Review: Unite Warriors – UW-07 – Bruticus

Unite Warriors Bruticus review

Ever since I was a kid, there was something more alluring about a Decepticon commando group, that was effectively an evil A-Team.

Brawl is Mr T
Vortex is HM Murdoch
Onslaught is obviously Hannibal
Swindle is Face
Blast Off is….errr…Frankie Santana – the forgotten member of the A-Team from the final season.

Sweetening the deal was the appeal of a combiner with the most unique team members. Every single vehicle was completely in contrast to the others which made for a brilliant dynamic in my mind. It was everything you wanted as a kid when you were limited to what other people would buy you and whilst you wanted a complete team – you also wanted to experience different toys.

Now they have shown up in Unite Warriors with a colours based off a 30 something year old animation, and brand new Blast Off figure that is not just Slingshot dipped into a can of brown Dulux. Of all the sets released in Combiner Wars, this is the one that has turned out the most different when making it’s way over to Unite Warriors. Controversially in some cases.

unite warriors vortex

Unite Warriors Vortex is based on the Alpha Bravo mould and comes suped-up with a new ninja style paint job and Takara have upgraded him to four rotors from two.

I love stuff like this. Having four rotors to maintain cartoon accuracy is not important to me in the slightest, but the fact that it differentiates it from the other versions of this mold is. I want all of my toys to look as unique as possible and small improvements like this help, plus it helps to make experiencing the toy at least slightly different rather than buying a figure to simply fill a spot on a dusty shelf.

Just to continue with the good vibrations, someone at Takara has finally seen fit to right a long standing wrong with this mold and painted those bloody side windows. I can’t emphasise how much that fills me with joy, though I bet Reprolabels are shaking their fists at the sky.

unite warriors vortex

Throughout Unite Warriors Takara have ensured that no two figures are just simple repaints of each other. Here they get lucky because skipping all the new team members Hasbro have trolled the fans with (I love them really) means this is the first use of the Alpha Bravo head sculpt. Fortunately it’s always looked very Vortex like so it totally works. Especially when they add such lush paint to make the visor really look like it’s glowing with menace.

A lot was made about the four rotors folding up on his back but to me Unite Warriors Vortex looks like he has part of the iron throne stuck to his bum. What’s not to like.

combiner wars vortex unite warriors

Unite Warriors Vortex is wrapped up in saturated animation accurate colours and they are so easy on the eye I can feel small love hearts pop up above my head each time I glance at this toy.

It would be easy to just brush past this figure, Clough knows we’ve seen it so many times, but this paint job is so beautiful that I can’t help but put this at the top of my list of best dressed bots of 2016. Yeah it may be the third time I’ve owned this mold (others are on 6 or 7) but it feels like we have finally reached the definitive version that takes every thing that makes this mold great, adds a couple of tweaks and drops the mic.

This imaginary mic accessory would so small it would get lost if it was dropped. Even if it wasn’t invisible because it’s imaginary.

How can you not love a toy robot that’s painted up to look like a ninja with a blue cloth on to prevent food getting on his clothes?

unite warriors brawl tank mode

I never picked up Hasbro’s Combaticons, it’s one of those rare occassions I’ve managed to display some semblance of patience, thusly – this is my first experience of the Brawl mold.

First impressions are favourable. This simple, chunk of tank is colour matched to the brownish hue that Sunbow gave to his animation model allowing my brain to accept it more than it did when I saw the pictures of Hasbro’s. Perhaps that’s because all the stock artwork of it shows that one in the traditional green. The colour everyone wanted.

 

unite warriors brawl gun barrel

Unite Warriors Brawl’s turret doesn’t rotate, that’s just where we are with “deluxes” these days, but in a nice throwback to Brawls Generation One toy his combiner hand/foot can double up as an extra set of cannons that mount on top.

So they couldn’t afford to throw in a swivel, baffling when you consider the turret is attached to it’s own hinge, but they did at least give him rolling wheels. I want to say something sarcastic, but I can’t because I’m too busy rolling him across the desk and enjoying it.

It’s funny because Combiner Wars has made an art form of fudging alt modes, but this is the only one that looks closest to it’s original G1 form – just with a lot of added detail. In fact, stripped of that detail the G1 toy somehow looks slightly more futuristic!

unite warriors brawl robot mode

Robot mode is a great, on point representation of G1 brawl and captures everything from his details to his proportions and squat, aggressive demeanor. Small exhaust pipes on the front of his chest are lifted right from the animation model.

