REVIEW: HALO MONGOOSE VEHICLE with EVA SPARTAN
It's interesting to note which action figure lines tend to have vehicles as part of their overall line-up, and which ones don't. I was originally going to introduce this review with a theory that the more collector-oriented an action figure line is, the fewer vehicles it tended to have. But that theory didn't work out. It's still interesting to note which ones do, and which ones don't.
DC Universe Classics -- no vehicles. Then again, if you take a look at the DC Universe, how may distinctive well-known vehicles are there? You've got the Batmobile and -- right, that's about it. And DC Universe Classics is a pretty collector-oriented line.
Star Wars -- This line has vehicles all over the place, and they're pretty darn cool ones for the most part. Consider that massive Millennium Falcon from a couple of years back, or the new AT-AT. Arguably, Star Wars is one of those lines that pretty much splits the difference between collectors and kids. It appeals to both factions.
G.I. Joe -- it's always had vehicles. Granted, we'll never see the like of the USS Flagg Aircraft Carrier again, but vehicles are still as much a vital part of G.I. Joe as they ever were. And much like Star Wars, G.I. Joe seems to be a line that splits the difference between kids and collectors, if perhaps leaning a little more towards kids.
Masters of the Universe Classics - Very collector oriented, and no vehicles -- unless we're inclined to count Battle Cat as a "vehicle", a description I doubt he'd appreciate very much.
Then we come to HALO. Pretty much a collector-based line. Very impressive, highly detailed and highly articulated action figures, based on a rated "M" video game, and arguably some of McFarlane Toys' best work. The line continues to be massively popular, with shelves being depleted of figures as soon as a new assortment comes out and word gets around in the collecting community -- which, thanks to the Internet, doesn't take very long. Really, though, it's not the sort of line where you'd necessarily expect a vehicle to show up. McFarlane Toys hasn't generally specialized in that sort of thing, and even though there are vehicles in the HALO video games, the scale of the figures seemed to make vehicles rather unlikely.
Well -- surprise! They did one! It's nickname is the "Mongoose", and it's more or less a futuristic ATV. McFarlane did something interesting, in that they released a number of versions of the Mongoose, each one packed with a different type and color of Spartan soldier. The one I eventually chose came with an EVA Spartan. Why that? Well, the color scheme looked interesting based on the box illustration, and I didn't have an EVA Spartan among my Halo collection. It seemed like a good opportunity to get one.
The Mongoose comes packed in what I regard to be a surprisingly small box for an action figure vehicle. The box measures 9-1/2 x 6-1/2 x 3", approximately. Even for an ATV, that struck me as a potentially tight fit, especially for trying to cram a figure in there as well. McFarlane did not design a window box. It's full cardboard on all sides, so you're taking your chances a little bit, and just have to make sure that the box flaps are sealed and taped.
The box design is nicely done. It has the HALO logo and features a large image of the Mongoose being ridden by two Spartans. A smaller image shows which Spartan you're getting in the box. The back of the package shows a photograph of the vehicle and of the Spartan, and lists special features of the vehicle, such as Tires "spin", handlebars turn, rear seat folds down, and foot pegs pivot.
The package is a fairly tight fit for the vehicle, but when you open the box, you discover that it is safely placed in a form-fitting plastic bubble, blessedly NOT strapped down with any of those infernal plastic-coated wire twist-ties. The figure is strapped down, but just with one across the waist. The only assembly needed is to snap the windshield into the front of the vehicle, which is very easy, and a good snug fit.
I wanted to know a little more about this Mongoose vehicle, so I turned to the Web Site known as "HaloPedia", and was able to come up with quite a bit of information.
The formal name of the Mongoose is the M274 Ultra-Light All-Terrain Vehicle. If it existed in real life, it would weigh 896 pounds, and have a top speed of 60 MPH. What do the troops think of it? There's a quote here from an "Anonymous Serviceman" that reads, "Speed is the only protection this vehicle provides; it is unarmored, noisy, and prone to roll-over. It demands a level of skill from its operator that is impossible to expect... during combat conditions."
As to its history, the M274 ULATV is one of the fastest and most maneuverable ground vehicles in the arsenal of the UNSC Marine Corps. It is a highly effective vehicle for reconnaissance, rapid transportation, swift tactical versatility, and for shooting between positions. A smaller cousin to the ubiquitous M831 Troop Transport, the Mongoose is a small ATV capable of carrying a driver in the middle of the vehicle, and features a rear platform that can be used to carry one additional passenger. Because it carries no armament of its own, having a passenger is usually essential if engaging in a combat zone. Due to its smaller size, the Mongoose is a difficult target for both slow and fast moving enemy weaponry, as opposed to the Warthog, whose size is somewhat substantial.
