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Skyquake87's Review: Beast Hunters Optimus Prime

Name : Optimus Prime
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Nope. Not even the mighty Optimus has one.

Bio: The heroic Autobot Leader equips powerful new weapons and armour for the coming battle with the almighty Predaking! (US)
Super-Equipped Autobot Commander! (EU)

Oh, where to start with Transformers: Prime Optimus Prime? I can see what the writers were trying to do with the character – make him as kick ass as the film version but with the sort of fatherly personality of the original 1980s character, but what we got was a frustratingly repressed character. In his words and deeds, Prime Prime struck me very much as a dyed in the wool military leader, almost Victorian in his ways. Its perhaps the first time Optimus has truly been portrayed as such, and maybe that is commendable, but it just means he was a little distant and difficult to get to know. His true feelings on any given issue suppressed in favour of a controlled, calm response that sounded like he'd read it somewhere. Perhaps it was to make him sound wise and ancient, but it just gave me the impression of someone whom had followed a gentlemanly approach to war and was disappointed at where it had lead him – hiding away inside an enormous rock on a backward world whilst his home planet rotted and his army was scattered amongst the stars. His fine words and deeds being no match for the Decepticons brutality and pragmatism. Basically, I found him a bit dull. Annoyingly, he was frequently given pointless heroic things to do – the nadir of which was standing about in the Autobot base whilst Megatron reduced it to ash – something that pretty much did for him, had Smokescreen not literally hammered him into shape. At the climax of the series, having spent most of the finale flying through space to obtain a cosmic bauble of great significance (to go with the Autobots' collection of other cosmic baubles of great significance), it was felt the best thing to do with Optimus was have him plunge into Cybertron's core to something something. I think it was supposed to be a noble sacrifice, rather than a laughable closure for the character.

For the third act of Transformers: Prime, the toyline (if not the show) underwent a radical make over, becoming Beast Hunters. The promise of this being the Autobots and Decepticons having to adopt spiky battle armour to face the threat of the ancient and powerful Predacons – a race of near-mythical beasts that once ruled Cybertron, much like our own Dinosaurs. Expect far more intelligent. This was a return to the sort of colourful 'Extreme' aesthetic of the late 1990s action figure market, something Transformers had previously dallied with during Beast Wars final phase, the Transmetal 2 imprint. What it basically means is you get a lot of quite ugly looking toys and – if you like – a subtle seed planting riff on the natural world being something best treated as some kind of unwanted infringement on civilisation best dealt with all manner of painful looking weaponry. Optimus' new toy was one of the more sedate takes on this idea, largely being a more beefed up version of his original body.

Robot Mode: Its Optimus after heavy steroid abuse! Massive arms and legs and a tiny, grimacing head. The Voyager scaled toy pulls this look off very nicely, with the powerful looking proportions just stopping short of looking ridiculous. Whilst his arms and chest are nicely sculpted though, his legs are pretty dull looking planks. He doesn't quite match up to the animation model either, with his front wheels neatly tucked away, rather than poking out of his shoulder blades. Likewise, his rear wheels are stuck on the outside of his lower legs, rather than tucked inside them. Some faux wheels – coloured blue, hooray for that – do their best to try and capture the look – I wouldn't have bothered. Paint applications are limited to splashes of silver and some stabs of yellow, but these are well placed on his face, forearms, shins and chest. Some handsome translucent green plastics round out the palette and give some marvellous light piping. With his wings tucked out the way, he's quite traditional looking for a modern Optimus. He does have a bit of a kibbly back for this whole jet pack/ wings business, but it fits really well with this blocky version of the character. The weapons are good fun, the 2002 He-Man styled sword is very nice , if a tad compensatory and in the vein of those silly massive swords so beloved of Japanese pop culture. The two missile launchers/ jet pack things are decent bits of barrel shaped ballistics and do the job. He does however, feel incredibly cheap. 7/10

Alternate Mode: The vehicle mode is a tractor cab with a whole load of grey nonsense at the back. Its basically a big hulking slab of truck with spiky edges. The sword clamped to the roof does look a bit silly and you can deploy the wings in this mode for a flight mode. It's daft, but fun. The crippling thing is that the wheels do not roll smoothly at all and make this nasty scraping noise as if they've been fixed too closely to the chassis. As bulky and nicely chunky as this thing is, its also a mess of obviously folded up bits and pieces. 4/10

Transformation Design: One of the things that has impressed about the Prime toys has been the engineering. Optimus isn't a particularly great example of this however. It's a bit like the Classics Optimus, with the top half of the torso spinning around and the front wheels dropping out of the back. Everything is reliant on posts and holes to stay in place which is fine and at least keeps everything where it should be, It's quick and easy to do, so kids will have a whale of a time with this. The visible robot head is a bit of a let down though. 5/10

Durability: Despite the rough, pound shop feel to the plastics, Optimus feels very dense and tough. The shoulder pads are the only thing that are easy to pop off and lose. The soft grey plastics used for the wing assembly whilst not an obviously fragile part, could be easily damaged by the sort of person whom managed to decapitate Inferno and Grapple as a child. 9/10

Articulation: An excellent amount of joints give Optimus some superb poses to throw. His head turns, his arms have movement at the shoulder, biceps elbows and wrists. The legs have movement at the knees and hips, its all good. It's not mind blowing, but just what you need for play time. Unlike the earlier Voyager toy, ratchet joints have been used at the shoulders and knees and he has much tougher hip joints, so isn't prone to slowly doing the splits which is great. His massive feet also give him some excellent balance. 7/10

Fun: This great chunky rolling block of a 'bot is marvellous. He wont win any prizes for looks (certainly not in his vehicle mode), but he really nails it. He just commands you to pick up and play with him. He's a very tactile figure and feels really great to handle, despite the rough papery plastics – and that's down to the moulded details and the shapes on this thing. 8/10

Price/Value: In the UK, Prime has had a miserable time at retail and Beast Hunters has been an unpopular line so its now working its way to discount retailers. A brand new boxed version will set you back 12.99, which is a fair price I feel. None of the Prime toys have felt particularly worthy of their RRP (22.99 for Voyager figures such as Optimus here) and Hasbro really missed the mark with Beast Hunters, unfortunately churning out a selection of largely ugly and unappealing toys. 5/10

Overall: Whilst Optimus is fun to play with and is a nice chunky toy, the plastics do feel horrible – even in comparison to the Prime toys released a year or so previously – and he does have an aesthetic that wont be to everyone's taste. His saving grace is that he's a much more stable and solid toy than his Voyager predecessor and the bright colours also help give him a bit of extra appeal. He's not an essential purchase by any stretch though and you wont feel you're missing out if you skip him. 6.5/ 10
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