It’s a good approximation of his cartoon form and the more you look, the more you spot little details like the tiny Decepticon badge that is placed up his left forearm for the sake of cartoon accuracy, so tiny you can barely see it. Just thinking that there is someone at Takara, sat in an office somewhere that is so committed to the concept of cartoon accuracy that they had to squeeze this in makes me smile. A lot.

It’s not the cartoon accurate nature of it, although I like that, it’s the effort and thought it demonstrates. Especially as we live in a world where Hasbro decided to leave Autobot and Decepticon badges off of the chest of the recently released Titans Return Blurr and SkullcruncherSmasher,

unite warriors brawl head

Cartoon accuracy is probably at it’s peak with this figures bonce. Orange and red has been drawn from the animation model, cast upon  plastic and man does it give him some personality. I know a lot of people don’t like it but I genuinely can’t see why – it looks terrific and feels playful.

In terms of how the figure moves it’s well articulated with ball joints and even ankle tilts, but the elbows are ball joints that feel stubby and strangely limited when combined with the shoulders whose size mean their range of motion is restricted.

If you are wondering, no separate gun is included with Unite Warriors Brawl but the barrel from his turret can unpeg and act as a hand gun if you so desire. Me? I’m still too busy moaning about the turret not rotating.

It’s like a standard toy tank thing. Stop skimping guys!

unite warriors swindle jeep mode

Ah Swindle – the Morrisey of the Combaticons. The member that everyone really likes most, except for hipsters. Like me then, who prefers Vortex the ninja helicopter. HA.

A heavy retool of Rook, though almost every part is different, Swindle is a Jeep/dune buggy that clearly wants to be painted blue, given a Beach Boys tape cassette and called Beachcomber. It has the roll cage, a steering wheel (even if no one could sit in there because of the massive robot fist) and feels less military and more sporty.

Unite Warriors Swindle’s hood has been painted a gorgeous deep purple (bet that’s put Smoke on the Water in your head) that is again plucked straight from the cartoon, and even the head lamps have been painted. It’s a small thing, but those paint apps all help to bring out and outline the car detail and shape that would otherwise be absorbed by the mustard yellow that covers the bulk of the toy.

unite warriors decepticon swindle
Transformation is exactly like Rook no matter different Swindle ends up looking. A huge majority of the parts have been remolded which is a relief and shows just what Hasbro can do when they aren’t trying to save pennies to put in their giant Coke bottle novelty money box.

Taking the G1 designs details and updating them, Swindle calls back strongly to the original concept behind the Transformers Classics line. It’s dizzying trying to catch so many of the signature details that have been pulled and reshaped into something modern yet unmistakably familiar. Fake car lights, bumper, and rill all appear in the same places, and Takara have used grey on the upper chest to evoke the animation models windscreen which works in it’s allusion to that, but also traces specific parts, and half a combiner peg tidily to not make it look frivolous.  Even the smaller lights on the waist have not been missed.

I’m impressed if that isn’t already clear.

unite warriors swindle head

I’ve never thought of Swindle as a muscle bound bot, more the shady sneakster, but this guy is buff and must have been on the Eneroids after being unable to flush them to avoid Ultra Magnus.

Lower legs miss the mark with a lot of honeycombing, trying to suggest detail, but it’s ugly cost cutting where something flatter would have been preferable. It’s distracting when you look at the upper body and how great the sculpting is and then you come to the legs and they look like an ant colony.

Whomever designed this head sculpt missed a trick by not giving him a sly grin, but otherwise it’s a great head sculpt. Totally captures that Swindle thing of his black helmet looking over sized for the face underneath and the purple visor is beautifully done. Having a neutral “grrr I mean business” face is fine for most characters, but certain players in the Transformers world require more to capture their personality and Swindle is one of those.

unite warriors swindle arm cannon

With the future Hound repaint in mind, Swindles gun can clip into a slot on his backpack to give him a mounted shoulder cannon. That’s great, but I would have been way happier if Takara had included his signature arm cannon – especially as there is perfectly positioned peg hole on his arms!

It’s an odd thing to exclude when you consider the lengths Takara have gone to, like giving Vortex a whole new rotor assembly and the huge array of changes they have gone to with the upcoming Technobots. It’s one of the rare moments Takara misses an easy win. Does whipping up an extra gun add a lot to the budget?

You can have all the cash in my piggy bank if you are short, Takara.

unite warriors onslaught truck mode

Onslaught is an extensive retool of Hot Spot and a very wonky one at that. They took that fire engine mode, spun it around and patted each other on the back at the ease with which they’d produced a new mode. It even still has the light bar molded on and Takara not acknowledging it by avoiding adding paint helps to hide it a bit – but only a bit.

