REVIEW: HALO 3 TOYS "R" US EXCLUSIVE ORANGE SECURITY SPARTAN
It honestly never ceases to amaze me that with the astounding plethora of video games available today, that any single concept -- that wasn't pretty well established before the modern popularity level came rushing on, such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or whatever -- can manage to climb to the top of an ever growing pile of computer technology and really succeed far beyond its original format. And yet, some have managed to do this. Not many, but some.
And certainly very close to if not at the top of that pile must be HALO. I'll be honest, I've never played any of the games. I don't own an XBox 360, and I'm pretty horrible when it comes to video games anyway. But it's certainly a fair statement that HALO has gone well beyond the boundaries of its video game origins and become a well-known pop-culture phenomenon in its own right. There have been novels, comic books, a DVD of animated adventures, building toy sets, and, of course, action figures.
With the onset of HALO 3, the action figures have been produced by McFarlane Toys, and while my opinion of them has been at times variable, they have certainly done a masterful job with HALO. The figures are well-detailed, well-articulated, and the line has certainly been extensive. Although numerous characters, aliens, and what-have-you have been produced, the core of the line remains, for me, anyway, the various Spartans.
These are the high-tech armored warriors of the Halo concept. The best known among them is, of course, the green-armored Master Chief, the core playable character in the Halo games. But there are others. Different specialties, different armors, and certainly different colors of armor. And sometimes it seems like McFarlane Toys is determined to make them all.
I am not a completist when it comes to Halo Spartans. This would be a virtual impossibility. One would have to be on the one hand a die-hard Halo enthusiast, on the other hand have astounding luck, as well as financial and other resources of considerable influence, and on the third hand be perhaps not entirely sane, to be a Halo Spartan completist. The sheer number of store exclusives, including Walmart, Toys "R" Us, GameStop, Hot Topic, Spencer Gifts, and for all I know Billy Bob's Feed and Bait Shop in East Gatortrap, Mississippi, coupled with a number of international exclusives that never saw the light of day in these United States -- make being a Spartan completist a project for someone -- well, other than myself.
So the question then might arise -- how many Spartans is enough? Well, when I saw a Toys "R" Us exclusive Spartan, in a seldom-seen color of armor and after giving him a general visual inspection to make sure that he looked to be in decent overall condition, I decided that the answer to that question was, on this particular occasion, anyway -- one more.
So, how's the figure? Really cool, but then I expected no less. The figure in question is a SECURITY SPARTAN, a type that is somewhat more recent than some of the other types of Spartans that have been in the HALO line, and as such hasn't seen as many variations to date. I found some background information about Security Spartans on the Web Site known as "Halopedia":
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 a 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.
Additionally, this Toys "R" Us exclusive Security Spartan had ORANGE armor. This is unusual in two aspects. Most of the previous Toys "R" Us exclusives have had brown armor. Maybe TRU got sick of being associated with that color. Secondly, orange is a color that has generally been used for international exclusives. Its first domestic use was for the 2009 San Diego ComiCon exclusive, which was a "Grifball" Spartan. Needless to say, seeing an Orange Spartan of any sort on the toy shelves caught my eye, even if he was the only Halo figure on the shelves.
The three things that differentiate any given Spartan type from another are helmet, shoulder armor, and chestplate. This not only makes it easy for the toy manufacturer, it also makes it a little easier in the game, I assume, to swap between one type and another if one so desires. I'm certain that it was a lot easier on the game designers...!
The chestplate is actually not that uniquely distinctive. It's really the same one worn by Master Chief and the other "basic" Mark VI Spartans. One thing did catch my eye, though. below the chestplate, which is technically removable, is a smaller armor piece which is not. This is actually attached to the figure's torso. And over the course of collecting Spartans, I have seen some figures where this small piece was horribly askew. And since it's glued into place, there's not a thing to be done for it. On this particular Spartan figure, it's very neatly aligned, and I commend the factory worker who assembled this figure for that. How much did it influence my decision to buy the figure? Maybe a little...
