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Warcry's Review: DOTM Ratchet

Autobot Ratchet has dedicated his life to healing the sick and repairing the wounded. Every weapon he has ever carried has served a dual purpose as both a means of defense and a rescue tool. Even as he battles the Decepticons, his mind works overtime to process the most efficient means of saving his enemies lives once the battle is over.

Most of the Transformers who starred in the original live-action movie have gotten a lot of love in the toylines that followed. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Ironhide, Starscream and Bumblebee have all had a wide array of unique molds devoted to them at a variety of size classes, from Legends all the way up to Leader. Even Jazz, Barricade and Brawl have had toys in the 'premium' Human Alliance or Leader brackets. Poor Ratchet, meanwhile, has seen the same 2007 Legend and Voyager molds redecoed ad nauseam in each movie toyline. He did, finally, receive a new deluxe-class figure in the tail end of the Revenge of the Fallen line -- which, being at the tail-end of the line, was exceedingly hard to find. A lot of fans were hoping for a new, higher-quality Voyager or even Leader-class Ratchet in the Dark of the Moon toyline, but so far no such thing is in the offing. It looks like Ratchet's fans will have to make do with another new Deluxe, a figure designed to take advantage of the new 'MechTech' feature that is the unifying gimmick of the Dark of the Moon line.

Looking back at the Dark of the Moon line after the fact, It's easy to say that it was a failure. The MechTech gimmick was unpopular, and the resulting weapons were so large that the figures themselves are significantly smaller than toys sold in the same price point for the 2007 Movie and Revenge of the Fallen line. They're also quite a bit simpler, though whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is really dependant on which figure we're talking about. But poor unloved Ratchet's two previous molds were both sub-par, and even with all of the problems the DOTM line had it really wouldn't take much for this toy to be the best figure the guy received.

Alternate Mode: Ratchet's alternate mode is a Hummer H2 specially kitted out for emergency response operations. That right there gives him a leg up on the ROTF Deluxe, which for some reason turned into a military Humvee with an emergency vehicle paint job. Like a few other characters, Ratchet received a makeover for the third movie in the form of new paint applications. Previously Ratchet was almost entirely bright green, but the Dark of the Moon version of the character features a wide white stripe that covers his hood and the lower half of his vehicle mode. He also features black bumpers, wheels and roof rack. His windows are the typical transparent blue that most Autobots have, although it clashes terribly with the green.

Aside from the white stripe paint apps are very scarce, limited to some orange and red deco patterns on his sides, a red lightbar, painted headlights, painted rear windows and a red stripe right below them. His rims are unpainted, and so are the bank of lights on his roof and his taillights. Worse than that, the quality of the paint apps that he does have are suspect. The white on his hood (painted onto black plastic) is visibly different from the white on the rest of his vehicle mode (painted on green plastic) because it's not thick enough and the base plastic colours are still visible underneath. The orange "Fire Rescue E4" painted on his sides is even more egregious, because half of it is painted on top of the while stripe while the other half is painted directly into the green plastic. The green shows through the orange so clearly that it almost looks like a semitransparent water-slide decal. Hasbro has cut corners with paint applications for at least a decade now, but this Ratchet is the first figure I've owned that I honestly thought was ruined because of it.

Like most Dark of the Moon figures, Ratchet has several 5mm ports available in vehicle mode. They are meant as mounting points for his MechTech weapon, but any gun with a 5mm handle can attach to them. One of the ports is molded into his spare tire and is fairly unobtrusive. The other two are only revealed if you flip open panels on the vehicle mode's sides, exposing his feet in the process. But he looks silly no matter where you mount weapons on him, because emergency vehicles aren't meant to have giant guns attached to them like that.

Ratchet's alternate mode didn't have much work to do to be better than the previous versions of the character, but the terrible paint job scuttles that. I'd rather have the guy that turns into the completely wrong vehicle than this.

Robot Mode: Ratchet is a lot greener in this mode than he was as a vehicle. That's not really a good thing, because Movie Ratchet is a very, very bright green that isn't really pleasing to the eye. He does have a fair number of black parts, and his shoulders are mostly white because of the vehicle parts that wind up there. But unfortunately most of the white stripe ends up on the sides of his arms and legs, leaving Ratchet fairly plain from head on. The silver on his face and crotch are literally the only touches of paint added to the robot that weren't there in vehicle mode, and the end result is very, very bare. Like all Movie toys the figure features no end of sculpted detail, all of which goes to waste because it doesn't get any paint highlights.