There’s not much of a real world look to it and you can only compare it to G1 Onslaughts vehicle mode if you are being really kind. I’m slightly less forgiving, and it’s not a terrible alt mode but it feels like it has more in common with the Energon or Cybertron series than anything else. It’s a vehicle, sort of. Because we can see the wheels.

unite warriors bruticus

Defensors chest shield and head were very neatly integrated into Hot Spot in some kung fu magic with the ladder assembly but Onslaught gets them just slapped on top and that’s it. Pegging the guns in to give him his classic cannons helps to hide some of it but not a great deal.

Everything is kinda meh – until you get to that paint job. It’s a stunner, even on a rolling compromise. Super saturated blue and olive drab pop so wonderfully and go some way to forcing a smile onto your face that the rest of the alt mode struggles to achieve.

Two pieces have been added to look like a cab but they look like eyes, and whenever I look at the front I can’t help but see a cartoon crocodile with two goofy front teeth and an overbite. Anyone else seeing that? *glances at half drunk bottle of rum*

unite warriors onslaught

Those colours on the alt mode just tease how terrific Unite Warriors Onslaughts robot form is going to be and boy is he a looker. If the alt mode is a bit iffy – the robot mode is anything but. This makes it all better.

Robot mode is broadly the same as Hot Spot’s, but I think I said at the time that it always felt like it was designed as Onslaught first as the shape and proportions are so distinctively his. The mould is tall, lanky and athletic with a long lower half and small upper body that widens out. Brand new shoulders appear to make him stand out from Onslaught, and the added cab section from the vehicle hangs on the sides of the shoulders to add an extra difference.

So much of this set has been beholden to obsessive vintage animation detailing but here, a Takara employee broke free of those restraints and went to town with the paint apps. The gorgeous blue and olive drab are even more bewitching on this robot frame and the waist has those white circles from the cartoon that I think were the vintage toys screw holes and it adds great contrast. Hands are painted to prevent them from disappearing into a blob of forearm (as are those natty springs) and more olive is added to the shins to evoke similar details from the show. But it’s the chest shield where a bit of bonus creativity comes into play.

Instead of leaving it flat blue like the cartoon, Takara have given it a black wash and then added yellow and red to bring out the details. It’s a stunning move and the colours are bright and vibrant to fit in with the tone the glowing,saturated blue set.

Honestly, it’s tough to find a more handsome bot on my shelves.

unite warriors onslaught head

Onslaughts head is equally stunning, with the orange visor doing a fantastic job of making it seem like there is stuff going on behind it. It never fails to amaze me how much painting heads in colours other than black can dramatically improve a head sculpt. Detail that would have been hidden is suddenly visible and on Onslaught it adds that dash of the calculating personality you expect to be lurking within.

Dudes got schemes going on.

So far this update is near total win for the brilliance of Takara’s added paint apps, but sadly it inherits a key Hotspot was stricken with like a particularly contagious virus. Ratchets in the hips either sit close together or at a fairly extreme “A” stance, meaning it can be tough to get him stand as his new feet don’t offer any articulation to keep him steady. I was really hoping TakTom would have sorted that, as it’s the one Combiner Wars figure Nonnefs hip ratchets don’t fit.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – Onslaught doesn’t get a new gun. He has Hotspots guns, but they are painted and act as his signature back cannons and they even stay mounted for transformation to all modes. Could have done with chucking in an extra gun here guys. Again.

Unite Warriors Blast Off

Chances are the figure that most intrigues you from this set is going to be Blast Off as he is the shiny new mold – that’s why I saved him till last (there’s still Bruticus to come though, don’t give up now!).

Hasbro elected to chuck some brown paint at Slingshot for their Blast Off but Takara set a precedent with Groove and have followed that up with a brand new mould for Unite Warriors Blast Off. It’s not perfect, but it works and means we get an actual shuttle Blast Off. Sometimes you can accept something not being perfect to get close to what you want.

People will forever war over how badly out of scale a shuttle is with the rest of a military themed group of vehicles, but really non of them are in scale no matter how much people might want to pretend. At this point, over 30 years into Transformers, everyone should have accepted scale is out of the window. It doesn’t work in Transformers. Ever. Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door.

Scale never bothered me anyway.

unite warriors blast off thrusters

Maintaining the Combiner Wars premise, this is not a classic style shuttle, it has that  vibe where it takes the ideal of the original mode and fictionalises it whilst making it feel more modern. Standard Combiner Wars aircraft rules apply, so Unite Warriors Blast Off’s arms are hanging out on the sides saying hi to the world.

