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Halo 3
by Poe Ghostal

The "Grunts" of the Halo trilogy are some of the more amusing bad guys in videogame history. These little runts tend to attack in groups, but run in terror when you kill their leader. They've got high-pitched voices and an endless supply of amusing one-liners. They're voiced by Joe Staten, a writer and designer for Bungie Studios (as well as a few cameos by Brian Posehn of The Sarah Silverman Show and The Comedians of Comedy). They're funny and kind of cute... or so I thought.

Joyride Studios' long run of 7"-scale Halo figures came to an end in 2006. Grunt While the figures sold fairly well, many collectors were disappointed by the toys' sculpts, though the articulation was fairly satisfying. When it was announced that McFarlane Toys had picked up the rights to produce toys based on Halo 3, fans of the former (sculpt) rejoiced, while fans of the latter (articulation) were understandably concerned - McFarlane Toys appeared to have all but abandoned articulation in the last few years.

But while most McFarlane lines are geared toward collectors, Microsoft wanted this new line to appeal to kids as well. It had to have mass market viability. And so, McFarlane shrunk the size of the figures from their usual 7"-scale to a roughly 4"-scale (give or take), then upped the articulation in a big way.

The first wave of Halo 3 figures includes the Master Chief (of course), his AI pal Cortana, a Jackal sniper, a Brute Chieftain, and the aforementioned Grunt (and a number of armor variations of the Master Chief). If I recall correctly, the small Grunt was originally going to come in a two-pack, but apparently that didn't cost out, and so you can choose either an orange or a green Grunt. I only found the orange, so that's what I got.

And for 10 bucks, it does seem like you're not getting a lot of bang for your buck. The Grunt (called an "Unggoy" in the ancillary fic) is about 3½" tall and comes with two weapons. In order to realize the value of what you're getting, you need to compare this figure to, say, a 25th Anniversary GI Joe. Once you compare the quality of the sculpting and the amount of articulation, it will become clear where that extra four bucks is going - but whether you want to pay $10 for a 4" figure or $15 for a 7" figure is your call.

Me, you, and a two-man crew... That said, when I put the Grunt alongside the Master Chief, he looked a little too large to me. But check this Halo Character Scale Chart and it looks like McFarlane nailed it. I guess the little runts just look smaller when you're playing a first-person shooter and used to seeing them standing next to the eight-foot-tall Elites and Brutes, not humans.

As always, McFarlane Toys' sculpting is excellent. I own the Joyride Grunt, which is about twice as large as this one, and yet this figure is far more detailed. From the etching on his armor to the bony stumps of his feet, this is about as accurate a representation of a fictional alien creature as one can hope for.

That's one ugly mother--* A word of warning to those of you who find Grunts cute, though - the mask is removable. Once you take it off and see the noseless, screaming blasphemy underneath, you may not be able to think of Grunts as "lovable" ever again. I certainly can't imagine that hideous mouth saying "I will love you and pet you and call you George."

As usual with McFarlane, the paint work is also exceptional. The only time I've seen work this detailed on a figure of this scale is as a pack-in with a larger figure or on a statue or gashopon toy. I'm particularly impressed with the wash on the metallic areas, which give the Grunt's uniform a lived-in look. The blue wash on the skin, while a bit incongruous, is accurate to the creature design in the game.

Baby got (no) back As mentioned above, Halo 3 is also the most articulated McFarlane line in ages. I'm not entirely clear on the exact type of each joint, partly because they're so small and partly because McFarlane has done some innovating at this scale, but the Grunt is articulated at the head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, hips, knees, and ankles. The neck, shoulders and hips have balljoint-style motion, while the elbows and knees are hinges. All in all, the Grunt is about as articulated as your modern 3¾" GI Joe figure.

Yes, the figure is small for 10 bucks, Grunt's accessories but it does include a decent number of accessories. Technically, his methane environmental suit (that triangle thing on his back) is removable and reveals... whatever that is underneath it. As previously discussed, the gas mask is removable as well. He also comes with two weapons, a needler and a plasma pistol, as well as a small peg, which also came with the Master Chief. On the Chief, the peg is clearly intended to be plugged into his back, hips or thighs, allowing you to attach his weapons for safekeeping. But try as I might, I couldn't find any such pegholes on the Grunt. Let me know if you do.

In terms of the quality of the figure, I'm very happy with the Grunt. My only qualm is the price tag. At $10 for a 4-to-6 inch figure, collectors and kids are going to have a hard time building an army of these characters. But then again, I've seen collectors with dozens of Joyride Spartans, which usually ran at least 12 bucks a pop, so maybe McFarlane will surprise us.

The last point to make is while these appear to be proving popular with collectors and fans, they aren't exactly striking while the iron is hot. I beat Halo 3 three or four times before Christmas and haven't touched it in months. Heck, I'm probably more excited about NECA's 7" Gears of War figures coming out (hopefully) next month. But I would be remiss if I didn't applaud McFarlane's great work here; they've proved they can compete in the smaller-scale, fully articulated action figure market. They just prefer not to.


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