The Mongoose's high speed, light mass, and practically non-existent armor make it unwieldy and difficult to control at high speeds and/or over unstable terrain, making the ULATV vulnerable to destabilization, crashes, and flips. To make matters worse, the design of the vehicle and its lack of armor leave both the driver and the passenger completely exposed. Furthermore, the Mongoose does not incorporate any offensive or defensive capabilities, making the Mongoose's only practical defenses an armed passenger and its speed. This, the standard UNSC Marine Corps protocol in engagements against Covenant forces is to place an M41 Rocket Launcher-armed Marine in the passenger position to fire rockets against slow-moving hostile forces, while the driver uses the Mongoose's superior speed to evade enemy return fire. In a last resort situation, the Mongoose can be used to run over nearby enemies.
The Mongoose is operated by a single driver, situated in the middle of the vehicle. Once a driver is in place on the seat, the ULATV accelerates rapidly, and can reach a top speed of 60 mph. The high acceleration and high top speed available on the vehicle proves a vital advantage while trying to "splatter" (run over) enemies.
The lack of weaponry mounted on the Mongoose makes the presence of an armed passenger often essential in combat zones. The Mongoose's extreme speed and maneuverability makes it the best choice to zoom through enemy lines. The Mongoose's speed and acceleration makes it almost impossible to hijack.
So, how's the vehicle? Well, whatever its difficulties within the world of Halo may be, it's certainly an impressive toy, and McFarlane Toys has done a superb job rendering it as such.
The main body of the Mongoose is about six inches in length, with the passenger seat extended. Additional framework, foot stand, and the extended tires bring the total length of the Mongoose to 6-1/2 inches. It's about 3-1/2" wide at its widest point, which is the tires, and about 3 inches high.
If you're going to do an ATV as a toy, it should reasonably resemble an ATV. Within the G.I. Joe line, when Cobra brought about the Cobra Ferret, an ATV, it looked very much like an ATV. Okay, it had a big gun on one side, but it still looked like an ATV. The Mongoose definitely looks like an ATV. The HALO adventures may take place several centuries in the future, but much of the design work on everything from characters to Spartan armor, while certainly futuristic, isn't that far removed from reality. It all looks, at least, possible.
The same is certainly true of the Mongoose. It has a fairly wide front, with an angular windshield that protects the handlebars as much as anything. It has a narrow center with a driver's seat, and a wider, if less extensive, rear section, which is less than one would expect to see on a conventional ATV, but which is doubtless necessary in the design of this vehicle in order to accommodate a passenger in the back who might be either standing or sitting depending on whether he's just along for the ride or trying to take down enemy forces. The rear of the vehicle has a handlebar, a small platform, and a fold down seat.
The Mongoose is primarily colored a dark olive green, with some silver details. A muddy brown has been sprayed over much of the vehicle. Weathering is not a practice I generally approve of, but Halo can get away with it to a certain degree, and it almost looks like camouflage. The seat and the windshield are notably very clean.
The tires are black and rubbery, but not hollow. They have muddy brown sprayed on them, as well. The tires are thickly treaded and look like they could handle just about any terrain imaginable. The wheels do not turn from side to side, but the vehicle does roll exceptionally well across any surface. The tires have a very free-rolling motion to them, and are heavy enough so that I think the added weight actually gives them a little more momentum.
Overall, the Mongoose is surprisingly heavy for its size. It is very sturdy and well made, and if it has any fragile parts on it, I would expect them to be the handlebars and the foot pegs, but even these seem quite durable. On the whole, it's a very impressive vehicle.
Now, let's consider the Spartan that comes with it. He's a very distinctly painted EVA Spartan. Now, there have been EVA Spartans in the Halo line before, packaged on individual cards. But I never had one until now. Why not? A fair question. There are a great number of Spartans in the Halo collection, both in type and color. I am not a completist. I am largely content with the collection I have (although I'd still like to get a Pink Spartan), and I have most of the types and an impressive color scheme. So why did I not previously have an EVA Spartan?
To be honest, I thought the helmet looked a little goofy. Most Spartan types can be distinguished by the helmet. And the EVA's reminded me just a little too much of the Cobra Mega-Viper from the G.I. Joe line, with its very large and high visor. Nothing against the Mega-Viper. It's interesting enough within the G.I. Joe line, although I still say its salvation came when it was recolored into something more sensible by the Collectors' Club for one of their Convention Sets.
So what changed my mind? Two things. I realized that it was the only Spartan type that I DIDN'T have at least one representation of in my collection, which hardly seemed fair, and the color scheme of this particular EVA Spartan was unlike any other Spartan of any type that I had ever seen. So, I decided to get the Mongoose with the EVA Spartan.
Now, you may be wondering just what distinguishes an EVA Spartan from any other type of Spartan in the world of Halo. I wondered that myself, so I returned to Halopedia:
The official name of the EVA Spartan is MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor/V Variant, more commonly known as Extra-Vehicular Activity Armor. It is, as one might expect, designed to improve survivability of Spartans when performing Extra-Vehicular Activity in, for example, the vacuum of space.
