REVIEW: HALO - ONI OPERATIVE DARE FIGURE
I'll readily admit I don't play the HALO video games. I don't own an XBox, and I'm pretty awful at video games regardless. However, I have all the respect in the world for a video game concept that can manage to achieve the pop culture status that the HALO series has, in this day when it seems new video games come out about every three days, with themes ranging from blowing up a planet, descending to somebody's concept of hell, to the care and feeding of a puppy. That anything can rise to prominence amidst all of that is pretty darned impressive, and HALO, expanding well beyond the frontiers of its video game origins, has certainly accomplished this.
But, given a certain amount of admitted inexperience insofar as the video games are concerned, I can as such perhaps be taken a little more by surprise by some of what turns up in the action figure line produced by McFarlane Toys. McFarlane has produced a wide-ranging line of action figures based on Halo 3 and some of its recent sequels. They're even going back to some of the earlier designs at this point.
My own admitted preference is for the assorted armored Spartan troopers. I think this is a lot of people's favorites, and certainly McFarlane has aimed to please. There are standard Spartans -- including the lead character, Master Chief -- CQB's, Recons, EVA's, Scouts, EOD's, Hayabusas, and others, all in a wide variety of colors normally reserved for the paint department at the average hardware store. While I am not a completist, I have a fairly generous supply. Now, granted, I don't have a lot of other Halo figures apart from the Spartans. I have a couple of ODST's, one from the Halo game of the same name, especially the main playable character, the Rookie, and that's about it.
But imagine my surprise when I heard there was a FEMALE armored figure in the collection! Imagine my even greater surprise when I actually found her with no real problem. There she was, on the peg in the toy department. Wasn't about to pass her up, either.
Consider for a moment how relatively scarce female action figures are in the first place. It's gotten a little better in recent years, but they're still rather hard to come by, and generally speaking, they tend to be pretty well known when they are. Scarlett and the Baroness in G.I. Joe, Teela and Evil-Lyn in Masters of the Universe, Leia and Amidala in Star Wars -- you're not going to miss these characters.
So, I wasn't about to miss out on the first prominent female character in the HALO Concept. The figure is officially named ONI OPERATIVE DARE. And, I'll admit, I didn't have the slightest idea what that meant. Fortunately, there's a Web Site out there, actually called HaloPedia, that offered assistance in this area. It turned out I had to check two different entries to get my information -- one on "ONI", and another on "DARE".
ONI is an acronym, which stands for "Office of Naval Intelligence". It is the intelligence service of the United Nations Space Command Navy. Its formal name is the UNSC Military Intelligence Division.
The Office of Naval Intelligence is a division of the UNSC Navy that is responsible for UNSC SIGINT [signals intelligence], HUMINT [human intelligence], counter-espionage and propaganda.
Although it is under the jurisdiction of the Navy, ONI appears to report directly to HIGHCOM. It is responsible for intelligence matters across the UNSC. As such, ONI employs members of other military branches, and even civilians, to complete the Division's shadowy work.
Many of its functions and subdivisions, like the Beta-5 Division and the SPARTAN-III Program, are enigmatic, and its personnel are regarded as mysteries by mainstream naval officers. ONI personnel, especially officers, are often referred to as "spooks". Agents appear to enjoy significant latitude in the discharge of their duties, often violating moral boundaries or acquiring vast amounts of UNSC resources to achieve their ends.
The Office of Naval Intelligence often operates independently of other UNSC branches. At times it contravenes the law and UNSC protocol to complete top-secret missions. It appears to have an unusually large amount of military equipment for an intelligence service, and has a strong fleet presence. The Office of Naval Intelligence possesses a "destroyer"-class prowler Starship, the UNSC "Point of No Return", which is used as a command vessel and a secure conference location. ONI also maintains the UNSC's Prowler fleet, a major source of Covenant deployment intelligence, under the auspices of the UNSC Prowler Corps. ONI also manages field intelligence with units such as ONI Recon 111 liaising with mainstream UNSC military units.
Intra-ONI dynamics are often strained with intense competition amongst its own personnel. Agents operate under heavy scrutiny with mistakes often leading to demotion or termination of employment.
Well, they sound like a fun bunch. So, where does the name "Dare" fit into this? It is the last name of one Veronica Dare, an ONI agent. HaloPedia had this to say about her.
Veronica Dare is a Captain in the UNSC Navy and an Intelligence Officer in Section One of the Office of Naval Intelligence. During the Battle of Earth, she took command of a Shock Trooper squad led by Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck.
Section One, according to HaloPedia, is the main branch of ONI and the branch most often utilized by the UNSC. Information released by Section I includes evacuation notices for colony worlds and Covenant force deployments.