It’s a bit of a weird mode really because when you look at it from the side you notice there’s a gentle curve running across his roof which I can’t explain. It leads you to spend several minutes trying to squish him together thinking it’s wrong -but it’s not.

There’s lots of details but the main thing here are the colours which have stirred up a bit of controversy – specifically the shade of brown that has been used. Takara famously go for cartoon accuracy but with Blast Off they have decked him out in a much brighter shade of brown that matches up more to their release of the Fall of Cybertron deluxe version of this character. Perhaps they wanted to avoid him looking like a flying turd, I don’t know, but it stands out as an odd choice when so much effort has gone into ensuring even the smallest of details conforms to the cartoon on the rest of the figures in this set.

Takara do this with Galvatron too, where he is almost always released in a bizarrely light shade of purple. Someone there must not have their monitors set up correctly.

Quality control is an issue as on mine it’s horrendously difficult to get the back halves of the shuttle to stay together. Not only did I have to shave a peg so it fit into it’s slot, but there seems to be some extra pressure somewhere forcing them back apart and I can’t work out where it is.

unite warriors blast off gun

Even though he is a brand new mould, Blast Off’s transformation is very much your typical Combiner Wars affair and could easily be titled – “shades of Rook”. Though by virtue of the new parts Takara have added to the equation it ends up being the most involved transformation of all the deluxes. But only just.

It works in much of the same way, but thrown in with a twirl of the waist and the folding nose of the shuttle which tucks underneath the roof as that folds down to become his honking barrel chest. Having a head on a flimsy flap isn’t the best idea ever as frequently when you move it unpegs and goes all wonky. No it’s not a feature.

In their quest for G1 accuracy, Takara have made sure Blast off’s chest reflects the toon. Problems arise right away as it gives him a massive chest which doubles as the Combaticons portable beer fridge.

It’s ridiculous and bonkers but it does work. Look at the figure from certain angles and he looks incredible with the effort they’ve gone to facilitate that cartoon style chest existing for the first time on a Blast Off toy. But from the side, he starts to look a little funny.

unite warriors blast off head

Also causing a bit of grumpiness online has been Blast Off’s Unite Warriors head. The shows animators inexplicably painted the bit above his visor as his visor and Takara followed through and recreated that animation error. Personally, I think it still looks great, as the visor is painted a dark brushed silver on another cracker of a head sculpt. Takara and Hasbro continue to demonstrate how far ahead of third parties they are when it comes to making heads. Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors has featured some of the best head designs ever committed to plastic and are mini masterpieces in themselves. Especially when Takara go that extra mile to bring out the details with a couple of dabs of paint.

Loads of detail from the show is represented here, being as this is a Takara designed mould, and you can see it in the forearms, the head, chest and thruster feet especially. Those feet have all the tilts you could need as well, just to add to the fantastic articulation Blast Off has. Combiner Wars has sprinkled all of it’s deluxes with a generous helping of the old great articulation fair dust, but even still Blast Off feels superior.

A small pistol is provided with Blast Off, and is a brand new piece. It’s little but good as it looks like something you’d find in the show where most of the weapons in Combiner Wars look a bit more like Earth like. Because this is Takara we are talking about, the gun even stores inside the nosecone of the alt mode and doubles as the front landing gear.

Blast Off is covered in peg holes for weapons by the way. Like Rook he has front facing peg holes on his fists, but Takara also gave him actual fist holes, as well as pegs on his back, and feet. You can give him a bonkers super mode where he looks like he’s wearing golf shorts and socks. A stabiliser fin from the shuttle splits in two and sits on each calf, but if you want to ensure he looks as cartoon like as possible you can unpeg it, put the halves back together and peg it onto his back.

Takara give you options, and it’s about to get even more optimal optiontational.

I made up a word!

unite warriors blast off alternate chest

Takara did something magical with Blast Off – they included an alternate robot mode transformation. See, Blast Off’s back is blatantly also a chest (see: Unite Warriors Strafe), so flipping his torso round allows you to use the back as the front. This leads his arms to be on wrong way round, but Takara even thought about that, so you can slide the arms off the mushroom pegs on the bicep and swap them over. Just to bake your noodle further, you can leave them like that forever and he transforms fine because divots are sculpted into the wings to accommodate this alternate configuration.

Spellbinding.