Precisely why this guy is driving a Mongoose I'm not entirely sure, but why quibble?
As with most Spartan variants, the distinguishing points are the helmet, chestplate, and shoulder pauldrons.
The EVA armor's helmet is notable for its characteristic visor. It is designed to allow for a complete field of vision during space operations. It vaguely resembles the Security Spartan helmet, but has an even larger field of vision. It has been dubbed by some game players as the "Fish Bowl" and "Sniper Magnet" due to its size and the fact that helmet visors on Spartan armor tend to be bright metallic gold.
The chestplate looks like a fairly standard Spartan armor chest piece, but it has an additional small device attached to it, which looks like a small metal plate connected to a piece of black alloy that has several unknown equipment pieces set into it. It has been speculated that the chestplate might hold a cable that could be attached to docking ports so that the Spartan does not drift off into space. Looking at it on the figure myself, I'd say this is a fairly strong possibility. The detail looks round with an angled end. I'm almost reminded of the reel of a fishing rod.
The shoulder pauldrons are larger than most Spartan armor versions, and have an unknown long attachment in their center. It's speculated that these could be radios. Makes sense. If the theorized cable in the chestplate doesn't work, you might want something in order to summon help!
So, how's the figure? Very cool, and surprisingly different in structure in a couple of respects from the average HALO figure.
Most Halo Spartan figures have a common body. McFarlane Toys understandably took great advantage of the fact that all Spartans have pretty much the same basic armor design, with only the helmet, chestplate, shoulder pauldrons, and armor color being different. This necessitated only a few parts being switched around as needed, and the right color of paint being chosen. This has allowed McFarlane Toys to produce a wide range of assorted types and colors of Spartans, all with a relatively consistent look to them.
For reasons which I can only guess have to do with allowing the figure to more easily sit on the Mongoose, the leg structure of this EVA Spartan is distinctly different from any other Spartan I own. I suspect if I were to track down one of the single-carded EVA's, he would look like any other single-carded Spartan, structurally, and not like this. The sort of "double swivel/pivot" assembly that most Spartans have has been replaced by a back and forth movement and separate sideways movement that is visible on a peg near the hip. The peg notwithstanding, the design actually reminds me a lot of Mattel's DC Universe Classics, and it's a good design.
The basic armor details are identical, however. The only real visible difference other than the structure is that the EVA Spartan tends to stand a little straighter, in less of an "action pose" than most other Spartans are inclined to, and so ends up looking a little taller, an effect enhanced by the size of his helmet. However, if individual sections are measured, the figure really us the same size as everybody else, about 5-1/4"
The chest armor, and of course the helmet and shoulder pauldrons, are distinctive, but I suspect they're carryovers from previous Spartans, and the rest of the figure, as far as I can tell, uses the same parts as any other Spartan figure, although the wrists have been made a little sturdier. Granted, this is something that's needed to be done for some time. They also have a little more poseability, doubtless to enable the figure to graps the handlebars.
The other reason I wanted this particular Spartan was because of his armor color -- it's yellow. I didn't have a yellow Spartan in my collection. There's a fair amount of dark blue trim on the figure, including the base of the helmet and the shoulder pauldrons, but the main color of the armor is definitely yellow. He also has a blue stripe on his upper right arm and upper right leg, with the Roman numeral "VI" in it, denoting that he is wearing a version of the Mark VI armor.
Painted detailing is excellent, and very neat. I've come to almost expect a certain amount of minor gaffes on these figures, mostly from hand-painted elements, but I don't really see any here. He's very well done. What's interesting is that his very large bright gold helmet visor is actually a little darker than the yellow armor. So much for this EVA being an easy "Sniper Magnet".
Articulation of the figure is excellent. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and the fronts of the feet. For whatever reason, his waist is loose to the point of being wobbly. I'm not sure if this was an incident just with this figure, or something to do with the revised design for the sake of his being included with the Mongoose. It's a bit bothersome, but he doesn't seem at risk of falling apart, and he stands well on his own, so I'll leave it at that. I just hope it's not something I encounter in the future.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. I know a lot of fans have wanted to see a Warthog vehicle for these HALO figures, but that might be just a little too big to manage in today's market. But the Mongoose was far more reasonable. It's a cool vehicle, built well, works well, and seems very sturdy. I like this EVA Spartan. He has a cool and distinctive color, and maybe it's his bright yellow that keeps that huge visor from looking too ridiculous. The structural differences in no way make him incompatible with other Spartan figures from the Halo line, and he's a cool addition to any such collection.
The HALO MONGOOSE VEHICLE with EVA SPARTAN FIGURE most definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!