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Numbat's Review: Battle Ops Bumblebee

Name: Battle Ops Bumblebee
Function: What is the character’s purpose? Oh! HasTak Cashcow. That’s it.
Subgroup: Hunt for the Decepticons / Stand Alone Size Class

Bumblebee is ready for anything, any time. Though he’s known among the Autobots for his sense of humor, he is also a dangerous warrior with decades of experience under his hood. His demeanor changes with all the speed of his vehicle mode; he is never caught unprepared for a fight. Though the Decepticons have tried for years to destroy him, they have always failed. He has survived grievous injury and even serious defeat, but he always comes back with a grin on his grille, ready for more.
Bumblebee has been a life-long love of mine. The G1 figure was my first ever Transformer (and I still have him, rubber tyres and all!), and I was very excited when Hasbro revisted the character in 2006 with the Classics line. Between G1 and Classics, Bumblebee seemed to slip by the wayside, despite being the character used to bring audiences into the G1 cartoon series plots (through his relationship with Spike). I was well chuffed when Michael Bay’s live action film re-enlisted Bumblebee for precisely the same role. Unlike others, I was also quite pleased with the new alternate mode – a ’74 Chevy Camaro. Frankly, I was just happy that a live action film was being made, and that Bumblebee would feature – the filmmakers could have done almost anything as far as I was concerned! Luckily, they actually did a good job, and have really improved the character. No longer a bave little ‘bot always getting into trouble, now Bumblebee has the battlesmarts and firepower to back himself up (and explain how he made it so far in the civil war!). Top the character off with a fantastic design that epitomises the classic G1 Autobot car look while throwing in some trademark features (horns, and, erm, yellow...), and a top notch new Concept Camaro alternate mode, and you have Bumblebee for the 21st Century – he’s back, and better than ever!

Which could be the motto for this review.

Now, Bumblebee is the breakout character of the live action films, and his character and design makes him perfect merchandising fodder. While Hasbro recognised this with the first movie, they failed to appreciate just how high demand would be, releasing just a few figures. They were not going to make the same mistake with Revenge of the Fallen (ROTF), and were well prepared to capitalise on every available penny kids and fans may be prepared to spend. A glut of ROTF Bumblebee figures has ensued. Many are remoulds and redecos of the Deluxe Concept Camaro Bumblebee figure, which is, frankly, a superb toy. One was enough for me, though – even with the new, more ‘aggressive’ frontend of Bumblebee’s ROTF alternate mode. A brand new Deluxe mould was also produced as part of the Hunt for the Decepticons (HFTD) line (which followed on from the ROTF toy line). I don’t personally own this figure, but gather it is rather nifty. Also released was the superb Human Alliance Bumblebee figure – a toy round about Ultra Class size, with an articulated Sam figure that could interact with Bumblebee and sit inside the car mode. I would happily sing HA Bumblebee’s praises until the cows come home – I honestly thought this was the ultimate Bumblebee toy. It’s that damned good. Unlike Ultimate Bumblebee, which is a huge toy I have had the sense not to ever buy (either the original Movie 2007 release, or the Supercharged ROTF release) – even in less-than-half-price sales (which it always ends up in, and still won’t shift...). Ultimate Bumblebee was a step too far, and far too poorly executed. A Supreme Class figure crammed with daft gimmicks that reduced play value, articulation, and movie accuracy. No good for kids, and no good for collectors – Hasbro missed the mark!

With this plethora of Bumblebee figures available, Battle Ops Bumblebee took me offguard. I somehow missed any indication of its impending release, and encountered it for the first time in a local store in Hamilton, Scotland (we don’t tend to get the latest Transformers releases...). It took me by surprise, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Larger than Leader Class, and considerably more expensive, advertising gimmicks up the yin-yang, yet looking as detailed as a Masterpiece figure... Bar that gammy hand on the cannon arm. It was love at first sight, but I couldn’t launch in and spend that amount of money on a Transformer I didn’t even know existed without doing a bit of homework first.