Blast Off looks better with the alternate chest configuration as he looses the beer gut, and slots in more cleanly with the rest of the deluxe toys. Sadly they didn’t paint the chest so I’m pinning my hope on Reprolabels to sort me out, but even if you just stick a Decepticon badge on there somewhere,it would still pass.

It’s truly great and I can’t enthuse about it enough.

Blast Off to me is a solid win, though I know he’s not to everyone’s tastes, as he takes the Combiner Wars gimmick and moves it a couple of notches with a strong transformation, tons of articulation and play features and a even choice of robot modes. He could well be my favourite deluxe from Unite Warriors Bruticus set.

unite warriors combaticons

As a group of individual figures, the Unite Warriors Combaticons are phenomenal. Not only are they all reasonably fun to play with, but the new paint jobs give each a huge amount of character. Each feels unique and non is just a straight up repaint. Each figure has had some work done to it to elevate it and make it stand out. As such they are easily the most unique team we’ve seen so far as there’s no uniformity to their colour schemes and this works in driving home the point that combiners are a group of individuals forced into a whole.

It’s almost a shame to combine them, but then again that is the whole reason they exist – to form Bruticus!

unite warriors bruticus takara transformers
Unite Warriors Bruticus…COMBINE!

Each of the limbs features the standard Combiner Wars peg system so there is nothing new. I particularly love the way Brawls tank butt flips back to make sure he is the same size as Swindle so Unite Warriors Bruticus doesn’t have a wonky leg.

Blast Off’s transformation into an arm is hindered on mine by the annoying legs which just hate to clip together. His nosecone can sit in two different places depending on the look you want, you can have folded down so it sits level with Vortex, ensuring symmetry, or you can lock it in alt mode so it looks like that humorous scale meme picture that we’ve all seen floating around.

He probably has a leg mode, they can all fit as any limb, but let’s face it – Blast Off is a right arm. That’s his role. Then, now, forever.

takara unite warriors bruticus

Bruticus himself is a mish mash. The temptation is to assume that’s a negative, but he should be a mish mash as he’s five individuals smooshed together. Each has their own personality and style so the combiners work best when they reflect that.

Saying that each of the individuals very distinct colour schemes come together really well as a gestalt. The fact they are all so different works in their favour and makes Unite Warriors Bruticus visually more interesting to look at. You pick up more on how wildly different each member of the team is, which is not so strong on any of the other combiners.

Also he’s so vibrant I just want to eat him.

unite warriors bruticus vs cosmos

 

Having a unique chest plate ensures Onslaughts part of this doesn’t make Bruticus look like Defensor. The legs are unfortunately the same, and the detail from those is still present, but the new crotch piece helps to make them look a little bit different. I prefer to rotate the legs inwards anyway, with the blue facing forward as they reduce that fatness and make him leaner.
As with each member of the team, the colours all come from the cartoon which means the chest piece is painted to resemble Blast Off as it was in the show for inexplicable reasons. I love this, as these colours look a little weird and less boring than standard issue grey, silver or some other boring colour. Like I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this article, these colour choices all give these characters (and that’s a pretty crucial part of it, they are characters) life and something very different.
The white mouth plate, for example, sits on the front of the awesome combiner head and just looks so clean. It’s visually more interesting than just another flat grey face mask and that is why so much of this set works form.
Cartoon influence extends to the combiner feet which for the first time on any CW/UW toy are different colours. It works to make them feel like they extend from the limbs but I will be replacing them with the Perfect Effect upgrades cause I want that articulation. Even though it will live on a shelf and not be moved. Often.
Okay I play with my toys.
unite warriors bruticus head

It should be pretty clear that I love Unite Warriors Bruticus and am dancing round my room with it like I’m the Joker and it’s a terrified Vicki Vale.

Combiner Wars, by the end was starting to feel like it was dying due to the volume of repaints they were throwing out which caused a lack of variation in the line. Whilst this set uses mostly pre existing moulds, it adds a bit of luster to each one and throws in a brand new “exclusive” figure in the form of a Blast Off who flips into a shuttle.

For my own tastes I prefer cartoon accuracy, but not unbendingly. With Unite Warriors it’s not just that they match the cartoon which makes me a fan, it’s that Takara go that extra mile to add more paint, or mould new features or new figures entirely to make each figure and set feel finished.

Yeah, I totally get that a lot people have issues with the aesthetics of the set, or even some of the QC, but for me it’s great and hits almost exactly what I wanted.

Computron is up next and I laughed when I saw Hasbro’s, but threw my wallet at the screen as soon as I saw Takara’s. I guess that shows you how much Takara Tomy have me under their spell.

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