REVIEW: TOYS "R" US HALO EXCLUSIVE "ARMOR PACK" SPARTAN
Since their inception, the HALO 3 series of action figures from McFarlane Toys have had a distinctive feature -- a certain amount of interchangeable parts, at least among the various armored Spartan soldiers that have dominated the line.
This is due in part to how McFarlane Toys has designed the figures, which admittedly is also in keeping with how these armored soldiers have appeared in the game. There's a fairly basic Spartan body that pretty much applies to all specialized Spartans, the main differences between any of them being the chestplate, the helmet, and the shoulder armor.
McFarlane Toys has made it possible for these pieces to be swapped between figures. The only minor problem in this has been, really, that there isn't that much reason to do so. Now, you could buy a red ODST Spartan, and a red Scout Spartan, for example, and swap these parts out between them, but you'd still have a red ODST Spartan and a red Scout Spartan. In theory, you could swap just some of the parts between them, but frankly, who wears what is hard enough to keep track of as it is.
And I suppose it would be possible to take a blue Spartan, for example, and give it a red helmet, gold shoulder armor, and a pink chestplate, but I think the end result of that would be one very silly-looking Spartan who would probably get laughed right off the battlefield by both sides.
So while it has been possible to swap certain armor parts between the various and admittedly numerous Spartan types and colors that have come out since McFarlane Toys acquired the HALO license, there hasn't seemed to be a lot of practical reason to do so...until now.
A recent Toys "R" Us exclusive now offers HALO fans the ability to swap quite a bit of armor around on a Spartan figure. More significantly, that Spartan, and his additional armor, has a very unique color that I, for one, have never previously seen on any Spartan figure in the HALO line!
This special boxed set is called ARMOR PACK, and it features a Mark VI Spartan as a complete figure. The Mark VI Spartan is the same sort of Spartan that is also Master Chief, the lead playable character in the Halo games. However, where Master Chief's armor tends to be olive green, this Mark VI Spartan's armor is a color unlike any ever seen before.
While not given a specific designation on the package, I'm inclined to call it "dark turquoise". McFarlane Toys' Web Site officially identifies it as "Teal". It's certainly not the dark navy blue of some Spartans (most of which tend to turn up as Wal-Mart exclusives), and it's definitely not the very pale blue of some Spartans that tends to get listed as "Cyan". It's an entirely unique color.
Let's consider a little background on the Mark VI Spartan, courtesy of the, need it be said, highly specialized Web Site known as "HaloPedia":
The SPARTAN project was secretly commissioned to create an elite corps of supersoldiers who could stem rebellion in the United Nations Space Command colonies. These soldiers became the best weapon against the alien Covenant when war broke out. While Master Chief is the hero of the trilogy, other soldiers play a significant role in the novels and the prequel game Halo Wars. In an effort to raise morale as the war continued to sour for humanity, the existence of the SPARTAN Program is disclosed to the general public. The Spartans become heroes and veritable legends.
The most distinctive element of the Spartans is their special MJOLNIR armor. The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor is a technologically advanced combat exoskeleton system designed to vastly improve strength, speed, agility, reflexes, intelligence and protection of a Spartan-II supersoldier.
Created parallel to the SPARTAN-II Program, the MJOLNIR Armor is currently the most advanced piece of tactical military hardware in human hands. Each suit alone costs as much as a small starship. The brainchild of Dr. Catherine E. Halsey, MJOLNIR is Halsey's attempt to create a powered exoskeleton capable of taking full advantage of the physical capabilities of a SPARTAN-II. The battlesuit is constructed in overlapping layers. It is a sealed system, capable of extravehicular activity or operations in toxic atmosphere. It is hardened against EMPs and radiation, and has filters that are completely effective at removing toxins and bacteria from local atmosphere.
The armor's shell is composed of a multilayer alloy of remarkable strength and has been augmented with a refractive coating capable of dispersing a limited amount of Covenant energy weapons. The suit contains a gel-filled layer underneath a thick black armored bodysuit. The gel layer regulates temperature and can reactively change its density. The inner skinsuit is made of a moisture-absorbing synthetic material linked to an environment control computer and the occupant's UNSC-issue neural interface.
