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Blackjack's Review: Beast Fire Predaking

Name: Beast Fire Predaking
Allegiance: Predacon/Decepticon
Size Class: Ultimate Class
Accessories: Tail/Infernum Blade, Crossbow (2x), Missile (2x), Wing (2x)

Ah, Predaking. The only other time the name ‘Predaking’ has been used in the franchise’s penchant to reuse names for wholly unrelated characters is for the combined form of the Predacons back in Generation One.

Now post-G1, the name ‘Predacon’ soon became the evil faction name, and it had since become synonymous with evil Transformers who transform into beasts. For me, personally, the Beast Wars Predacons are a fair greater influence, and thus they are who pop into my mind first when I hear or read the term ‘Predacon’ instead of the fairly less interesting Decepticon combiner team from Generation One.

Still, the term ‘Predacon’ saw little use after the short Robots in Disguise series, and while Decepticons that turn into animals are still around in subsequent franchises, the term ‘Predacon’ never saw much use other than G1 or BW material in the comics.

Of course, that changed with Transformers: Prime. Itself already an amazing amalgamation of most facets of Transformers lore, season three of Transformers: Prime was subtitled ‘Beast Hunters’, promising an all-new faction named the Predacons. Or so it’s supposed to go, anyway.

You see, while Hasbro toted around various Predacon characters among the toys, comics and advertisements, it appears that only one single Predacon actually appears in the TV show itself, namely Predaking. Who, to his credit, is one hell of an awesome-looking giant monster dragon robot out of hell. See, other than being a fire-breathing dragon, Predaking simply towers over every single character in the show. The physically largest character, Optimus Prime’s new winged form, is barely half of Predaking’s height, and other large characters like Shockwave or Ultra Magnus can be picked up by Predaking with ease. That’s before he stands up on two legs and turns into his robot form.

Suffice to say, the backstory of the Predacons in this continuity are basically the dinosaurs on Cybertron, if dinosaurs can be tamed and cloned and breathe plasma fire and transform into giant robots and beat the shit out of Autobots. And they’re all dragons. Of course.

Now while the other dragons in the toyline (Lazorback, Ripclaw, the Terrorcons et al) won’t make any fictional appearances in the show apart from some blurry cameos, Predaking’s presence is felt by anyone watching the show’s third season.

And so, being a ridiculously large fan of the Prime cartoon, I soon had nearly every member of the cast short of Predaking. See, the thing is, Predaking is huge. The Commander Class toy I owned is hardly even close to approaching what Predaking is relative to the rest of my collection, so that leaves the other two size classes: Voyager and Ultimate. I would actually be happy with just a Voyager… he wouldn’t be big enough, but he’s relatively cheaper. And I was planning to get the Voyager… but apparently several batches of the Voyager class toy are horribly plagued by soft plastic that warp and really hurt the toy. Fresh off the QC disaster that is Generations Blitzwing and seeing some rather nice discounts on TF: Prime toys, I finally bit the bullet and decided to go for the big one.

And thus, I bought Ultimate Class Predaking, or as his packaging would term him, “Beast Fire Predaking”. Now with Hasbro’s confusing rebranding of size classes, Ultimate Class Predaking is basically a Leader class toy, but a slight bit larger and more expensive. Hasbro size classes are kind of confusing!

Anyway, long story short, I’ve got the big Predacon King to complete my Transformers Prime collection, I’ve yet to figure out where the hell I’m going to put him, but hey, I’ve got a big metal dragon!

As a side-note, people who wish to purchase the Ultimate class Predaking will see him arrive in differing waves. In most international markets (Canada, Australia, Singapore etc) Predaking comes in the standard Beast Hunters packaging as part of the earliest waves. In US, he is instead apparently released under the ‘Predacons Rising’ subline without any changes.

