, but he’s a pretty solid-looking robot.
Like the other Dinobots, Strafe is designed off a knight, explaining his simple, knight-like face and pointy feet. In this mode, the dinosaur heads end up as cool shoulder-guard things and a helmeted robot head takes its place. If you feel like it, you can transform the heads partway so Strafe can peck or bite his enemies with his shoulders. Strafe is distinctly more articulated in this mode. His head can turn, he’s got a waist joint (you need to move the tail slightly or the waist will catch onto it), he’s actually got a knee joint in robot mode. His wings are articulated independently of his hands, so they can expand like a demon or be aligned with his hands like some crazy blade weapon or bunch up like a cape.
His shoulders are ball-jointed, but his elbow is on a hinge. His hands are weird. It’s the same situation with Classics Megatron where the hand-holes can only point in one direction and the hinged elbow means that he can’t really hold his crossbow in a natural-looking way. Or his swords, for that matter. Considering the amount of good elbows and hands that Hasbro has made over the years it’s kind of inexcusable.
The wings just tail off Strafe’s butt and just kind of hang around, but I suppose if he needs to use them he can just whip them out and stab people like a scorpion. So in addition to his crossbow and swords, Strafe can call upon a pair of sharp monster-bird heads and a pair of ridged spear-pointed tails to aid him in battle. Pretty cool mental image right there.
He comes with a crossbow, which is always cool. The missile is one of those pressure-launched ones that the Cyberjets use, and while the projectile itself isn’t really that impressive, the crossbow itself is. it’s cast in black with dark blue details that make it look like it grew straight out of Strafe’s own body, looking as medieval as the Dinobot himself is. The pair of needle-like swords are a lot less impressive, though, especially considering Strafe as these two massive blade-like wings sprouting out of his back. And while the wrist can bend inward so he can hold it like you would a rapier, but it still looks awkward as hell. Strafe has a peghole on his back and on the underside of his wings, but storing weapons there don’t look too aesthetically nice. Both the crossbow and the swords come from concept art, but weren't seen in the final Strafe model.
Overall it’s an impressive-looking robot, even if it’s not one that’s too keen on holding its own accessories properly.
Marks out of ten for the following:
3/10 They could’ve put in a lot more thought in making Strafe’s beast mode better. A few extra steps to allow the feet to move better in beast mode would have been greatly appreciated.
4/10 The rubber tails are a massive concern. The base of the tails in particular seems pretty keen on chipping, especially if you play around with the wings or waist too much.
4/10 While he’s got a great range of articulation in robot mode, his beast mode leaves a lot to be desired. His waist also likes to hit his tails (which adds to the durability problem) and the wrists are articulated so that the hand-holes are only pointing forwards or upwards, making him look awkward while posing with weapons.
7/10 Despite everything, Strafe is still a pretty-looking robot if you don’t try to muck around with him. The elven feet are a bit ‘meh’ and the beast mode isn’t as impressive as it could be, but I find myself liking Strafe a lot visually.
7/10 The twin swords and the range of articulation in robot mode make Strafe a fun robot to muck around with, if not a perfect one.
4/10 He’s got way too many problems to have a good value. Maybe if he’s on clearance, but at normal retail price I suggest you sleep over it before buying him.
4/10 Strafe is a pretty impressive toy hampered with a lot of small problems which makes him a lot less impressive than he should be. To make it clear – I do like Strafe a lot, especially in his robot mode. But considering the amount of good moulds Hasbro has been making recently I think Strafe could do a lot better. Ball joints on his wrists, additional joints to allow his legs to assume a better position in beast mode, a less fragile tail… there could be so many ways to make Strafe better. As it is, while he’s nowhere as horrid as Slug, he objectively falls under the below-average spectrum.