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Blackjack's review: Universe 2.0 Bruticus Maximus

Back in the 2008 Universe line, the second iteration of the Classics line, it was filled with an inordinate amount of Energon and Cybertron toys repainted to homage classic generation one characters. One of the store-exclusive repaints is the Energon-era Combaticons repainted in G1 colours. These Combaticons will also be re-released, unchanged, as store exclusives during the Revenge of the Fallen toyline. I’ve already reviewed the Combaticon set in the past, and this is a bit of a rewrite to update my old work, but mostly because I dug the old toys out and found that some of my opinions have sort of changed regarding them.

Name: Onslaught

Repainted off the Combaticon leader Barricade from the Energon line, Onslaught is really a toy I basically ignored because to me he’s just an inferior Onslaught to the awesome Ultra Class toy I already owned. That’s a bit unfair, really, because Onslaught is a pretty decent toy in his own right.

Alternate Mode:
In contrast to the original Onslaught’s missile carrier truck mode, or his ultra class counterpart’s armoured vehicle mode, this Onslaught transforms into one of those missile launcher trucks with a pod of missiles ready to ruin somebody’s day. The original Onslaught was green and dark blue, but with this Combaticon set being released during Hasbro’s brief ‘everything must be coloured realistically’ phase between 2007 and 2009, Onslaught ended up being coloured primarily gray. It’s not a particularly bad paint scheme, though, as they try to keep it interesting. Onslaught’s cab is coloured a dark gray whereas the rest of him is in varying shades of light gray. The area around his missile pods is coloured a soft shade of purple, as are some details across the launcher. His windows are blood-red and so are his headlights. A small circular Decepticon insignia crystal thing sits on his hood. Onslaught’s alternate mode’s missile launcher thing is pretty well articulated with a ratchet joint, able to rotate and angle upwards and downwards, which is nice. Onslaught also rolls well in his four wheels, and there are two Minicon ports on his missile rack if that’s your kind of thing.

My main problem with Onslaught is that the toy makes no attempt to hide his head, or the empty space around it. Despite Onslaught having a rather decent truck cab and moulded details and doors and everything going on, looking at him from the side basically has his head just sitting there. Granted Onslaught’s Leia buns make it less blatant that it’s a head, but it’s still there. There’s also the anal ON-SLT tampographed on his hood, which plagued a large chunk of the Universe toys. A C-5 sits on the other side of Onslaught, presumably a reference to his status as a Combaticon. I find this a needless distraction.

Still, I find Onslaught a nice distraction from all the battle tanks and missile rack tanks that are so common among Transformers. Onslaught is a missile launching truck, and he’s pretty happy about it. The rather bland colour scheme also rather works – it’s just me, but I prefer Onslaught’s gray colours to Energon Barricade’s loud blues and yellows. It’s not particularly great, but it’s not terrible either.

Robot Mode:
Onslaught’s robot mode looks pretty solid if a little boring, both in sculpt and in details. His missile turret turns into his legs and the rest of his robot mode just folds out. It’s still mainly gray, and while they tried their best to spruce it up with silvers and other shades of grays, he still ends up looking pretty bland and uninteresting. He’s got some nice details like the wheels on the sides of his torso and his arms, and that distinctive Princess Leia hair buns and a chin-strap thing, but Onslaught’s robot mode ends up feeling really generic and boring.

Articulation wise Onslaught isn’t that terrible, and pretty standard for a deluxe class toy. He’s got double-jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, double-jointed knees, double-jointed hips and a waist joint. He’s got a huge chunk of his truck cab jutting out from his back, but surprisingly that doesn’t make him as back-heavy as you would think. His legs and the strong joints there keep Onslaught’s balance upright pretty well, and while his rather chunky arms can’t really strike much of a pose he’s otherwise pretty posable.