Beast Mode:
Now Predaking’s beast mode is a ridiculously complex model, even in Prime’s standards. It’s no ROTF Devastator, but it’s still relatively complex even with the streamlined parts. He’s full of spikes and whip-like protrusions and spines and all sorts of awesome looking greebles and details that make a giant metal fire-breathing dragon look even deadlier and more threatening. Hell, look at his face! He’s got a ridiculous amount of spiky things between both his jaws. He’s a badass dragon, and he is.

Unfortunately, the toy has to take some design liberties with Predaking’s show model. If you bring up an episode of Transformers Prime which showcase Predaking’s beast mode (there’s a lot of it) you’ll notice that his rear legs aren’t the huge, armoured chunks, but instead they’re actually more or less identical to the lithe, dangerous-looking front legs. These rear legs, due to how they peg into Predaking’s main body, are also close to immobile. You can fiddle them around a little thanks to some robot-mode ball joints, but for the most part, Predaking’s rear legs are immobile. The only reason I could think for this is to provide a stable, unchanging point so you can muck around with Predaking’s front legs or whatever and not cause him to topple over, but it’s still kind of stupid. Making his dragon mode look like he’s got elephantiasis doesn’t really help either. The rear legs also have got these distinctive geared ratchet joints (which function as the robot mode knees) not even hidden, which again doesn’t help his appearance. His robot thighs and the tube-like things that his wings are anchored on also sort of hurt his silhouette somewhat.

Predaking’s tail… it just straight out, and is unarticulated. This isn’t really that much of a problem, but Predaking uses his tail like a whip a lot in the cartoon and I for one am disappointed this articulation isn’t present. The tip of his tail is also obviously a sword instead of the mean-looking mass of spikes and claws and jaws and whatnot. The show’s tail is also not as chunky as the toy’s, being a whip-like affair similar to that of Movie Scorponok or Ravage, but with obviously more meat. Oh, why couldn’t Ripclaw’s awesomely articulated tail be implemented here? I’m thankful that between prototypes and the final product that they got rid of the ridiculous orange on Predaking’s tail, though. Much more show-accurate in that aspect. I also really like how it pegs into Predaking angled slightly downwards, giving him a much more natural-looking tail instead of jutting straight out.

Also, Predaking’s head… is almost entirely black. The two rear-most horns are spraypainted orange, and four of the… fangs? Jawbones? Teeth? Whatever the hell those are. Only the ones on the front of Predaking’s lower jaw are coloured silver, when in fact that entire Batman-mask-like section of his face should by rights be entirely silver. His lower jaw should have a fair bit more orange and silver as well. Very lazy, Hasbro, especially considering that the Commander class toy had the face more or less accurately painted.

Also, Predaking’s central horn and his eyes are cast in a clear yellow plastic. The reason? Why, electronic gimmickry, of course! I am not a big fan of electronic gimmickry, and this one pisses me of for one reason: Mech-Tech. Or something similar to it, anyway… I associate gimmicks like these with the name Mech-Tech to make it simpler. See, you pull on a lever (that juts out off the left side Predaking’s neck) to cause his neck to move from ‘regal Mufasa’ position to a ‘roaring pissed dragon’ position. And that’s the only way the head and neck can move. Why? Just why? Why dummy out two of the most important articulation points in a dragon just so you can have light-up eyes? The light-up eyes aren’t even that good. It really is annoying.

And those are really the only problems Predaking has… and why does it have all these problems? Simple. It’s marketed at kids. Kids who really don’t give as much shit about show-accuracy as some nitpicking bastard like myself. And really, considering that fact, the only one that ended up pissing me off a lot here is the stupid neck gimmickry. If you want Predaking roaring (and I almost always do) you’ll have to prop the neck forwards by using something to prop up the gap inbetween the neck plates.

His flaws do take some getting used to, but otherwise he’s quite brilliant, and looks pretty damn majestic. Predaking is mainly coloured in two tones: black and orange. He's predominantly black, although the toy does add a few orange here and there to break up the colouring. I particularly like the orange on the front end of his neck, which kind of sort of represents the animation effect of Predaking's fire breath, which is a glow coming from his chest (presumably the reactor) up his neck towards his mouth. His paintscheme is mostly similar to the evil Decepticon dragon Scourge from Transformers Cybertron… except Predaking looks much more awesome by having more spikes, much more dignity and, most importantly, giant majestic wings. And the wings are simply awesome. The box totes them as being ’21 inches’ long. Being raised on the metric system I have no idea what an inch is, but I suppose that sounds long enough to describe how awesome Predaking’s majestic wings are, and I’ll just smile and nod.