Each human being has a molecular fiber network called the nervous system within their brain. An upgrade to the standard Neural Interface is issued to all high ranking officers; another modified version of the neural lace is issued to all SPARTAN-IIs in the UNSC. This network translates electrochemical signals to digital code and routes them through an interface connection at the rear of the skull. Through this interface, the user's thoughts command the armor's movement and weapons; and input from the on board sensors comes directly to the user's mind. The synthesis of machine and mind is so fast that it is almost impossible to chart reaction time.
Sandwiched between the external armor and the internal padding is the most devastating weapon the suit carries: a layer of reactive metal liquid crystal. Woven by molecular tools into a superdense optical computer memory, this revolutionary crystalline layer forms a network, capable of supporting the kinds of artificial intelligence usually reserved for starships — a piggyback system. An A.I.'s personality and processing matrices can be carried by the armor and delivered to the suit via onboard storage in a crystal data chip no larger than a personal credit card. Such technology did not exist when work began on the Mark I prototypes. At the same time it is amorphous, yet amplifies force, doubling lifting capability and increasing reaction time by a factor of five. Unfortunately the system is so reactive that normal human beings cannot use the suit without injuring themselves. Only humans who have carbide ceramic ossification, a skeletal augmentation, such as a SPARTAN-II, can safely wear the suit.
The suit also possesses other features that enhance its wearer's abilities. It has numerous clips, belts, and magnetic holsters for the attachment of additional weapons and ammunition; an advanced Heads-Up-Display(HUD) linked to sensors in the gloves detects the type of weapon and devices held, and to project shield strength, ammunition count, a targeting reticule, waypoints, a radio uplink for communication, health monitoring and restoration system, regenerative food materials and other helpful data.
In its final phase the MJOLNIR battlesuit weighs half a ton, or 1000 lbs and when in use, is a fully neural-linked system. With an on board A.I using the human mind for parallel processing, the SPARTAN-II/MJOLNIR combination is designed to be the most devastating intelligence tool ever created.
And it looks really cool, too, and McFarlane Toys has done an excellent job of bringing it to action figure form. The figure is very highly detailed, and superbly articulated. The black undersuit is just as highly detailed as the outer armor itself, and the figure is extremely poseable.
Although the main character, known as Master Chief, wears olive green armor, a wide range of other colors have been seen throughout the games, including such relative oddities as pink and purple. Up until Halo 3, all of the various Spartans, regardless of the color of their armor, were identical in appearance to Master Chief. But with Halo 3, that all changed, as new specialties of Spartans came on the scene.
And that's where McFarlane Toys took advantage of these new Spartans for the sake of the action figures. I don't mean that to sound negative. Halo fans everywhere were only too happy to add Scouts, EVA's, CQB's, Hayabusas, and any number of other Spartans in any number of colors, to their collection. And although, as I said at the top of this review, the figures all featured interchangeable armor, there seemed little reason to really do so.
That's precisely what this toy is for. He comes with the helmets, chestplates, and shoulder armors -- the only real noticeable differences between one Spartan specialty and another -- for three other specialized Spartans -- and, as one would both hope and expect, they're all the same color as the basic figure.
This Mark VI Spartan comes with all the parts needed to convert him into a CQB Spartan, an EOD Spartan, or a Security Spartan. Let's consider each of those individually, briefly.
CQB - Says Halopedia: The Mark VI MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor/C variant, more commonly known as Close Quarters Battle Armor, and abbreviated as CQB Armor, is a type of United Nations Space Command ground infantry body armor.
The MJOLNIR Mark C variant was developed and tested at UNSC Beweglichrüstungsysteme (which translates as "My spell-check just broke down and cried) facility in Essen, Germany, and Songnam, Hanguk respectively, integrating both feedback and testing gathered from the Jericho VII theater. The intent of the MJOLNIR Mark VI Powered Assault Armor/C variant was to improve survivability in close combat, specifically by looking at alternate methods of K dispersal and improving joint mobility. .