Onslaught doesn’t come with weapons, unlike the rest of his team. I find it rather odd that such a powerful looking vehicle doesn’t seem to be able to be equipped with anything but his fists in robot mode. I mean, I suppose he can launch missiles from his toes using those missile pods, but other than that he’s a pretty blah robot.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 7/10 Onslaught’s transformation is simple and achieves two rather decent modes, but has the problem of the head just sitting there doing nothing in vehicle mode. It’s not particularly terrible since Onslaught makes a pretty solid robot, torso and vehicle, which is certainly more than could be said for his fellow Energon-era torsos Steamhammer and Storm Jet.
Durability: 7/10 Onslaught seems to be made out of pretty sturdy plastic and generally feels solid, but the hinged platform that holds Bruticus’ head has a tendency to pop off at an alarming rate. It’s held in place in all three modes by pegs, but while transforming him and flipping it up it likes to pop off. I also find some stress marks in the holes that holds his tiny arm-pegs together.
Aesthetics: 3/10 I really like the look of the truck, but the head kind of ruins it for me. The robot mode is solid and over time I found the Leia hair buns hilarious but it’s so generic and bland looking. Being painted in almost entirely gray and having shit 733T tampographs randomly only makes him look uglier.
Articulation: 8/10 Onslaught is surprisingly articulated, with a lot of joints in his lower body area. The articulation in vehicle mode is just a nice little bonus. He’s really balanced and a generally fun robot to muck around with.

Names: Swindle/Vortex

Instead of five unique robots as is traditionally done with combiners, while designing the Energon combiners Hasbro gave each combiner team a deluxe-class central body, and two unique moulds, each of which is repainted. The Energon combiners also operate in the Scramble City system so any of the basic-class limbs from the Combaticon, Aerialbot or Constructicon team can turn into either an arm or a leg, and can be attached to any of the three central robots.

The Energon Combaticons came with two helicopters and two tanks, and so does this set. Originally named Blackout and (looks up a name I’ll forget after finishing this review) Storm Cloud, they’re now repainted to homage Generation One Vortex (obviously, since G1 Vortex is a helicopter) and Swindle (less obviously, whose G1 self is a jeep). Since the only difference between these two is only the colours, I’ll cover them in one go.

Alternate Mode:
Vortex and Swindle transform into one-man attack helicopters. They have a rather nice-looking cockpit as far as these things go, and I do like the little wing-things that jut out of their sides, but there’s the glaring matter of the massive feet just hanging across the upper flanks of the helicopter. They try their best to look innocuous, but it ends up looking quite distracting. The upper hands of the robot mode are also pretty obvious on their undersides. Without the robot limbs hanging off them the helicopters have a pretty sleek and nice-looking helicopter body, but as it is they look unnecessarily bulky. Both the main rotors and the tail rotors can spin. Vortex’s got V-1 tampographed on the side of his bright red cockpit and Swindle, rather nicely and subtle, has ‘$’. You know, because Swindle’s name starts with an S and he likes money… these two’s random tampographs are subtle. I don’t mind them.

Vortex, originally a gray helicopter, ends up being gray and dark blue here, with blood-red windows and energon weapons. He looks pretty good if subdued. Swindle, on the other hand, sheds his G1’s darker tan for a couple shades of light brown, and between that and the orange windows, it makes him actually look a pretty good Sandstorm homage. I think he was actually thought as Sandstorm by some fan sites when pictures leaked. Overall, while Hasbro was trying to be all realistic with these two, I ended up rather liking their colours. A bit bland, yes, but I don’t think they’re ugly per se.

You can plug their two blasters under their wings or on their undercarriage, but not the middle hand assembly. The energon star is also removable. I do think that while clear plastic looks horrible, the addition of these additional splotches of colour does make them more attractive looking.

Robot Mode:
Swindle and Vortex’s transformation into robot mode is rather easy to do, and they’re pretty clean robots despite having their helicopter cockpit jut out forwards a bit too much. They have pretty nice articulation, with heads that can turn, ball joints on shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, and hinged ankles. Swindle’s colour scheme look a fair bit more boring in this setup as all the similar colours kind of blur together, whereas Vortex does look quite nice with the striking red on his visor and chest being a nice contrast from the grays and blues.

Their articulation is hindered somewhat by the helicopter tail just jutting downwards and dragging on the ground, though. The tip of the helicopter is hinged, but you won’t get anywhere far with it before it pops off. The helicopter rotors can neatly fold and waggle downwards out of sight, or you can have them splayed out and have one tip jutting out if you prefer.

Both Vortex and Swindle each come with an energon weapon assembly cast in clear plastic that serves as either the hand or the feet when combined into Bruticus. They can hold the entire four-barreled assembly, which looks unwieldy… but it can break apart as mentioned earlier. The two rifles look pretty great wielded in robot mode, and you can just set aside the center piece until you want to use him as a limb.

Also as Clay pointed out Vortex does look a fair bit like a less colourful Rotorstorm, so he’s graduated from being Vortex to going to my Wreckers shelf as Undercover Rotorstorm. So yay for that!