The nitpicking geek in me would like to point out the inaccuracy here. Predaking’s wings should have two joints on each wing instead of the one on each like the toy has.

But anyway, his wings are great, striking orange with black borders, and the new Predacon insignia (based on Predaking’s dragon face) stamped in gold on the circle-like hinge in the midway of the wings. The wings certainly look awesome, and divert all attention to them, making you ignore the fat rear legs. The wings are articulated at three points – a hinge where it attaches to the main dragon body, a second hinge to adjust the angle the wings jut out (which is simply great) and one in the halfway through the wings, allowing Predaking to retract his wings when not flying or intimidating the enemy.

The wings detach easily at the base, but not that easily. It’s loose enough to allow them to pop off with a little excessive force, but still tight enough to support the weight of the King’s massive wings. They detach easily so kids don’t ruin the wings when they want to move it in ways they’re not supposed to bend, and so you can get to the battery casing much easier. I’ve got no problems with these.

Predaking’ articulated in the front legs as well. The front legs have more orange than they should, but since it makes for a far less monotone beast mode (all the orange, in the show model, should’ve been concentrated in the wings, neck and ribs). Predaking’s front legs are articulated at the shoulders (those giant spines point backwards in beast mode!), elbows and wrists, allowing for some awesome lunging or slashing poses. And while Predaking’s front legs’ claws aren’t exactly show accurate (this time, the overinflated rear legs have accurate claws – four facing the front) it’s really too much nitpicking on my part.

He comes with two crossbow-like weapons which peg onto the undersides of the outer rim of his wings, which look stupid. An alternative are the sides of his rear legs, which again look stupid. Predaking’s a fire-breathing dragon who, well, breathes fire! He don’t need none of this crossbow nonsense.

Scale-wise he's pretty massive compared to the Deluxes and Voyagers, again, due to the fact that he isn't very compact what with all the spines and neck and giant 21-inch wingspan jutting out of every part of his body. He's a little bit too small still, but he's a little bit too big for the Cyberverse figures. Plus Cyberverse figures are kind of shit. But he's more or less around the right size to muck around with the 'main' Prime collection whilst being affordable, and really looks great.

Still, he’s a humongous toy. He’s not as large as some of the largest toys I own, but he’s still pretty damn imposing with those giant 21-inch wings and, well, the simple fact that he’s a giant evil robot dragon. He manages to pull off looking regal (must be the Mufasa pose he defaults into because of the spring) and fearsome at the same time, fitting with his title as the Predacon King. He’s got some flaws, but none that are really deal-breakers.

Robot Mode: ”I AM NO BEAST!”

Terrorcons aside, Hasbro’s line of Predacon dragons transform with more or less the same method… stand the beast up on rear legs, fold the front legs into arms, do some adjustments to change the kibble and you get the robot mode. (Skystalker probably has the most ridiculous and laziest variation of this transformation.) It works, however, preserving articulation in both robot and dragon modes, and giving a visually distinct robot mode by hiding all the robot mode kibble on the dragon’s underbelly. Hey, if Hasbro can get away with having hood-in-the-chest for a hundred different transforming sports car toys…

Due to CGI magic, Predaking’s transformation in the cartoon yields a very kibble-free robot. There’s nowhere to tell where the dragon neck and head goes off to, or the whip-like tail, or how did the giant wingspan fold into two neat stubs on Predaking’s back. Well, the toy manages to replicate Predaking’s impressive robot mode to amazing detail. Just look at the amount of intricate detailing they did on his torso and abdomen! It’s really amazing, and I cannot stress how awesome his chest looks.