Needless to say, after much careful deliberation, I did buy Battle Ops Bumblebee. (Otherwise this would have been a very long intro for a very short and unhelpful review!) What is the reality of this monstrously huge Bumblebee figure? Is it another Ultimate flop? A ‘Bee too far? Or is it the single best Bumblebee figure ever made? Read on, and I shall take you on a rollercoaster ride of discovery!

Alternate Mode:

Battle Ops Bumblebee transforms in to a 2010 Camaro, as you’d expect. The ROTF version differs from the 2007 Movie in that it now possesses a more ‘aggressive’ front end. It’s a bit chunkier, which is perhaps more fitting for a modern muscle car, but not as sexy as the version shown in the first live action film.
Measuring 10” (25.5cm) bumper to bumper, Bumblebee’s alt mode is big at 1/19 scale, and packed with the level of realistic detail you would hope for from an oversized licensed car toy. It’s all in there – grill immense front-end detailing, moulded ‘Camaro’ on the sides (picked out in silver), moulded Chevrolet logos (outlined in red on front, painted gold on the rear), fuel cap, twin exhausts, number plate and rear lights (all four painted red). And, of course, Bumblebee’s iconic black racing stripes, complete with pinstripe outlines – for which it is necessary to commend Hasbro on their perfect job of matching these with the very many panels they pass through (although it’s a shame that one feels that commendation is warranted – you’d hope QC was this good on all their figures, but alas, it’s not so...). Finishing off the whole affair is a small Autobot insignia emblazoned on the front of the bonnet. And all those simple curves and angles that make the 2010 Camaro so gorgeous are all reproduced to perfection.

The figure is largely moulded in yellow plastic, with black, red, silver and gold details. The only visible painted yellow is at the sides of the windscreen, and, unfortunately these do not match the yellow plastic (they’re slightly darker) – but it’s not jarring, so can be overlooked.

And the best bit? Rubber tyres!

It’s really a perfect version of Bumblebee’s Camaro mode – although, unlike HA Bumblebee, the interior is jam-packed with robot mode components, which are largely hidden from view by the transparent dark-blue windows. Open the doors, though, and you’re greeted by the shoulder rocket launchers and Bumblebee’s arms. So I wouldn’t bother doing that, if I were you.

Gimmicks? Well, by pressing the button (the Autobot insignia on the bonnet) you activiate flashing headlights and various sounds. This is actually quite fun – the electronics on this figure really are well thought through – but I’ve foregone the lights and sounds for reasons that I’ll get to in the Robot Mode section.

Perhaps more fun is the fact that the shoulder rocket launchers can be deployed in the car mode, as with Deluxe Cannon Bumblebee. However, to reveal the rockets, you have to pop the roof up, flip the launchers forward, and then replace the roof – a little awkward, but still a nice touch.

Of course, the most important thing in the car mode (after the superb hyper-realistic detailing) is whether or not it rolls well – and Battle Ops Bumblebee does, and does it well, despite the size and complexity of the figure.

So far, Battle Ops Bumblebee is delivering very nicely indeed.

Robot Mode:

Battle Ops Bumblebee’s transformation takes the best components of the multitude of other Bumblebee figures, and throws in some new twists of its own, delivering the best toy version of the Movieverse character. The real brilliance of the transformation, though, is that the designers have not gone overboard with complexity. The temptation must have been there, at this scale, but they resisted. Instead, the transformation is relatively straightforward, intuitive, and immensely satisfying. The most significant change to the figure’s transformation is in the legs, which are unique to this version of Bumblebee, and finally deliver a very movie accurate look, while hiding the feet completely in car mode. The arms and wings also transform a little differently from previous Bumblebees, but it’s only a minor and necessary tweak. Unfortunately, the electronics will drive you insane throughout the entire transformation process – which is a pity, as, in principle, I actually like most of Battle Ops Bumblebee’s electronic features. However, after two transformations I couldn’t take it anymore and whipped those batteries out. Hopefully for you, my figure was overzealous and defective. Sadly, I doubt this is the case...

Anyway, after surviving the relentless gimmick onslaught, the end result is a stunning, superb and solid Bumblebee that begs to be played with and displayed.

