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Numbat's Review: Ironhide

Name: Ironhide
Function: Autobot Weapons Master
Subgroup: Dark of the Moon Mechtech Leader Class

Ironhide is a veteran Autobot soldier. He relies on knowledge gained from countless skirmishes with the Decepticons to persevere in battle. He chooses Mechtech weapons for their adaptability and power – the Decepticons don’t stand a chance!

Ironic bio considering Leader Class Ironhide is perhaps the only figure not to have any Mechtech weapons in the entire main Dark of the Moon (DOTM) line...

However, let’s backtrack and start this review at the beginning.

Ironhide has been a favourite character of mine since growing up with the G1 cartoon. He’s a rough-and-ready practical type that compliments Optimus Prime’s more considered and restrained approach well. Unfortunately, he was cursed with one of the poorest G1 toys (a terrible disappointment as a child!) which was not only ridiculously simplistic (even by the standards of the day) but also failed to bear any similarity to the animation model whatsoever... It was, perhaps, a damning start for the character in the Transformers Universe.

Although not matching the multitudinous toys of other characters originating with G1, Ironhide has appeared as a character in a number of subsequent lines despite his rocky start, and his inclusion in Michael Bay’s live action Transformers films with little alteration to his G1 character perhaps reflects how important a counterbalance he is to Prime. The fact Ironhide is afforded increasing screentime in each of the three live action films, resulting in him being the third most important Autobot (excepting Sentinel Prime) in DOTM is testament to just how accessible and loved his character is.

I was very pleased to hear Ironhide was to be amongst the Autobot ‘cast’ in the 2007 Transformers Movie (TFTM), replacing Arcee at a late stage. (Of course, Arcee was later used to ill effect in Revenge of the Fallen [ROTF]). Ironhide as a hefty black GMC Topkick pickup seemed an absolutely perfect combination of character and alternate mode for me (I love practical 4x4s). Ironhide’s bulk and arm cannons made him a formidable screen presence, and his practical character made for both light comedy moments as well as totally awesome action sequences. He went on to have some of the most memorable action sequences in the three films during ROTF and DOTM, and received decent character development in DOTM particularly. Of course, he was also subject to an unexpected, shocking and brutal death in DOTM – which I think indicates that Michael Bay liked the character, and appreciated that he was well liked by the cinema-going public. After all, Bay insisted that characters that died in DOTM would remain dead (a common criticism of both previous films, and ROTF in particular), and while studios were unlikely to allow him to write-off series lynchpins like Optimus Prime or Bumblebee, Ironhide was the next most major Autobot character – in retrospect, he was the prime candidate for death in DOTM.

Movieverse Ironhide has been represented by toys in every size class now. His initial TFTM Voyager Class figure was one of the best toys from the line, and still stands up well next to more recent Transformers – however, it did have its flaws (a tricky and loose chest transformation, skinny robot mode and arms and cannons which just hung under the Topkick mode in full view...). His ROTF releases were simply retools of the TFTM Voyager mould, but a brand new Deluxe Class Ironhide was released as part of the Hunt for the Decepticons (HFTD) line – and this figure actually captured Ironhide’s bulk, and hide both arm cannons in Topkick mode completely (frankly, this is a cracking figure). DOTM saw a new Voyager Class Ironhide with a fresh mould, that seemed inferior to the original TFTM figure and was studded with Mechtech ports (destroying the alternate mode) to boot. However, DOTM also saw the release of a Leader Class Ironhide – which was quite unexpected and very exciting!

Being a fan of the character and loving the Movieverse design, it was practically a given that I would buy DOTM Leader Class Ironhide, so long as pre-release photos weren’t horrendous. Thankfully, the online photos weren’t too bad, and Clay kindly picked me up DOTM Leader Class Ironhide and sent him across the Pond. As it happens, the photos just don’t do him justice!

Alternate Mode:

Ironhide transforms into a modified GMC Topkick pickup (which has been available since TFTM as a limited edition Ironhide Topkick – if you happen to have the money to collect limited edition trucks...). DOTM Leader Class Ironhide measures in at 9" (23cm) long putting him at around 1/29 scale in GMC Topkick mode, and looks frickin’ awesome. But, regarding the practicalities of a Topkick...

