REVIEW: G.I. JOE PURSUIT OF COBRA - A.W.E. STRIKER VEHICLE
Generally speaking, when you think of the most prominent four-wheeled vehicle for the G.I. Joe team, you're most likely going to think of the VAMP. And that's not inappropriate. First introduced in 1982, the first year of the Real American Hero, It has seen repeated action over the years, even to having a Cobra version or two of it done over the decades.
But there is another vehicle in the G.I. Joe Motor Pool that has seen extensive use since its initial introduction, and it's back again, in a very cool color scheme quite unlike anything seen before, and with an all-new character as its driver. I'm speaking, of course, of the G.I. JOE A.W.E. STRIKER vehicle!
Introduced in 1985, the A.W.E. Striker (A.W.E. standing for "All Weather and Environment" -- and based on the package to the new one it still does) looked as much as anything like a military version of a dune buggy. Molded in a military green, it had a large cannon mounted to the top of the roll cage, a removable motor cover, turning front wheels, and it came with a driver named Crankcase, who according to his file card lived up to his name by being an excellent driver, but also a real grump because he perceived the entire world around him as moving in slow motion relative to himself.
The A.W.E. Striker, given the timing of its debut, would especially see extensive use in the G.I. Joe daily animated series, where it virtually supplanted the VAMP as the vehicle of choice for the G.I. Joe team.
The A.W.E. Striker reappeared in 1992, given the dubious honor of being recolored as part of the second year of the Eco-Warriors faction. You'd've thought it might have taken the warning of the Cobra HISS Tank, which got reworked into the "Septic Tank". Not exactly the finest hour for either vehicle.
The A.W.E. Striker was now the Eco-Striker, molded in a rather intense blue with a bright yellow roll cage, and a sticker on the hood that read "Eco-Striker" in bold red letters, surrounding a globe image, all bordered in yellow and looking more than a little like the Captain Planet logo, at least stylistically.
After this moderate embarrassment, the A.W.E. Striker temporarily defected over to the Stargate toy line, where it was turned into a one-seater in order to accommodate the larger figures based on the original movie.
The A.W.E. Striker returned during the 2002-2006 era, appearing alongside some traditional-style figures, including at one point in a multi-vehicle-and figure set. These versions had interesting color schemes, including one in all black, and another in an interesting black and grey camouflage scheme. The top gun, which in its original form, did not fire, was replaced by weapons more in line with the assorted gimmicks prevalent at the time, including spring-loaded missiles and sound effects.
The A.W.E. Striker was returned to its original glory as much as possible for the 25th Anniversary line, where it was once again presented in its original green color scheme, and came with a 25th-style version of Crankcase. Around the same time, there was a second version of the A.W.E. Striker, molded in an entirely new but impressive color scheme -- desert tan -- not inappropriate for the vehicle at all -- and it came with a recolored 25th-style version of Leatherneck. This particular AWE-Striker was an exclusive to Target. Interestingly enough, the Leatherneck figure's uniform colors mirrored those of a Toys "R" Us exclusive Leatherneck from the original line. But it worked well together.
And now, the A.W.E. Striker is back yet again! Its survival is impressive. Except for the Eco-Striker and the Stargate version, it's never had to change its name. Several other vehicles over the years have had to do this, unfortunately, for one reason or another, generally involving legal issues over copyrights and trademarks.
The A.W.E. Striker still has its original molds. This is also quite remarkable, given the number of molds within the world of G.I. Joe (although this sort of thing is not unique to them) that have been lost, damaged, or just plain worn out. Look underneath this newest A.W.E. Striker and you'll see that it still bears a 1985 copyright date, which is credited to "Hasbro Bradley". This was not long after Hasbro had purchased the Milton Bradley game company.
So, what have we got with this newest incarnation of the A.W.E. Striker? Well, for starters, we have some packaging hilarity. The box is a good bit deeper than average. If you measure the depth of some of the recent G.I. Joe vehicle packages -- the Dreadnok Doom Cycle box is about 4-1/8" deep. The Cobra Ice Cutter box is about 4-3/8" deep. The A.W.E. Striker box is nearly FIVE inches deep, and they STILL took off one of the tires in order to wedge it in!
You might ask, "Why?" Why so picky? Another quarter of an inch and they could've left that other back wheel on. Well, it may have to do with a story I heard a few years back, which may be just as valid now, if not more so, than it was then. Certain retailers started to stock merchandise, including toy merchandise, by some sort of mathematical formula based on how much money they could make on a particular item relative to how much physical space that item occupied on the shelf. It's a wonder to me, in light of this, that really large items such as the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, or the AT-AT, or some other toy-based items of significant size, have even come out, and I'm sure we'll never see the likes of the USS Flagg ever again. There's only so much that can be reasonably charged for a toy before people are simply not going to buy it.