Predaking is modeled after a warrior king, and it shows. All his detailing looks like a suit of armor. His wings, whether folded or unleashed, act like some sort of regal cape. His build is very much powerful-looking, his massive shoulder spikes look nothing short of imposing, and more importantly the spines that adorn his helmet look like a crown. A king, indeed. Grimlock and his paper crowns can eat his heart out.

Predaking’s transformation is very, very simple, however. There are fewer steps to his transformation than Lazerback or Ripclaw, but it is very quick, very refreshing, and very simple. Nothing too annoying, everything just clicks in place. Any five-year old can transform Predaking.

Articulation-wise… Predaking lacks a waist joint, which ticks me off. But otherwise he’s pretty well articulated. His head turns. His shoulders and elbows are both on ratchet joints – which helps, considering how big he is. His hands have ball joints on the wrist. I really, really like his hands, which are modeled after Beast Wars’ Dinobot’s show hands, with three claw-fingers on the exterior and two on the interior. And these are, of course, articulated so Predaking can grasp whatever he wants to. Predaking’s thighs are ball-jointed on the waist and can rotate at the halfway point. The pieces of the armor skirt dealie he has are hinged so they don’t interfere if Predaking decides to kung-fu kick Optimus Prime. Predaking’s knees are…. odd. They’ve got obvious ratcheting mechanisms that they’re not trying to hide, and while he’s got these mean knee-spikes, if you fold the knee the spike doesn’t go along with it, instead staying on top of the joint, and it does give you a nice look at Predaking’s geared joints. Not the best way of doing it, I suppose. Predaking’s giant feet are entirely black (the silver dragon ‘toes’ point backwards) and are balljointed, although the nature of the ridiculously detailed spines and whatnot mean you don’t get too much traction out of these points of articulation, just enough to make his feet look natural.

Also to note, he’s got Cybertronian tribal hieroglyphs all over his body in non-symmetrical positions – the glyphs are on the inner, upper parts of his right leg and on the lower, outer parts of the other left leg, for example. These are carved in and are not called attention to, but I thought it’s pretty awesome detailing in the mold that adds some character to Predaking. And anyone who’s read my Beast Wars reviews will know that I’m big on asymmetry.

Note that some points on Predaking have paint that scrape off easily if you’re a bit rough in handling him.

He's still primarily black and orange, with some nice yellow detailings here and there (not enough to be show accurate, though). I’ll have to nitpick again that Predaking’s robot mode are missing some crucial paint applications. Parts of his ‘crown’, some of the large imposing chest pieces and those two giant shoulder spines are supposed to be orange. Also, random clear yellow central horn. Although considering that the animation studio probably changed some details between toy production (which was revealed before season three aired) and revealing the robot mode in the series, I’m going to let this slide.

Predaking’s wings are, like I said, nominally tucked backwards in robot mode, jutting perpendicularly from his back and folded down with movie magic. You can do this on the toy, of course, but my instinct is to allow these awesome-looking mothers to open wide like some sort of angelic wings (except, you know, on a demonic-themed evil dragon robot) or regal cape. Regardless of how you display his wings, Predaking still looks as awesomely threatening and powerful as ever. That awesome facesculpt doesn’t hurt either.

Predaking comes with weapons, of course. The show’s robot mode Predaking can transform his lower arm into a funky-looking blaster, but the toy instead gives you two crossbow-like weapons. They can peg onto the sides of Predaking’s forearms in a similar vein as Bumblebee’s wrist-blasters, or be held by the holes on Predaking’s hands. It’s unique, I suppose, although the missiles are ridiculously wonky and large and look out of place in the sea of spikiness that is Predaking.

They are also very powerful and can probably take out an eye if you shoot one directly into yours.