Now, I am a big fan of practical 4x4s, and the Topkick seems to be the God of such beasts – if only it weren’t for the 7mpg fuel economy. 7mpg is in no way practical. Seriously. My Land Rover Defender 90 does 32mpg, and is probably more capable than the Topkick. But, moving on... It is a gorgeous looking pickup. There are few Transformers with an alternate mode that really captures my imagination. I do like cars, and trucks more-so, but really nice 4x4s that are not designed for the school run and fail as soon as they hit snow have me sold straight away. So, yeah, I really like Ironhide’s alternate mode, even if I can’t condone the piss-poor engineering of the engine. A Leader Class figure is probably as close as I can get to the real thing!

Leader Class Ironhide does not disappoint in Topkick mode. He’s big, chunky, and packed with detail. While most of him is molded in black plastic, HasTak have gone all out with transparent plastics for the various lights on the front – five blue lights picked out in transparent blue on the roof, headlights and foglights in transparent white and indicators in transparent orange. Painting the lights appropriately would be one thing, but coloured transparent plastic? That’s really over-and-above, and looks absolutely fantastic!

The Topkick’s windscreen and door windows are also clear transparent plastic. As is often the case, the use of transparent windows is risky, as it does reveal robot parts – namely the fists and connecting sections for the arms. However, the fists have been well designed to resemble seats in this mode, while the dull grey of the connecting sections do not draw too much attention. The rear side windows are simply cast in black plastic, while the rear window is largely black with a single light grey bar running down the middle. The latter feature is unfortunate, as simply casting this piece in black would have provided a greater unity for this mode, but the light grey does really stand out. The same grey is used for the exhausts, which is far less obtrusive.

The rear lights are not molded in transparent plastics, but are at least painted red, with silver paint outlining the fittings. Silver is used to highlight features on the front of the truck as well, while the GMC letters are picked out in red. ‘4x4’ is picked out in silver and red on either side of the pickup bed.

Ironhide’s wheels are quite good fun, with the central alloys being cast in jet black while the tyres are a slightly brownish metallic black colour, giving the impression of dirt.

Of course, the alternate mode would not be complete without ‘Road Armour’ molded into the front bumper, and an Autobot insignia molded into the tailgate.

The only notable drawbacks to the alternate mode lie with the robot kibble visible from the side. The Topkick has a relatively high ground clearance, but this has been used to ‘hide’ Ironhide’s legs and chest – most of which is molded in teal plastic, which does stand out a little... There are also small pieces of grey plastic visible under the front wheel arches that are part of the robot mode detail, although they could be passed off as part of the shock absorbers, and are not too intrusive.

Overall, Ironhide’s Topkick mode is a fantastic display piece – the robot kibble is generally hidden from most angles, so although it is visible, you have to be looking directly side-on to see it. The Topkick makes for a great display piece.

Ironhide also has some nifty features in Topkick mode – his cannons. Just like the HFTD Deluxe Class figure, DOTM Leader Class Ironhide can reveal his cannons in Topkick mode. Simply pull the exhausts back, and the guns flip up out of the roof! Unfortunately, the roof panel hiding the weapon in the lefthand side is quite loose, and will flop open if you hold Ironhide upside down... Although upside down does seem quite an unnatural orientation for a GMC Topkick, so this oversight can be easily forgiven. I love the flip-out-weapon feature in Topkick mode – it’s great fun without compromising the alternate mode.

Finally, on to Mechtech ports. There aren’t any. Not a single port to be seen. Which is [i]fantastic[i]! The DOTM Voyager Ironhide was ruined by Mechtech ports pock-marking his Topkick mode, and it’s a great relief that this flaw was not repeated on the Leader Class figure.

Leader Class Ironhide delivers well in Topkick mode – but all Ironhide figures have delivered at least a serviceable alternate mode. It’s the robot mode where they have often fallen short...

