Of the three Energon gestalts recycled for the Classics/Universe 2.0 line, Bruticus was the best - and for a fan of Devastator, that's not easy to say! But even so, Bruticus was an ugly, clumsy design, with a lot of room for improvement. Enter Fansproject.
The instruction booklet has a whole long bio that fills in everything you need to know about the Combat Unit Colossus. It explains why there used to be two identical sets of limbs on the combiner, and why it needed to be changed. Credit to Fansproject for tying it all in together: they certainly didn't have to do it, but it's cooler that they did. You want to read it? Take the link to our blog. Anyway, on with the show.
If you've read our Explorer and Munitioner reviews, you know that they each included a "Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kit" - kits A and B. Each figure came with a lot more accessories than they could ever use, because those accessories are intended to be divvied up amongst the rest of the Combaticons. And it's not even like all the pieces from one kit go to a certain figure: they're all mixed up between the two kits, so you need to buy both to fully outfit the bots. Still, everyone ends up looking more fearsome than they did before, what with the rocket launchers and the massive handheld rifles and whatnot.
The vehicle modes aren't left out, either. Once again, all the pieces get swapped around, so it's not like you can even say "oh, this gun always belongs to X, this one always belongs to Y." Explorer and Munitioner stay the same as they were in their individual reviews, but Vortex gets some new launchers and wing-guns, while Brawl ups his arsenal as well. The biggest change, by far, has to be Onslaught, who is no longer an armored vehicle with a missile launcher on the back, but instead becomes a flatbed truck with giant guns on the roof. Wow!
Oh, and if that's not enough? The instructions also show you how to convert Onslaught into a launch base for
Blast Off's Explorer's space shuttle unmanned drone-type Launch Vehicle. All the "Scramble City"-style leaders had an undocumented third mode designed to plug into Metroplex (or Trypticon) and shoot their tiny friends off via spring-loaded trigger. It's probably no coincidence that Onslaught's new launch base mode looks very similar to that old one. No spring-loaded shooter, but it's still very cool. The only downside is that the part that allows the shuttle to stand upright doesn't actually connect to the base at all: it just sits on top, so when you life Explorer, the piece goes with him. A rare flaw from a reliable source!
But at the end of things, those pieces turning into weapons for the robots or the vehicles is all an afterthought. The real point was to give Classics Bruticus hands and feet that didn't look like a halfassed afterthought. In that regard, it's a huge success: Explorer and Munitioner look great as the right arm and leg, respectively. Vortex gets repositioned so he can not only attach to Onslaught in a more natural maner, but also so the arm has an elbow joint instead of just a shoulder. The thumbs are balljointed, and each finger has a balljoint and a hinge. There's a new waist plate, making Bruticus's midsection look more complex. And of course, the giant double-barreled cannon rise above his shoulders now.
Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kit B includes a new head for Bruticus, which is both good and bad. The good is that the head looks great, capturing
the feel of the G1 version while bringing modern levels of detail to the party. The bad is that using this head requires removing the one the toy originally came with, which seems to be a cheat - the beauty of past Fansproject kits was that they didn't require the loss of the "true" toy to make them work. You didn't have to take apart Ultra Magnus to use the City Commander armor, you know? The spires over the ears are longer than the wings on the old head, as well, so the head doesn't quite fit Onslaught's transformation: when you turn him into a vehicle the antennae have to be carefully notched into the fist holes, but in robot mode the back just flat-out can't get into the proper locked position.
Bruticus gets more weapons than just
the cannons. The robots' Beam Submachine Gun and Grenade Launcher combine to form a larger gun, and since there are two of each, that means the big guy can dual-wield shotguns. The Anti-Material Rifle unfolds into a 7" sniper rifle, and the axe becomes a dagger. Everything can be stored away, too: the big guns on his back, and the knife on his left arm.
As much as we love Fansproject's work, there's no denying there are a few problems with this set. We already mentioned the new head, but that was just a matter of preference; this is more of a functionality problem. To begin with, the way the right hand attaches to Explorer leaves Bruticus with a very droopy wrist, so no matter what weapon you give him, it will always be
pointing at the ground. Meanwhile, the left hand assembly doesn't plug onto Vortex very strongly, so if you try to pull on the hand to pose the arm, the whole thing will come off. Finally, the Powerlinx ports on Onslaught's legs butt up against the new waist piece, so you have to fiddle with them to use the hip joints.
Other than that, though? The Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kit is excellent work. The pieces all fit tightly, and the plastic quality is just as high as the real toys. He ends up 13" tall, and looks great when you get everything assembled. Bruticus was already the best of the Classics/Universe 2.0 combiners, and this just makes him even better. If this whole thing had been released as one real item, it would have been a ToY contender, but as it is, you have to pay $100 to complete the Bruticus you already bought. And since this is a third-party set, there will never be a sale, never be a coupon, never be anything that brings the cost down. You have to be willing to pay the full price.
If you can afford the two Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kits, then by all means, get them, but only if you have Bruticus, and only if you're getting both: Explorer and Munitioner are well-made figures, but if you only get one of them you'll be paying for a lot of pieces you'll never use. Why sell them separately, then? Because it's easier for buyers to swallow $50 apiece on two sets than $100 on one set, even if they're bought at the same time. So Explorer, Munitioner and the Combat Unit Colossus add-on kits? Thumbs up. Pricetag? Thumbs down.