Of course, Bumblebee comes packaged in robot mode, and you are apt to pick him up on the spot based upon this alone! (Well, you would be, if you had huge amounts of disposable cash to throw at Transformers...) I personally loved getting a Transformer in its alternate mode and figuring out how to turn it into robot, but I imagine Hasbro’s sales have gone up since the change to packaging in robot mode more consistently.

Standing 11” (28cm) tall, Bumblebee is huge, and a substantial display piece. He’s a head taller than ROTF Leader Optimus Prime (as you can see in the comparison photos), and just slightly shorter than Cybertron Supreme Class Primus. Such a large figure of a relatively small character (certainly one that turns into a regular car) is a real novelty, with the previous attempt in Ultimate Bumblebee being a total disaster of proportion. Not so with Battle Ops ‘Bee. Although he is very big, Bumblebee is perfectly in proportion, and packed with moulded detail.

Yellow is still a major colour, with a dark gunmetal blue also coming to the fore for most of the mechanical details. Those strange protrusions on Bumblebee’s feet (that also grace most movieverse Transformers – presumably something to do with balance) are moulded in bronze plastic. Black, silver and bronze paint picks out various details around the figure, and the number plate is reproduced on Bumblebee’s crotch. Rather than being oddly warped as in other figures, the plate is clearly just bent on Battle Ops Bumblebee – in line with how the transformation would work, if it could ever be built in to a toy (I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for this feature in a better Bumblebee toy!). The red Autobot insignia from the car mode finds itself on Bumblebee’s chest, and a smaller insignia is tampographed on his head.

Which does bring us to the head. And wow! The designers have done a phenomenal job sculpting Battle Ops Bumblebee, and the paint job totally compliments this, showing it off to best possible effect. I can’t describe how awesome it is – easily my favourite Transformers head sculpt. The head also transforms, of course, with the battle visor flipping down. However, the process is slightly more complex than with other Bumblebee figures – you need to lift the central head crest before moving the visor piece. Be warned though – that crest has a dangerous tendency to pop off! The end result looks great, though!

In theory, Battle Ops Bumblebee can have two hands. The only trouble is that the right hand (on the cannon arm) is funny transparent blue claw. This gammy hand almost put me off buying the figure at all. It is such a blemish, and jars terribly with the otherwise amazing figure. Of course, this arm converts to Bumblebee’s signature cannon, hiding the gammy hand (which becomes the ‘plasma’ within the barrel). Straightening this arm triggers the conversion to cannon (which is actually great fun – kids will love it, and, grudgingly, so do I!). Unfortunately, it seemed that this arm can only be in cannon mode when fully extended and straight, as if you bend the elbow again, that blue claw begins to peak out... However, thankfully you can lock the arm in cannon mode! Unfortunately, the instructions do not tell you how (not surprising). To lock the arm in cannon mode, you need to rotate the bronze plastic piece on the top over to point towards the outside of the arm. If you didn’t already know this, run off and try it! You’ll discover a whole new world of display options for your Battle Ops Bumblebee! If you haven’t bought the figure because you had heard of this issue with the gammy blue hand, fear no more! Run out and buy the toy, safe in the knowledge that you can lock than blemish away, and display in any pose, cannon present, gammy hand banished!

It’s probably appropriate to mention the cannon’s electronic gimmicks at this stage – the toy makes a conversion sound and cannon blast noise, straight from the film, as it automatically transforms, and lights up (where the blue gammy hand really comes into its own!). The red button on the arm then allows you to activate the plasma blast noise and lights whenever you like. Unfortunately, I find that the cannon arm has a tendency to continue to sporadically make blast noises when converted, which is quite irritating.

If you want to bring Bumblebee into full battle mode, you can also flip over the shoulder missile launchers, which also possess lights and sounds (a central light amongst the bank of missiles). These shoulder launchers are moulded in the gunmental colour, and perhaps could have done with a lick of paint to pick out the missiles, but this is really a minor point – the figure has such a high degree of detail and a quality finish that was unusual for Hasbro releases over the last few years, but seems to be becoming the norm with the newer lines (HFTD Leader Starscream being the real point-in-case!).

The final gimmick in robot mode is the lights and sounds activated by the button on Bumblebee’s chest, marked with the Autobot insignia. This activates a variety of phrases and lights up the eyes and car lights. It’s not a bad gimmick, but I can do without it.