The shoulder armor is quite large, and looks multi-sectioned, although it isn't actually. It has a small rounded section at the top, a large, protruding center section, and a large lower section that tapers down almost to the elbow. These are removable pieces. On my figure, the one on the left arm has a tendency to remove itself whenever it feels like it, which is moderately annoying, but hopefully nothing a little Elmer's Glue can't remedy.
The helmet is interesting. A lot of the Spartan helmets tend to have some angular properties in their appearance, but the Security Spartan helmet is very rounded in its overall shape. It almost looks like a fighter pilot's helmet, with a huge, rounded central visor, painted in metallic gold, and a generally overall round appearance to it. It definitely sets the Security Spartan apart in appearance.
One other detail note - the Security Spartan has a little gadget, maybe some sort of communication device, attached to the top of the back of his right shoulder on his backplate. This is unique to the Security Spartan. Now, this is not the first Security Spartan I've bought. And I have to say that I'm very pleased that with this most recent Security Spartan, McFarlane Toys has seen fit to glue the thing on. It's a very small piece and could be too easily lost.
Painted detail on the figure is generally excellent. I've found what I think is a pattern to the way these Spartans are painted. Most of the armor is painted through stencils, but some aspects of the helmets, shoulder pieces, and chestplates are sometimes painted by hand, which can, inevitably, be a little slipshod. The most apparent example of this is usually the black detailing on helmets. In the case of the Security Spartan this isn't an issue, since he doesn't really have any. And since his gold visor is protruding from the helmet, rather than recessed, it's also painted well, and completely.
The closest thing to a paint glitch on this figure is a little detail around one of the knees, and even it isn't too bad. McFarlane Toys has the practice of somehow -- I assume by watered down paint wipes -- highlighting the indentations in the armor in black. This is normally not a practice I approve of, but on the Spartans it looks pretty decent. Some additional details on the armor have been painted in a light yellow, and very neatly. There is a dark blue band around the upper right arm and upper right leg, common to all the Spartans but often differing in color, with the Roman numeral "VI" in it, signifying that this is Mark VI Spartan armor.
Sculpted detail is similarly impressive. These Spartans are not Star Wars Clone Troopers. Their armor is intricate and very highly detailed. Even the black "undersuit" has its own limited armor, and plenty of detailing. The figure reflects this intricacy superbly well.
Articulation of the figure is excellent. McFarlane Toys has created an excellent overall design here. There have been quality issues from time to time, but this Orange Security Spartan has no problems whatsoever. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, waist, legs, knees (including a swivel), ankles (including a swivel), and the "toes" of the boots. I should mention that on occasion, wrists on these figures can stick somewhat. Although generally they can be loosened, I strongly urge extreme caution in doing so. It's a very narrow piece.
The Orange Security Spartan comes with two identical handheld weapons. Given that I am not entirely familiar with all aspects of the game, I'm not entirely sure what they're called, but they look to be of possibly alien design. However, they are very impressive, rather futuristic-looking, nicely detailed, and even have a bit of paint detailing on them. They also have a couple of backward-facing curved knife-blades on them, painted silver. I suppose this falls under the category of "versatility"...?
So what's my final word here? I'm very pleased to have this figure. It might seem to some like one Spartan is pretty much like another, and there may be some truth to that, but I don't entirely agree. There's a wide range of colors available (I'm still trying to track down a Pink one), and there's also a wide range of Spartan types. A Security Spartan is as distinctive as any of the others. Nobody's going to mistake Master Chief for a Hayabusa Spartan, and nobody's going to mistake a Security Spartan for a CQB or EOD Spartan.
And in this case, the Orange color is certainly distinctive, and to the best of my knowledge, is the first traditional retail release of a Spartan in this color within the United States, even though he is a store exclusive.
If you're a HALO fan who has come to appreciate these excellent figures from McFarlane Toys, then certainly you'll want to add this figure to your collection. So head over to your nearest Toys "R" Us and see if you can find him!
The TOYS "R" US EXCLUSIVE HALO 3 figure of the ORANGE SECURITY SPARTAN definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!