Veronica Dare was a graduate of a Naval Academy, likely the Officer Candidate School on Luna, which led to her eventual posting with the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Some years prior to the Battle of Earth, she was in a romantic relationship with Edward Buck and was, for a time, assigned to the UNSC Say My Name as an Intelligence Officer. It is also stated that she took part in the Battle of Reach, along with Buck.
On October 20, 2552, during the Battle of Earth, a large ODST force was to be inserted onto the Prophet of Regret's Assault Carrier stationed over New Mombasa. Dare however, was under orders to perform a classified mission in the city and she needed a squad of ODSTs for it. Dare requested a particular ODST squad from an unnamed Admiral aboard the UNSC Say My Name to partake in her mission. The admiral was hesitant at first, but was forced to fulfill her request, seeing she was actually an ONI Section One operative and therefore did not report to the Fleet..
Moments before the ODSTs' drop, Dare, wearing an ONI's Recon variant of the ODST armor, took command of the squad led by GySgt Edward Buck, causing some confusion among the squad members, and told him that attacking the Carrier was not their mission anymore. During the drop, she ordered the squad to change their Drop Pods' course at the last moment so they could perform her mission, just as the ship entered Slipspace, damaging the city and releasing a large EMP wave which disabled the pods' electronic systems and scattered them around the city. Dare's pod landed in Tayari Plaza. However, she was stuck in her pod, so she radioed Buck for help. But when he arrives at her location, her pod is empty; he presumes her dead when he sees her helmet in the grasp of an unknown contact. Thinking it would kill Buck, Romeo kills it and in the resulting explosion her Recon Helmet is launched through a window and into the TV screen where the Rookie finds it later.
Six hours after drop, Dare was revealed to be alive, having made her way to sub-level 9 of the Superintendent's data center. Following her trail was the Rookie; Dare was surprised to see him. With him, she makes her way to the core, explaining to the Rookie that their original mission was to retrieve crucial information that the Superintendent has on a seismic anomaly prior to the Covenant invasion. The mission, however, would've been suicide to go alone, as Dare needed a team behind her. As there were only two ODSTs battling through Covenant forces, Dare was impressed with the Rookie, amazed he survived alone in the city.
When they got to the Data Center, she discovered an Engineer that she initially believed was trying to harm Vergil. Upon further investigation, she had realized the Engineer was actually trying to help the Superintendent by repairing it. Her investigation also led her to believe that the Engineer was assimilating the Superintendent's data in order to help the UNSC discover the Covenant's intentions for the city. With the data secure inside the Engineer, the Rookie and Dare began an attempt to evacuate it to the surface.
The trio rendezvoused with Buck, who had figured out where Dare was, just as the Brutes start swarming the core. Once they reached an elevator, Dare punches him in the face for "abandoning the mission". Buck complained that she was missing and his squad was scattered, only for Dare to spontaneously kiss him for coming back; they both became embarrassed with the Rookie and Vergil looking on. Upon getting back to the surface, already a Covenant armada comes out of Slipspace over New Mombasa. Dare was dismayed that Buck neglected to mention it; he snapped that he was too busy watching out for Vergil; they argue to the point where Dare confesses that she'd thought she'd never see him again. Vergil then grabs their attention by getting into an Olifant, fixing it and honking its horn. They make their way across the coastal highway to Buck's stolen Phantom, allowing the squad and Vergil to escape the city, as the Covenant began to glass it. As they flew away, Buck asked Dare if they can have a relationship again; she held his hand and told him, "Win this war, then ask me that again".
A month later, Admiral Terrence Hood grants Sergeant Major Johnson clearance to interrogate Vergil as to what the Covenant wants on Earth. Dare warns him to be gentle with their ally. As they enter the room, Vergil was in the process of accessing the Covenant Battle Network, which the squad was unable to comprehend as to how it maintains a remote connection. Johnson tossed the Engineer his lighter; Dare warns him that the creature is very flammable; Johnson cut straight to the chase, telling Vergil to answer his questions as to why the Covenant is "digging".
Okay, so, with all of that -- how's the figure? Extremely impressive! One thing I noted right off is that the helmet is NOT removable. Not too big of a deal there, but for those curious as to what Ms. Dare looks like unhelmeted that haven't played the game, I recommend her entry on HaloPedia. Based on the picture shown, she's a youngish woman with a determined expression with dark blonde or light brown hair tied back with a headband. Definitely looks like a no-nonsense sort who would have no compunctions about putting any far-larger Spartan in his place that gave her grief.
Speaking of height, the figure is quite -- petite. She's about 4-3/8" in height. This is comparative to the ODST Rookie, who is more like 4-5/8", and any typical Spartan figure, who tends to be around 5-1/4". But then, the Spartans are big guys, that's long been established.
The helmet, in keeping with the character's backstory, is definitely a Recon variant. I've got a couple of Recon Spartans here, and the helmet design is extremely similar, especially the visor, which tends to be something of a giveaway on the various Spartan helmet designs. The rest of the body armor is extremely similar, if scaled down somewhat, to that of the ODST Rookie figure. It lacks the protective shoulder armor, and the chestplate has been -- well, shall we say it's been given certain accommodations for female anatomy. But the basic design principles are nearly identical.