The other thing I'd like to know is how the heck they got the driver in place. I'll discuss the driver figure more at length later, but he was strapped into the driver's seat of the vehicle with those infernal transparent rubber bands wrapped around his hands and the steering wheel! How in the world did they do THIS!? I have to surmise that they strapped his hands to the wheel FIRST, then stuffed him into the driver's seat, and THEN attached the wheel to the dashboard. It's the only way it's physically possible!
Okay, as to the vehicle itself. It has been done mostly in black. This is not the first time there's been a black A.W.E. Striker. It saw one such version several years ago. However, the difference this time around is that the roll cage and front grill have been done in desert tan, and the top gun and engine cover have been done in military olive green! The end result is a surprisingly distinctive A.W.E. Striker. Technically, the color scheme is a semi-reversal of the desert-tan version from a couple of years ago, which had a dark grey roll cage, but there's obviously a lot more "car" than "cage", and there was no green on that particular version, so the distinctiveness of this one maintains.
I'll admit, I do miss the days when one got to assemble the entire vehicle. However, in fairness, this level of G.I. Joe vehicle is packaged in a window box, and displaying a boxful of assorted disassembled parts probably wouldn't be very good marketing. Nevertheless, apart from the fourth tire, there are a few pieces that need to be snapped into place. These include the top gun, and the antennae. I'll give you some friendly advice right now -- wait until you've got the labels put on the vehicle before you snap the antennae in place.
I will say that I definitely approve of leaving the antennae off of the vehicle for the purchase to assemble. If the width of the vehicle is a tricky matter, you can imagine the height issues when the antennae are in place. Without the antennae or the top gun attached, the AWE Striker is about 4" high. That goes to 5-3/4" when you attach the gun, and nearly 8" when the antennae are secured! Several of the other recent versions of the A.W.E. Striker have left the antennae in place, and just let them become curved in the box. The curved antennae are not necessarily a bad look for the vehicle, or even all that inaccurate -- but it can't really be the best thing for the plastic.
The A.W.E. Striker has a number of interesting built-in capabilities. All four wheels have a shock system built into them, which indicates -- it is designed to handle far rougher terrain than usual. The front wheels turn together. There's a little camera mounted to the passenger side of the dashboard, with a cable leading to the top of the roll cage. The implication here is that the camera controls the top gun, making whomever is in the passenger seat the gunner. The toy has no such actual connection, although both the camera and the gun can be moved on their own. But it's an interesting feature. While I don't follow military technology all that closely, I suspect it would be worth saying that when the A.W.E. Striker first came out in 1985, something like this was probably considered pretty innovative. These days, it's probably considered archaic. The gunner is probably controlling the cannon from his iPhone while downloading the latest hit song and texting his wife back home...
The headlights on the A.W.E. Striker are actually made from transparent plastic -- nice touch. The steering wheel actually turns somewhat. There's not a lot of painted detail on the vehicle, but then I wouldn't expect there to be. The vehicle has three main colors -- black, with desert tan roll cage and front grill, and military green gun and engine cover. It's a good color combination. There is some mud-like splatter on the tires and on the vehicle just behind the front tires, which I could do without, but it's not too bad.
You do get to put all but three of the labels in place yourself. The sides of the vehicle have a traditional G.I. JOE logo, with extended stripes, in place, and the hood of the A.W.E. Striker has the new G.I. Joe emblem, a sideways star with three stripes trailing inside a shield that's shaped like a condensed dog tag, placed on it. Fortunately, on my vehicle, these were neatly done. I'm fussy about label placement, and I prefer to do it myself.
Most of the labels that come with the A.W.E. Striker work very well. Two of them are superfluous right out of the gate -- the red tail lights. They're already painted on the back. A few of the other labels don't work that well, and I think they're pretty much carryovers from a previous release and someone just didn't catch it, because they're black lettering that would be placed on the black portions of the vehicle. For myself, I've never had a lot of luck with the "Watch Head" labels that are supposed to be wrapped around the top of the roll cage, but you might fare better than me on this.
The other labels all work out agreeably. Unlike the original A.W.E. Striker labels, and for that matter most G.I. Joe vehicle labels for the time, which used straight lines to represent text that, to scale, would've been too small to create given the technology of the time, the modern labels (and indeed, most G.I. Joe vehicle labels), do contain actual text on their various warning and caution labels. Such is the advantage of computer technology, I'm sure. However, the resulting labels are still virtually too small to read, unless one wishes a serious case of eyestrain, so as to what most of them specifically say will have to remain a secret of the creators and typographers at Hasbro, at least until they start offering a high-powered G.I. Joe magnifying glass. I have to admit, though, that the fact that you can tell there's actual text there, even if you can't quite read it, does lend a certain additional authenticity to the vehicle.