Robot Mode:

Leader Ironhide’s transformation is quite simple – bordering on the ridiculous for such a large figure in this day-and-age – although it just avoids this. Of course, you probably wouldn’t think this if you attempt to follow the instructions – they’ll have you scratching your head about what is in actuality a very easy arm transformation. In fact, DOTM Leader Class Ironhide actually has a simpler transformation than the TFTM Voyager Class figure and even the HFTD Deluxe Class figure! But, there is no need for a large Transformer to be overly complex, of course – what matters is if the transformation is interesting and fun to do, while producing a great robot mode from a top-notch alternate mode. Ironhide achieves the first two, while falling just short on the third. The transformation is so fun and fast, frankly, that I can’t help myself – I have to convert him back and forth, unlike any other Leader Class figure I own (where either one mode is too poor to often bother with, or the transformation is complex enough to consider before beginning to transform). Not only is he not fiddly, but everything locks into place – including that ever pesky chest! Also, unlike many Movieverse transformers, the reverse transformation (robot to Topkick) is just as straightforward and easily completed, although can throw up problems for the uninitiated...

When reversing the transformation, back from robot to Topkick, the most important thing is to make sure that the slots on his forearms are securely tabbed into his back (they're quite snug, but one corner of the tabs has been rounded off to make it easier) and to ensure that the tabs on his wheels are both fully inserted into the small slots next to Ironhide's head (there is a tendency for one to pop out after getting the second in as until the cab sides are down, these parts are quite loose). Then flip the cab sides and windscreen into place and carefully tab them together. Certainly on my Ironhide, I find everything lines up quite easily if I make sure those arm and wheel tabs are all fully secured first. Whenever the cab panels aren't quite lining up, I turn Ironhide over and 100% of the time so far it has been because one of those wheel tabs has come loose whithout me noticing and before I've flipped down the cab sides.

Moving back to the robot transformation...

The resulting robot mode is imposing and very bulky – DOTM Leader Class Ironhide stands 10” (25cm) tall and is 5 ¼” (13.5cm) across the shoulders! He is, perhaps, the best proportioned Ironhide we’ve had, and his shoulders do not sit overly far back compared with some other incarnations, while his arms and legs are both chunky. The robot mode is packed with moulded detail, alongside smooth angular armour panels, while the head is big and beautifully sculpted (definitely the best Movieverse Ironhide head sculpt I have seen!).

Ironhide’s head is black with gold details and a grey mouthguard which can flip up for battle, while his upper body is largely black with details picked out in silver and gold, with some parts moulded in dark grey/teal and light grey. The wheels fold perfectly into the chest, giving mass to the body while following the curve of the silhouette perfectly. Ironhide’s upper arms are a light grey, while his lower arms are black with gold details and metallic teal fists. A small Autobot insignia is printed in silver on his waist. The only niggle I have with the colours on Ironhide’s chest is that it uses false truck radiator grills – in fact, Leader Class Ironhide is the only Ironhide I own that uses any significant false vehicle parts in robot mode (I can’t comment on DOTM Voyager Ironhide). I am all for false parts where there is a clear reason that improves the toy, but I am sure that Ironhide could have been designed to use the actual Topkick grill at this scale. However, as the false grills have been moulded to match the actual Topkick mode grill perfectly I could have overlooked this random design shortcut if it were not for the fact that the false grills are dark grey/teal as opposed to black! Why Hasbro did this, I do not know. Still, it is a relatively minor niggle, and the robot mode does not suffer much for it (although there is, of course, the real Topkick grill hanging off his back...). In some ways the dark grey / teal plastic used does help tie the robot mode together a bit with the legs...

Movieverse Ironhide has been cursed with teal trousers in all other incarnations, and the DOTM Leader Class version is no exception. It is such a marked contrast, given the colour is not really used in the upper body, that it is a little annoying, but something I can live with. Some panels have been painted black to imply that they are part of the Topkick bodywork (unlike previous Ironhide toys, none of the leg parts actually form a visible part of the truck mode). Silver and gold also picks out a few details. I would have liked to see a little more painted detail on the legs (they are jam-packed with moulded detail) – especially a few more black panels – but, frankly, they do look pretty great the way they are. The leg silhouette is also marred by the truck wheels protruding from the inside of the lower legs. The actual CGI model has these wheels at the hips of the robot mode, while would no doubt be difficult to achieve – although if it could be achieved, surely the Leader Class figure would be the scale in which to do it? Accepting that the wheels would be difficult to arrange in the correct location on a toy, other figures have successfully hidden them (or attempted to) at much smaller scale – TFTM Voyager Class Ironhide moves the wheels behind the leg, out of view, while HFTD Deluxe Ironhide hides them beneath his feet (a very nifty design). It is disappointing that the designers of DOTM Leader Class Ironhide did not even attempt to prevent the wheels from breaking the otherwise excellent leg silhouette.