There are some amazingly intricate markings on the figure. I've heard several other Halo collectors comment that McFarlane Toys really seems to have raised certain quality levels with this figure, and while I didn't really have a lot of gripe about before, there are certain evidences that this comment is accurate. One of them would have to do with the uniform markings.
Both the helmet and the chestplate have the word "DARE" printed in white. There's a number "035" on the front right side of the helmet, and a tiny sequence of numbers above the "DARE" on the chestplate that -- well, where did I put my microscope? Credit to McFarlane for managing to put numbers this small on something, but don't expect me to tell you what the numerical sequence is.
Also on the chestplate, printed in black, is the pre-Halo 3: ODST emblem. This description also comes from HaloPedia, where a larger version of the insignia can be seen. It looks something like a very stylized eagle, perched atop a sphere that has a triangle within it, and an eye inside the triangle. A ribbon at the base of the sphere reads "Office of Naval Intelligence" It's an impressive logo, and it has been reproduced very nicely on the figure.
Obviously, given the nature of the figure, this is a completely new figure from head to toe, and she has been rendered superbly well. The armor is mostly evident on the chestplate, a large backpack of some sort, lower arms, upper legs, and thick boots. The upper arms are relatively unarmored.
The sculpting level is nothing short of astounding. None of these figures are smooth-armored Clone Troopers. They're more like gritty high-tech military soldiers, plausibly extracted from our own military forces to a fair degree. There's straps, buckles, snaps. gadgets, doo-dads, ridged armor plates, the works! All of this has been very nicely sculpted across the entire figure.
Just as impressive is the paint work. Here is one area where sometimes the Halo figures come a little short. I'll admit I'm not fond of the paint-wash "in-lining" of the armor segments on the average Spartan figure, but I've gotten used to it. And, it's not present at all on Ms. Dare here, which is fine with me. But more seriously, I've too-often encountered some sloppy detailing on some Spartans, a rather obvious indication that certain areas have been paint-detailed by hand rather than through a stencil or mask. That's something that I dislike intensely regardless of what company does it or what product it appears on.
It would appear that our esteemed ONI operative is free and clear of such problems. All of the detailing is superbly well done -- the helmet visor, the works. There is a certain amount of camouflage on the armor segments that looks superb. All of the snaps and buckles and such have been painted in silver with almost frightening neatness and precision. I've already mentioned some of the stamped insignias and such, but there's a couple more, very small ones on her armored gauntlets. It's all just incredible.
Articulation of the figure is excellent, and even better, it all works without difficulty. Nothing is too loose. Nothing is stuck. I've had occasional problems with both in the past on Halo figures. Ms. Dare is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The mid-torso articulation point works well and looks good given the design of the figure. The wrist joints do not seem quite as fragile as those of a typical Halo Spartan figure. The overall construction structure of the figure is somewhat different than I have seen before, especially with the arms and legs. Ms. Dare seems designed in such a way as to allow for easier, more practical movement than some of her larger, male compatriots in the line. On the whole, between design, paint detail, articulation, and so forth, I would readily hold this figure up as a shining example of McFarlane at its best, and what they should seek to aspire to across the entire Halo line.
Any complaints? Well, just one -- although it's less of one for me than it may be for other collectors. ONI Operative Dare comes with two accessories, a pistol and a rifle. Unfortunately, she's not terribly capable of holding either one. The figure's right hand is clenched in a near fist. It's a little open, and it's an impressive sculpt job, really, but it's too tight to allow her to hold either of her weapons. The left hand appears more designed to do so, including an extended index "trigger" finger, so perhaps Ms. Dare is left-handed. However, the hand is a little too open to easily hold either of her weapons and expect them to stay put.
For me, this isn't a big deal. I'm not in the habit of displaying my figures with their accessories. That's why I go through so many Ziploc bags as I do. But I do know and understand that a lot of action figure collectors do like to display their figures fully armed, and certainly the Halo figures do look impressive when toting some of their very well-made hardware around. To what degree this problem might be a deal-breaker for some Halo figure collectors, I don't know. But I will say that it SHOULDN'T be. This is a cool figure whose purchase should not be at all dependent on whether she can pick up a pistol.
So, what's my final word here? Hey, you don't have to be a Halo player to recognize a cool figure. I'm certainly not, and I'm truly delighted that I purchased this figure. She's clearly part of the Halo universe, but is also something a little different. She's also extremely well-made. Most of the "usual worries" that some fans might have about a Halo figure are entirely absent here. This is a great figure, and any HALO fan will be abundantly pleased with her.
The HALO figure of ONI OPERATIVE DARE definitely has my highest recommendation!