Now, let's consider the driver of the A.W.E. Striker, which has certainly had no shortage of drivers over the years -- Crankcase, Leatherneck, Pathfinder -- I'm not sure that's a record, but it's pretty considerable. However, this time around we have an all-new character, which is relatively rare for the G.I. Joe line these days. His name is NIGHT FOX. Okay, that's a pretty cool code-name. I've certainly heard far worse.
The file cards for modern G.I. Joe figures don't really go into the level of detail that they used to, but they're not too bad. They do seem to have increased from the movie-based line, at least. Night Fox's file card reads as follows:
Night Fox is the G.I. Joe team's special combat and operations expert. This former Navy SEAL takes control of challenging situations with tactical force and strategic impact, calling on a broad range of skills including marksman, explosives expert and combat diver. In the desert battle, he blasts through a Cobra blockade to weaken the enemy's defenses and open a path for his team.
I was wondering what a Petty Officer was doing in a desert vehicle until I got to that part about his being a former Navy SEAL. By the way, I'd like to once again commend whoever's been doing the character illustrations for the file cards that commenced with the movie-based line and are continuing with this post-movie series. The cards may not be as extensive as they used to be, but I certainly can't knock the character artwork!
So, what have we got with Night Fox? Well, his wardrobe certainly matches the vehicle. It's mostly black and tan. Night Fox is wearing a black, ridged ski mask, leaving him looking more than a little like Beach Head, a black, long-sleeved shirt, green fingerless gloves, tan trousers with green knee pads, and brown boots. Add to this a protective scarf around his lower face, that's sort of a green-gray, and a fairly sizable harness on his chest that has numerous pouches, and heavy ridged padding on his back. Night Fox is also wearing a separate belt with a holster in it.
I suspect the figure has been assembled from existing parts, but I really couldn't tell you who offhand. The head is likely either Beach Head or Shockwave (or Shock Blast to use his modern name). The rest of the figure -- I'm just not sure. But in fairness, the reuse of parts is nothing at all new to G.I. Joe, and the resultant figure is distinctive enough to establish an individual identity, certainly.
Night Fox doesn't have a lot of paintwork. Mostly around the eyes, which has been well done. There's a certain amount of shading on the harness, which has been decently done if looking a little too weathered for my tastes. The gloves and boots are also nicely painted.
While the file card doesn't go much into Night Fox's personality, I think it's fair to say that he's not someone you'd want to be on the wrong side of. Apart from his Navy SEAL training, making him among the toughest of the tough, he comes with an abundance of accessories that give the impression of someone who is abundantly well-armed and probably likes it that way. He has two gold-colored pistols, one of which will fit into the holster on his belt. He has a medium-sized gold-colored rifle. He has another rifle, a huge piece of equipment, that has its own tripod, and comes with a long ammunition belt.
One has the impression that Night Fox probably doesn't often have a passenger with him in the A.W.E. Striker. The seat is too full of his own stuff, and he's probably figured out a way to work the targeting camera for the top cannon and drive at the same time.
There are three additional accessories. A massive, squarish backpack that I initially thought was some sort of new attachment to the vehicle. I haven't the slightest idea what this might contain. Night Fox also comes with a helmet with a lowering scope. The helmet is not an especially good fit, although the scope is a cool feature. And he comes with a cap, which looks a fair bit like Shockwave's. It's a slightly better fit, which might indicate whose head this actually is. But honestly, neither piece of headgear is an especially secure fit, and I suspect could be easily lost. They're cool, and would doubtless work well on other figures in the line.
Night Fox is, of course, very well articulated, but he could have used a little more room around his ankles for the feet to move forward and backward a bit. They don't have a lot of space, and it can be tricky to stand the figure. He works fine as a driver, though.
The description on the back of the package for the A.W.E. Striker reads as follows: The A.W.E. Striker (All Weather and Environment) vehicle blasts over the desert sand. With its rugged suspension and highly responsive steering, this 4x4 glides over the toughest dunes and roughest rock trails in its path. Cobra forces are in trouble when the A.W.E. Striker arms its advanced cannon system and opens fire.
So, what's my final word here? The AWE-Striker is a cool and impressive design, and this particular color scheme works well for me. I'm pleased to see new characters being developed for the concept. The A.W.E. Striker is a proven vehicle, it looks awesome in this color scheme, and I believe any established G.I. Joe collector would be very pleased to add it to their collection. I certainly am.
The G.I. JOE A.W.E. STRIKER with NIGHT FOX definitely has my highest recommendation!