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 4/10 Could’ve been done better. The robot mode has the tail of the helicopter drag on the ground, and the helicopter mode is clunky and kibbly. Granted Vortex needs to turn into a limb block, excusing some of the problems here.
Durability: 3/10 The rotors are pretty loose – Swindle’s in particular like to pop off. The end of the tail section is also pretty fragile and pops off with the slightest pressure. I also feel rather insecure whenever I transform the small pieces of plastic that the ball joints are attached to.
Aesthetics: 8/10 Vortex, 7/10 Swindle. They’re pretty dull, but I like them in both the robot and alternate modes. They’re certainly not my favourite among my collection, but I do like how they end up looking even with subdued colours. Vortex is sorta prettier than Swindle in my opinion, though. As homages, while Vortex does pretty well, Swindle… doesn’t look like Swindle in colours or shape.
Articulation: 4/10 He’s decent articulation for a basic class toy, but the tail gets in the way of poses involving the legs.

Names: Brawl/Blast Off

The two tank moulds from the Energon Combaticon team (looks up… Kickback and Blight… definitely will not remember, having associated those names with other characters) gets repainted into Brawl and Blast Off. Brawl is, like Vortex, an obvious choice considering he shares the alternate mode, but Blast Off is a weird choice. I’m rather confused why Blast Off, who originally turns into a space shuttle, is the ground-bound tank, whereas Swindle, traditionally a jeep with a cannon, turns into an airborne helicopter.

Eh, whatever.

Alternate Mode:
Brawl and Blast Off turn into some kind of futuristic tank, and I do like how they don’t turn into the single-turret battle tanks so common amongst Transformers but instead anti-aircraft tanks. Both of them have pretty convincing tank bodies, with a rather messy-looking cockpit attached to it with two swinging turrets on either side. The robot mode’s lower arms are pretty obviously not hidden like this, so you can attach the clear-plastic energon weapons, moulded like an additional pair of turrets (that can angle upwards on a very stiff hinge) with a radar dish. I’m not particularly a big fan of either look, since leaving it without the energon weapon makes it look ugly, whereas the clear plastic just takes up a lot of space and looks ugly. They’ve got energon stars on the center of their turrets cast in clear plastic as well. I do like how on the sides of each turret are moulded cannons, making the tanks pack a fair amount of firepower without looking like it.

Unlike Vortex’s blood red and Swindle’s orange, neither Brawl nor Blast Off really match their clear orange plastic colours and they stand out pretty terribly. In tank mode Blast Off is a nice shade of maroon with a lot of gray parts and some details picked out in black and red, and while it’s a pretty neat-looking paint scheme the random neon orange just clashes with it. Brawl is even worse, painted in a rather faded shade of green that looks pretty unattractive. His turret and the smaller pods around it is painted in a different shade of faded green, and Brawl in general looks pretty bad and anemic, even though painting him in a generic military green would’ve worked so much better. And with the orange stuff added on? Ugh.

Blast Off’s main decoration is a black star on the center of the tank’s “hood”, and the letters ‘B’ and ‘O’ on either side of the treads (which, while eye-searing, isn’t too obvious considering the dark letters on the dark background. I do quite like how Blast Off looks in this mode, even if the paint on mine has been scraped off slightly due to time. Brawl, on the hand, has 1MJ9 which is 733t-speech upside down for BRWL, and it’s painted in large, black letters. What’s worse than these irritating random decals is them in ‘cute’ 733t speech.

Robot Mode:
I’m not really a big fan of the tank mould’s robot mode either. They look pretty awkward with their massive clown feet, and while having shoulder-mounted cannons isn’t a bad look aesthetically, the pile of cannons are kind of set on the same plane with the head and it’s kind of distracting. Blast Off still looks nice in this mode, showing a lot more dark purple and silver, though Brawl is the same mess of faded greens and grays. I’m also not a big fan of how a big chunk of tank parts just bunch up randomly on their chest. Their tank treads sort of splay out to form wings that can jut out sideways or backwards, which I thought is nice, and their turrets end up as wrist-mounted weapons.

They have some nice articulation, basically your standard retinue of head-shoulders-elbows-hips-knees-ankles, plus the ever-elusive waist joint. They can also hold their energon weapons as oversized radar cannon things, though they look awkward considering they already have arm cannons. I’m not really that big of a fan about the tank robots.