As I said, the main differences between any of the various Spartan armors are in regard to the helmet, shoulder plating, and chest plate. HaloPedia discusses each one of these individually for the CQB Spartan:
With regard to the Helmet, it says: The helmet is very different then the Mark VI. It features a roughly "T" shaped visor with two large cheek guards. The top of the helmet is protected by black alloy that forces a protective brace on top. It somewhat resembles ancient Greek or Roman helmets- the shape of the visor is especially similar, and the cross brace loosely resembles the crest on a helmet.
The helmet is probably one of my favorite designs. It just looks effective, as much as anything. "black alloy" piece takes up a fair portion of the top of the head, while the rest is in red, except for a black band across the back that, unfortunately, on this figure, is a little sloppily painted. Nothing I can't fix on my own, except this sort of thing does bug me when I encounter it, and I really shouldn't have to do this.
With regard to the Shoulder Plating, it says: The shoulder pads are significantly lower than that of the standard Mark VI armor. They consist of a rectangular, slightly bent metal plate that is attached approximately where the deltoids, biceps brachii, and brachialis muscles converge. In actual combat, this would greatly improve the ease at which a SPARTAN-II moves the arms for close quarters combat, but expose the shoulders to greater damage.
Setting aside the anatomy lesson there, the basic description is accurate. These shoulder pieces are lower in placement than on the average Spartan, and are curved in shape.
With regard to the Chestplate, it reads: Like in most other MJOLNIR variants, the chest plate seems to be a plate of alloy attached to the existing Mark VI Armour underneath. It consists of an additional set of four plates fused together in the body, and a tubular object at the bottom part of the chest plate which could either be a handle or some sort of canister due to its shape.
The chestplate is also interesting in that is seems the most minimal of any of the chestplates, which I find a little surprising for a Close Quarters Combat specialist. You'd think you'd want more protection if you're going to get up close and personal with some of the scary alien freaks these guys go up against. There's a small knife in a sheath, but according to Halopedia, this isn't a functional weapon in the game. Nor can you pull it out of the sheath on the figure, even.
EOD - As one might expect, this stands for Explosives Ordnance Disposal, a legitimate military term. Says Halopedia: The MJOLNIR/EOD variant was created at UNSC Damascus Materials Testing Facility facility on Chi Ceti 4. The helmet was designed to channel the pressure wave of an accidental detonation around the user's head, significantly reducing the likelihood of decapitation in the event of an explosion. The MJOLNIR/EOD variant's pauldrons and chest plate were designed specifically to reduce the number of grabbing edges on the armor, decreasing the likelihood of dismemberment (well now, that's good to know!), and protecting Spartans during operations involving the handling of explosive ordnance [e.g., clearing/planting land mines, demolishing enemy structures/material and, or planting/defusing bombs].
The helmet is squared off with two separate eye pieces, rather than a bulky visor. They are more akin to a pair of goggles excluding the other MJOLNIR armor variants that are visor-adorned. In actual combat, this would highly increase protection to the face, but reduce the field of vision considerably. The helmet also has a single plate over the nose and mouth and a pair of rectangular objects along each cheek, assumed to be cheek guards and/or lengthy re-breathers.
The shoulders are large and rounded. They have been optimized for EOD missions and are designed to decrease the chances of dismemberment if the wearer were caught in a blast.
The chestplate is a bulkier version of the Mark VI armor variant. This design was most likely intended to increase wearer survivability in the event of a full-frontal explosion.
Indeed, the chestplate is fairly distinctive. It has a very angled look to it, angled down towards the front. One can see how it might at least slightly disperse the explosive impact of a frontal explosion. Still wouldn't want to put it to the test too much.
The helmet is also distinctive. Rather than a large gold visor, as most of the other Spartan variants have, the EOD helmet just has two gold eyeslits. Probably to keep as much of the head armored and protected as possible, and still let the guy see what he's doing.
SECURITY - One of the newest Spartan variants in the figure line. There's a pale olive version that's available at most stores that carry Halo (which seems to be mostly Toys "R" Us and Wal-Marts these days), and a silver version that was a GameStop exclusive.