That's a shame, because colours aside this is a very good figure. Ratchet has great articulation, even though his shoulders look by all rights like they should be rigid and cumbersome. His legs are especially well-endowed, with six points of articulation each. His double-jointed ankles mean that Ratchet has very good balance, too, in spite of the large backpack he carries around.

He also has the potential to be very heavily armed, if you'd like. In addition to his MechTech weapon (which I'll talk about shortly) Ratchet has pegs for 5mm weapons on both legs and he's covered in rails that are compatible with the 3mm clip-on weapons that were so common in the 2010 toylines. This is a pleasant departure from a lot of the toys I own from the 2007 movie and Revenge of the Fallen, many of whom not only didn't come with any accessories but couldn't use anyone else's either.

MechTech weapons are a bit of a laughingstock, but Ratchet has one of the best. "Best" is a relative term though, and really the only thing his weapon has going for it is that it's vaguely plausible as a weapon and doesn't look like a futuristic gardening tool. It's a large rifle with a thick disc-shaped section in the middle of it, and pulling on a lever will deploy a spinning saw blade from out of the disc. Unfortunately, the the saw doesn't lock into place when deployed -- it'll just spring back into storage as soon as you let go of the lever. Like most MechTech weapons it's big and cumbersome, and would look more at home being carried by a Voyager-class figure than by Ratchet.

Ratchet's robot mode is better than the vehicle, at least insofar as Hasbro haven't done anything to actively sabotage it. It's still far from perfect, though, and not free from the aesthetic issues that plague the vehicle mode. This toy (with a different MechTech weapon) was redecoed in red, white and silver a few months down the line, and I have a feeling if I owned that version I'd be giving him a glowing review. But as it is, the figure is plagued by problems that could have been easily avoided by spraying on another $0.15 or so worth of paint onto the thing.

Transformation Design: Ratchet is simpler than most of the Movie-styled figures I own, but in this case simplicity is a virtue. His robot mode isn't perfectly screen-accurate, but it's close enough that I can't really tell the difference unless I'm comparing it to the CGI model. 7/10

Durability: A blocky toy by Movie standards, Ratchet has very few parts that threaten to be as breakable. The panels that become his backpack in robot mode worry me a bit, but I think the bigger issue will turn out to be his roof rack and bull bars. They're made from a soft, light plastic and seem like they'd easily tear or crack if you were rough with them. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of kids who owned the toy have already broken those, but a careful adult should be fine unless the plastic turns brittle with age. 7/10

Fun: Earlier Movie toys have been criticized, not unfairly, for putting screen accuracy and complexity ahead of actually being toys. The Dark of the Moon line strikes a balance that leans more toward "toy" than "display piece", though, and out of all my Movie toys Ratchet is probably the most fun to fiddle with. 8/10

Aesthetics: Ugh. In this category, Ratchet is a big pile of what-might-have-beens, his legs cut out from under him by cost-cutting measures that made it impossible to do the on-screen design justice. The redeco is much better looking, but a red truck isn't Movie Ratchet any more than a black car with flames is Movie Bumblebee. If you're looking for a good toy you can find one with the redeco, but if (like me) you wanted him to be a good representation of the on-screen character...well, you're screwed. 1/10

Articulation: Ratchet has lots of joints and great range of motion. He's got great balance and (colours aside) looks good in any pose you can put him in. He's not perfect -- a hip swivel, a ball-jointed neck and better wrists wouldn't go amiss -- but he's better than most. 8/10

Price: Ratchet is a recent Deluxe, and one that flooded store shelves worldwide in summer 2011. I wouldn't be entirely surprised to find him in clearance aisles even today, and even online he's not selling for much more than MSRP. Price really isn't an issue here. 9/10

Overall: On balance, I think this actually is the best Movie Ratchet toy out there. That's not a hard feat, though, and this toy is seriously, seriously lacking. Ratchet deserves better, but I don't see that happening any time soon. He's so seriously flawed that I can't really recommend him unless you're really dead-set on having a buddy for your Deluxe-sized Ironhide. The paint job really hurts it, to the point where a toy that could have been really, really good is dragged down to the depths of mediocrity. 5/10
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