It is also a shame that HasTak’s designers continue to lumber Movieverse Ironhide with long human-like feet, when they should actually be chunky splayed messes of metal to take his massive bulk. I think HFTD Deluxe Class Ironhide delivered the most movie-accurate feet of all, but DOTM Leader Class Ironhide reverts to the older tendency of the human shaped design. Furthermore, they are half encased in the rear end of the pick-up bed, which does detract a little. However, they do tie in well with the figure and do the most important job – they provide a very solid and stable base on which to balance the figure.

Moving on to kibble, DOTM Leader Class Ironhide does have quite a lot. In particular, a large amount of the truck bodywork ends up folded under Ironhide’s forearms, which damages the silhouette considerably – it just hangs there (much like TFTM Deluxe Bonecrusher, although better designed and less intrusive). There has been no attempt to have the kibble on the rear of the figure arrange itself in a vaguely coherent manner either – a section of the truck bed just hangs off his backside between his legs, while the cab folds upwards leaving a loose ‘spine’ jutting up from this butt-flap. It really is quite a mess, but fortunately Ironhide’s rear kibble makes less of an impact on the robot mode when viewed from the front than do his forearm kibble or the wheels on his legs. Still, on a Leader Class figure, the rear kibble could have easily been designed to fold away more coherently – a couple more hinges would have done the trick. A little more thought may also have found a more sensible place for the excessive forearm kibble.

Moving on from unfortunate design flaws, let’s get to the positives – weapons, weapons and more weapons!

DOTM Leader Class Ironhide is blessed with an immense armoury, not at all marred by the ridiculous Mechtech accessories plaguing the DOTM toy line (admittedly, these are great for playability with kids). Ironhide does have boxes on his forearms, although these are not so large as to look daft (unlike the underarm kibble) – in fact they are remarkably small, considering when you pull the exhaust out his elbow his trademark arm-mounted mega cannons pop out! While his left arm has some form of massive laser cannon, his right arm carries the Gatling gun I now associate completely with Ironhide – he’d be naked without it! There has been a small tradeoff between size of weapons and ability to fold out of view – they are a little small for him, but toy designers are constrained by the physical world, while the CGI model takes liberties.

Adding to the arsenal of firearms, pressing a lever on Ironhide’s back causes a massive rotary laser cannon to emerge from his chest, complete with red lights and sounds! This is actually a really cool touch, regardless of film accuracy or not (it doesn’t interfere with the film accuracy of the mould when the chest is shut, and the way his chest opens is pretty nifty!). And, just in case all those weren’t enough, a spring-loaded missile launcher emerges from underneath the armour panels on his right leg!

Of course, being the Autobot’s weapons-master, Ironhide needs to be able to handle himself in close-combat hand-to-hand scenarios – how is the Leader Class figure equipped for these eventualities? Again, very well indeed! His fists (which are very nicely sculpted) have electronic knuckledusters similar to those used by Batou in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, while a large hunting knife is stored under the armour panels on his left leg!

DOTM Leader Class Ironhide is the most weaponised Movieverse Leader Class figure, and ready to take on heavily armed Decepticons such as HFTD Leader Class Starscream and TFTM Leader Class Brawl / Devastator!

And all without a hint of actual Mechtech weapons – there aren’t even any Mechtech ports in sight! – while still delivering massive play value for kids and adult collectors alike. Hats off to the designers on this one!

As is the way, Leader Class Ironhide also talks, and has a marginally better voice-box than most Movieverse figures, falling just short of the fantastically characterful phrases HFTD Leader Class Starscream is blessed with. By pushing a leaver on the back of his head, Ironhide’s battlemask drops momentarily and he says ‘Ironhide here,’ or ‘Weapons ready.’ And, of course, his eyes light up. You can use the lever to simulate speaking with the battlemask much like MP-04 Convoy. The facemask can be locked down, out of the way, by securing the lever in its forward position – unfortunately the spring mechanism likes to pop the mask back up anyway, and it can take a bit of patience to actually lock the battlemask out of the way. It is easy to flip it back in place – you can either use the lever on the back of his head or, if you’re in a hurry or Sentinel Prime suckerpunches the poor fellow, press the big silver panel on his chest.