The Mark V(m) MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor, also known as the Security Armor, is a variation of the UNSC MJOLNIR Powered Assault armor that has its unique appearance from all other permutations.
The MJOLNIR V(m) variant was manufactured in the Misriah Armory Facility on Mars in 2543, one year after the Mark V entered production in 2525. Like the Mark V, it has been upgraded to be compatible with all current generation MJOLNIR variants.
The helmet's most noticeable feature is the larger, more prominent "figure-eight" shaped visor which looks bug-eyed, and sort of looks like a fighter jet pilots helmet, although the mouth is covered the helmet is large with a small raised section on the forehead in the form of the Marathon logo. Wearing the helmet in the game will also add a small antenna and dial to the right shoulder.
The shoulder pieces are quite largely rounded, with a section with an upper center, trapezium-shaped arm guard going out the bottom and a rounded section above that.
The chestplate is identical to that worn by the basic Mark VI Spartan/Master Chief, although it does have the added feature of the antenna and device, which frankly looks like a large walkie-talkie. This actually attaches to the back of the armor near the right shoulder, an armor piece that is not really removable.
Technically, the toy does come with not only the helmet and shoulders, as well as the antenna and device, but also a chestplate for the Security Spartan. However, as this piece is identical to the one the figure is already wearing, think of it as a spare.
What I can't quite figure is precisely what function a Security Spartan would have in the game. Standing around standing guard wouldn't be a lot of fun. Maybe they guard prisoners? Break up some of those "Red vs. Blue" rivalries? Call off a Grifball game if it gets too noisy? Not really sure here.
I do like the helmet design. "Fighter Pilot" isn't a bad description, really, and it makes the helmet quite distinctive and maybe a little more plausible than some.
The figure is certainly well made. If I am critical of one thing, it's that some of the paint detailing is a little sloppy, and I've been hearing about this from other HALO fans. The basic paint is good, but some of the smaller details, including on some of the separate armor pieces, could have been a bit better.
One thing that's always struck me as a bit curious about the Halo figures is their basic height. The Spartans are roughly 5-1/4" in height. That's not really a scale used by anyone else these days. Even if the average Spartan is around seven feet tall, that's still too big for anybody in the 3-3/4" - 4" range, and brother, does that cover a lot of other action figure lines nowadays. That effectively rules out a team-up with DC Infinite Heroes, Marvel Universe, Star Wars, and G.I.Joe. It's also too short for the 6" range, which eliminates Marvel Legends and DC Universe Classics. They're close in height to some Power Rangers, but I'm not sure if we want to see that team-up. I've got no grief with either concept, but come on...
The figure certainly comes with enough hardware in addition to the various armor parts. He has two identical short rifles, two entirely different long rifles, and a couple of grenades. That should cover just about anything.
I do find myself wondering just a bit if this toy was sort of a last-minute exclusive. The Toys "R" Us logo is not printed on the box. In the past, it has been. There's a silver sticker on the window with an embossed reverse "R" and the word "exclusive" printed three times in a circle.
There are some other Armor Packs out there. Reportedly there's a dark blue one that is a Wal-Mart exclusive, and there's a Red one that I'm not really sure who it might be an exclusive to, that comes with a Red Scout Spartan that comes with additional armor to convert him into a CQB, ODST, or EVA Spartan. One additional set in the series is not an Armor Pack, but does an interesting take on the "Red vs. Blue" rivalry, by presenting a Blue Spartan and a Red Elite Combat figure. This one I've also seen at Toys "R" Us.
For myself, I'm happy with the one I got. No offense to the other sets, but I have enough red and blue Spartans around here. I certainly don't have any teal ones.
So, what's my final word? This is really impressive. For those that enjoy the HALO video games, you probably already know what an impressive job McFarlane Toys has done with the action figures. And here you finally have a practical application for those swappable armor parts, and in a distinctive color! That's a winner across the board as far as I'm concerned.
The TOYS "R" US EXCLUSIVE HALO ARMOR PACK Set definitely has my highest recommendation!