Also, my Brawl seems to have some bad painting that causes one of his eyes to look smaller thanks to blocked light-piping. I thought this is cool, giving him an Armada Demolishor-esque look.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 5/10 Pretty m’eh. They could’ve relegated more mass to the feet and less to the chest and made a cleaner-looking robot. Their limb modes is basically their tank modes with the energon stuff attached, too.
Durability: 8/10 Both Brawl and Blast Off doesn’t really have any really loose parts, I’m just pissed that some of Blast Off’s paint applications has eroded away.
Aesthetics: 8/10 Blast Off, 3/10 Brawl. Blast Off is a pretty spiffy little tan tank, and again, like Vortex and Swindle, manages to look nice while being subdued and quasi-realistic. Brawl is just a bland looking mess that looks less attractive than a cookie left in the open for far too long.
Articulation: 7/10 They’re pretty articulated for basic class toys, I have to say, and unlike Vortex and Swindle have no hindrances to them.

Bruticus Maximus

Combined together, the Combaticons form… Bruticus! Or, rather, Bruticus Maximus – they haven’t secured just ‘Bruticus’ as a trademark, apparently. Bruticus is formed with Onslaught as the center body, with the four other Combaticons either forming arms or legs, and their respective energon weapons forming the fists and feet. I do like how Onslaught’s torso and Bruticus’ torso are different, and I do quite like the Retrax-looking robot head of Bruticus Maximus’ head. It’s not the best head out there, but over time I’ve grown rather fond of it.

The helicopters need to transform a bit before turning into a limb, which requires you to move the chest and arm assembly down to expose the combiner peg. In hand form, the energon weapons are just plugged in because they already sorta resemble a giant, karate-chopping hand, wheras in leg mode you have to rearrage how the pistols face, but otherwise it’s a rather sturdy feet as well.

The tanks, on the other hand, is just the untransformed tank mode plugged into with the energon weapons while it functions well as feet, as a hand the tank’s energon weapon leaves a lot to be desired, looking like a rejected grabber claw from an arcade game. I generally display Bruticus with two helicopter arms and two tank legs, because he looks better that way. Actually, now with Vortex abandoning the Combaticons to be Rotorstorm I’ve taken to putting one of the Aerialbots as an arm – Bruticus looks nice like that as well. If you have the Constructicons you can mix and match even further. I do think combiners look better with limbs that don’t look entirely identical, so there you go. Thanks to the combined paint scheme he does look a little dull, but I rather prefer this version of Bruticus over the really loud Energon iteration.

He’s surprisingly poseable and stable, thanks to Onslaught having pretty tight joints and forming a pretty solid torso. Whichever robot becomes the arms and the legs, Bruticus can bend his knees, swing his hips, have some limited waist articulation, raise his hands up… granted he looks kind of shit whichever mould you use for a hand – clear plastic and having to double as weapons will do that to you.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Fun: (as a set) 8/10 Despite being pretty sub-par showings as individual toys, the Combaticons do exude a kind of charm that can be found in older toys, and they really are fun little dudes to muck around with. Their combined form is extremely stable especially compared to how shit Superion is, and I’ve certainly gained a new appreciation of them after taking them out of display for years.

Price/Value: (as a set) 3/10 Hard to say. I got him at retail price – while two of the moulds are the same and they aren’t the most stellar of moulds individually, Bruticus is still a pretty solid gestalt and is worth the price. However, with the release of a bunch of third-party upgrades meant to replace Blast Off and Swindle, as well as new heads and backpack for Bruticus, this set has received an unexpected increase among second-hand buyers. Depending on your stance on third party toys and whether you want to use them to upgrade Bruticus, the price of this set varies wildly.

Overall: (as a set) 7/10 They’re certainly flawed, and have started to show their age. Individually neither of the Combaticons impress beyond ‘oh, they’re cool but I can point out a half-dozent hings that annoy me’. But Onslaught and the helicopters do have pretty solid robot and alternate modes despite their flaws, and their combined form of Bruticus is easily the best combiner I’ve owned. I do find them more proportional compared to the recent Fall of Cybertron offering (which look pretty lanky thanks to Onslaught being the same size as all his limbs), and while the rather pale, non-G1 colours and mould designations may turn off some potential buyers, I still consider them a fun enough set. Probably not worth it at the price these things are going thanks to third-party influences, and with other options for Bruticus on the horizon he’s hardly necessary… but if you can manage to find one for cheap it’s pretty nice.
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