Ironhide is not particularly blessed with articulation – he is built like a brick! However, he is perfectly capable of striking a decent range of power poses, and his ankles are very well designed to securely retain a level base and solid balance for this bulky figure. In all, DOTM Leader Class Ironhide has 13 meaningful points of articulation – but they are all tight and allow for a wide range of unrestricted motion (with the exception of the head which has limited swivel due to the electronics and facemask). In all honesty, although the level of articulation does sound low, you don’t notice – it is very well designed. The only articulation I would like to have seen added are rotating (or ball joint!) wrists and a rotating waist (which could be engineered if the rear kibble were better handled). It would also have been a bonus if the fists could be opened (I appreciated individually articulated fingers are something of the past).

While writing the review, I realise that objectively there seem to be a lot of negatives associated with DOTM Leader Class Ironhide. Why then, do I love the guy so much? Well, I think it’s because of the character – he is handled well in the films, second only to Prime and Bumblebee – coupled with the solid and heavily weaponised design. And you know what else? The transformation. It’s so enjoyable without being overly complicated that DOTM Leader Class Ironhide is something of a rarity in the Movieverse line – a Leader Class figure with good modes that you will actually pick up and convert regularly without a second thought. Still, there are a few glaring issues with kibble that could have easily been resolved without adding to the overall complexity of the figure, and it is only this lazy approach by the designers that has led to DOTM Leader Class Ironhide falling short of the greatness so nearly within his grasp.

There are better Leader Class figures out there, but my heart prefers Ironhide, who has become my second favourite Leader Class toy (HFTD Leader Class Starscream still takes the cake – objectively and subjectively). Whether or not he will find a space in your collection, though, depends utterly on your emotional attachment to the character or love of his Movieverse design. Do consider the positives and negatives discussed objectively in this review before shelling out the cash on the guy.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 6 – Ironhide’s transformation is remarkably simple – far less complicated than even the HFTD Deluxe Class Ironhide figure. Although enjoyable, and so tempting to play around with, I can’t help but think it could have achieved a better robot mode with really very minor tweaks.
Durability: 10 – Ironhide is built like a brick s*£t-house.
Fun: 10 – Ironhide is really great fun – the pop out arm cannons (which can also be used in Topkick mode), chest cannon, hidden knife and missile launcher, retractable battlemask, two great modes, fantastic stability... This toy totally delivers in the fun stakes – and then some!
Aesthetics: 7 – The GMC Topkick mode is perfect, and super detailed. The robot mode also looks fantastic, and has the bulk that many other Ironhide figures lack. However, the truck kibble interferes with the silhouette on the arms and between the legs, and I am sure this could have been better designed at this scale. For example, the rear kibble could fold upwards, out of the way (if nothing else), and the rear wheels could have been engineered to slide out of view (if not into the proper location at the hips). The arm cannons are also a little small, although I totally understand that this is necessary given the constraints of a physical toy. Finally, I’m not certain false truck radiator grills are required on the figure, and while the ones used are a perfect match to the real ones in mould, it’s such a shame they are cast in a different colour (dark grey/teal as opposed to black) – in fact, I’m not quite sure why Hasbro got so fixated on teal as a major colour on Movieverse Ironhide (legs in particular...). However, despite the nitpicking, this is a decent figure in the looks department. He is incredibly imposing!
Articulation: 7 – Ironhide has an adequate level of articulation, but is built somewhat like a brick, and is limited to power poses. That said, he displays beautifully.
Value/Price: 8 – Although Leader Class figures are at the second-highest price point in the line, I do feel that a good figure at this scale offers better value for money than Voyager or even Deluxe Class. At between £34.99 and £49.99, you get a lot of play value and two excellent modes with Leader Class Ironhide, while his design means he’s readily playable for the target audience – kids!
Overall: 8 – Leader Class Ironhide is a really fun figure. While his robot mode leaves a little to be desired, and could have benefited from a slightly more complex transformation (which could have been achieved without much affecting the overall simplicity), he does look awesome and has lots of great features. He is remarkably addictive, and captures the bulk of Ironhide like no other figure. I’d highly recommend him to Ironhide fans, and happily place him as the second best Leader Class figure to have been released as part of the DOTM line (Sentinel Prime is better, objectively, although my heart prefers Ironhide).
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