Predaking’s other weapon is his tail-blade, the ‘Infernum Blade’, which, according to the bio packaged with the instructions (which contains part whichever of the ongoing story told amongst the instruction pages ensuring you gotta catch ‘em all) is an ancient blade of unknown origins (it’s Predaking’s tail) that is coded to Predaking’s genetic signature (yeah, it better, it’s his tail), and only Predaking can lift it, all Thor-like. ‘A single strike can drain the energon from a victim, sending him into total shutdown’. So it’s a vampiric Mjolnir, wielded by a borderline psychotic rage-monster? Well, suits him, I guess.

Predaking’s tail is detailed with a nice spray of silver on the business end of the blade, and it looks pretty damn awesome. It’s a great accessory, Predaking can hold it in whatever way he chooses to, and the molding of the Infernum blade means that plugging it into the wrist-holes makes it look as if Predaking was actually grasping the handle of the blade. Awesomeness.

You activate the light-up feature in robot mode by pressing the clear button on the right side of his shoulder. It lights up his robot eyes, the central crest-horn thing and his chest, like it's a furnace or something. Oh, if only there's a Fallen toy with such a gimmickry... regardless, I still don't really like the light-up gimmickry, but it looks... okay, I guess?

Overall, I have to say that his robot mode fares a lot better than his beast mode by virtue of being much more cohesive and articulated.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 7/10 Predaking’s transformation is ridiculously simple, and I think it’s engineered so that a child can do it. Simplicity is not exactly a bad thing, although it does kind of makes me wonder if they went a bit too far with him, considering Ripclaw and Lazerback, both Deluxe class toys with similar transformation schemes to Predaking, had much more complex transformation schems. It makes him a really, really fun action figure if not a very show-accurate one. I really wished they found a workaround for the rear legs, however… how they ended up in beast mode indeed does support Predaking’s weight well, but they just look very silly as two giant immobile stumps.

Durability: 9/10 Paint chipping and scraping aside, Predaking is highly durable. He’s a simple action figure who doesn’t have a lot of small pieces or joints, so there’s not much for a child or a particularly Philistine adult collector to break or lose. The wings pop off very easily with force, but attach very securely… which is great. Kind of annoying, but helps the durability score a fair bit.

Aesthetics: 5/10 As I detailed above, Predaking has all the sculpting done well, but fails in the paint department due to having a lot of wrong details. It’s probably ignorable by people who don’t nitpick as much as I do – although the dragon head really, really begs for more paint. I have to say, however, that I do not like the giant rear legs in dragon mode, nor do I like the giant sword-tail.

Articulation: 3/10 Unsurprisingly, he fares pretty badly here. Partly due to the fact that his large rear legs have to support his considerable weight, but partly because of how simple he is. In robot mode he’s pretty decent, but he doesn’t even have a waist joint! His other joints make up for it somewhat, but it’s kind of annoying. Dragon mode… his rear legs are close to immobile, and so is his tail. His head can only bob back and front, and while it’s not as bad as it sounds it’s still pretty annoying that the head and neck assembly aren’t on a pair of ball joints… and this is done simply for the sake of the little gimmickry thing, which annoys me even further.

Fun: 8/10 He’s a giant metal dragon who kicks ass. Yeah, articulation might be a problem, but he doesn’t need articulation to be a good toy. He’s a frickin’ giant metal dragon.

Price/Value: 5/10 He’s a fair bit expensive, although after some time since his release, prices should drop somewhat. And for collectors with more sophisticated tastes, the simplicity might turn you off. But he’s still a humongous large toy at heart, with enough show-accuracy to please me in all the right places, and the asking price isn’t so bad due to how varied he is from store to store.

Overall: 6.5/10 Predaking has a fair bit of unexpected problems – his simple articulation and some compromised ones due to the electronic gimmicks, as well as a lack of show-accurate paint – but he’s still a damn awesome toy for both children and older collectors alike. However, I’m pretty sure he’s not to everyone’s tastes – the niche of giant transforming beasts isn’t for everybody, after all. He’s definitely not the best toy I own, but all things considered, I would still recommend Ultimate Class Predaking and his majestic-as-fuck 21-inch wingspan to anyone interested in this big mother of a dragon. He’s problematic, but he’s still fun as hell.
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