Which really sums up the toy’s electronics – they’re not bad, but I would happily do without. They’ve packed the electronic features in here, and while each in itself is actually quite nice and well thought out, they are adding to the cost of the toy, and when combined drive you crazy while transforming the figure, as they seem to trigger far too easily. It’s a shame, as this could have been the second figure with electronic sounds that may have retained its batteries (HFTD Leader Starscream is so far the only Transformer in my collection to make noises that has retained its batteries). It’s also a shame because you are paying for these gimmicks – through the nose! They are the reason this figure has such a high price tag.

Gimmicks aside, Bumblebee has superb articulation (14 meaningful points, most with multiple planes of movement), and an amazing centre of gravity – he’s not nearly so back heavy as he may appear, and those legs are far sturdier than most probably appreciate! And the head does turn! The trouble is it is on a very stiff ratchet joint (for some reason...). However, if you are careful, you can balance it in any position. Alas, it can only swivel, due to the electronics wired through.

Battle Ops Bumblebee is really amazingly good fun, and a superb display piece. He is the ultimate Bumblebee figure, and would be a must for any Transformers collection, if it weren’t for the steep price. That is the real problem with the figure – those electronics almost price the figure out of the market. Still, I can understand why Takara are releasing the figure as part of their Masterpiece line – the details and design makes this figure a near perfect representation of Movie Bumblebee. It really does go beyond the child market. Still, this figure succeeds where say ROTF Leader Optimus Prime or HFTD Leader Starscream fail – any child could transform Battle Ops Bumblebee and enjoy it. Battle Ops Bumblebee is so much fun, he has become the Transformer I am most likely to pick up and fiddle with in my spare room / office. I absolutely love it! It is competing for my top Transformer spot (against HFTD Starscream [current title holder], MP Convoy and Takara 2010 Unicron). You know what? I would not be at all surprised if Battle Ops Bumblebee wins as my favourite Transformer if you ask me again in a few months.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 10 – Battle Ops Bumblebee’s transformation is perfectly designed and immensely satisfying, while being straightforward enough to just pick up and fiddle with.
Durability: 8 – The figure is totally solid, with the exception of the head crest which is apt to pop off when converting the head to battle mode. This drops the score by two points as, frankly, if your figure is missing part of its head it really will have a significant negative effect on its displayability!
Fun: 10 – This figure is more fun than monkeys! I love it. Battle Ops Bumblebee is the figure I am most likely to pick up and play with randomly – it is immensely fun! Oh, and did I mention, he has rubber tyres?
Aesthetics: 10 – Battle Ops Bumblebee looks amazing in either mode (so long as you lock away that gammy hand!). The detailing is superb, and the figure is the perfect representation of movie Bumblebee.
Articulation: 10 – The articulation is very well executed, and the centre of gravity allows for a huge degree of poseability. Despite being such a large figure, Battle Ops Bumblebee is capable of standalone poses most Deluxes would be jealous of!
Value/Price: 6 – Battle Ops Bumblebee is a big figure, so you would expect it to cost more than Leader Class. However, this toy is priced anywhere between 59.99 and 79.99 depending on the store. That’s a lot more than Leader Class, for a relatively small size increase. It is difficult to justify this – particularly for this character (unless you’re a diehard Bumblebee fan). It is a standalone display piece to boot, as it is not to scale with other figures and is in a size class all of its own! You are paying for the electronic gimmicks which are well designed, and packed into the figure – it’s just unfortunate that the combined execution is not so good, and the sensitivity means they trigger repeatedly during transformation and posing. I would have been happier without the electronics, and a more reasonable price tag.
Overall: 7 – Battle Ops Bumblebee is the definitive Bumblebee figure. I really can’t express how much fun it is! Unfortunately, the price is high, and the scale is odd, and there is the rub. The price, coupled with the huge size (in a unique size class to boot) will put off a lot of prospective buyers. This is a great figure for your collection – if you can afford it (in terms of money and space!). If you’re a Bumblebee fan, you really should pick it up. Otherwise, consider carefully.
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