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H.I.S.S. Tank w/ H.I.S.S. Driver

GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

After the first Transformers movie, Hasbro faced an interesting problem: despite having mined every possible variation of the movie characters, shoppers wanted more, so the line had to continue. Now they plan around their movie lines continuing: Revenge of the Fallen birthed both NEST Global Alliance and... whatever the hell Sea Spray's a part of; and Rise of Cobra has turned into "Pursuit of Cobra."

As the desert battle unfolds, Cobra unleashes its devastating new weapon - the Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank! The chassis elevates and rotates 360 degrees, to expand visual range and shut down any surprise attacks. Extreme-terrain treads speed over the roughest ground, as the tank punctuates its message of destruction with an explosive blast from its pulse cannon!

"Pursuit of Cobra" sees the Joes fighting Cobra in four different environments: City, Jungle, Arctic, and the focus of this set, Desert. That's what the back-of-the-box hype copy up there is hinting at.

The packaging actually refers to this as the Cobra HISS Tank V.5," which is an interesting choice: officially, yes, this is the fifth type of HISS; the last new version they introduced was the HISS IV, so 5 would logicaly be next. However, "Pursuit of Cobra" is the continuation of the movie line, and there hasn't even been a HISS I in that continuity. Way to blur the lines, guys! Hey, we can always pretend Destro has been working up HISSes for years, and this is just the first time they're being used publically.

This is definitely not your daddy's HISS tank: the stylistic elements are there, but it's an all-new beast. We still get the triangular tank treads and the angled canopy. The rear guns, however, aren't manned from an open-air pit, and the entire thing isn't a balance nightmare with a high center of gravity. The treads are set wide, rather than right next to each other, and the chassis is between them, not above. And unlike every HISS before it, these are real working treads, not sculpted bits hiding little wheels.

As we said, the central body of the tank has a few hints of the classic HISS design, but it owes a lot more to the Cobra Gunship, which helps tie this vehicle into the film's asthetic. There are two main weapons - a Gatling gun and a missile launcher - and they can be mounted in any of six spots around the tank. If you put them on the top, there's a sliding lever that allows them to pivot side to side. You can turn the barrel of the gun, and there's an ammo belt that plugs into the top of the tank. Finally, there's a pivoting nose gun.

Back in the '80s, whenever you bought a vehicle, you had to put it together yourself. That's fallen by the wayside in recent years, but it's made a comeback for the PoC - and that's a good thing! For one thing, putting together a toy is fun. It's more interactive than just untying some twisties, and make the thing feel more like a real object used by tiny people. For another, it lets you get a surprisingly big vehicle in a deceptively small package, which saves shelf space and shipping costs. The instructions are actually a bit unclear on some things (such as where the bumper goes, or what to do with the two hoses), but in theory Hasbro will get better about that once they get back in the swing of things.

The cockpit opens, revealing a comfortable seat and a control stick. Surprisingly, the hinged piece isn't clear plastic: that means the entire surface of the tank is armored, and the driver has to rely on the technological readouts to guide him. As we said, the guns aren't manned directly: there's a second cockpit in the back, with a drop-down access hatch. Yes, that means the gunner has to get in like an astronaut; he's upside down until the hatch is closed. Lucky for him there's a roller coaster harness to hold him in place.

There's an entire sheet of decals to add some color to the otherwise-drab HISS. Most of them are good, but there's one that's meant to go inside the rear cockpit and quite literally has nowhere to go. It's a large sticker, and there are no flat surfaces inside to accommodate it. Poor show, Hasbro! On the plus side, the sheet includes the old familiar "788" designation - and if you don't like that, it also includes two of every letter and digit, so you can assign your HISS whatever serial number you want. Here comes Y0/GO-R3 squad!

The HISS has one more attack feature we haven't mentioned yet. Like the HISS IV, it's spring-loaded: press the button on the top, and the entire body pops up off the treads, rising on four hinged arms. Up here, the chassis can rotate freely, aiming at more targets. Nice stuff! Now, who's going to drive this monster?

Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank Drivers are the most highly trained and aggressive drivers in the Cobra ranks. They have to be: they're at the controls of one of the most sophisticated and destructive ground weapons in the world. They unleash the full force of this new weapon in the desert battle against the GI Joe team.

We've already discussed the relative obscurity of the RAH HISS Driver, and this is the first time he's ever made it into a different continuity. Since the movie has a more armored, technological aesthetic than RAH did, this HISS Driver is more than just a repaint of that HISS Driver. Slightly more. He's a repaint of the Iron Grenadier, with the HISS Driver's head. But you know what? It works for him. Instead of bright red, he's a nice dark maroon, and he still gets comically high boots.

The Driver gets most of his accessories from the Resolute Comic Pack Destro: a chestplate and odd little stirrup/garter belt thing. They're dark blue, and there's a red Cobra sigil on the chest. It all looks a lot better here than it did when Destro wore it. The HISS Driver also gets Destro's revolver and backpack, and the ceremonial Cobra banner that comes with the mystery exclusive Cobra Commander due later this year.

Looking at the HISS Tank on store shelves, it seems overpriced. It's a skinny little box, and it's retailing for $25 at TRU (the only place PoC merch has shown up yet, jumping the reported August 1 street date). But once you get it assembled and all stickered-up, it's really awesome. Big huge vehicle, fun play features, customizable stickers, and a more-or-less new figure add up to a winning set.

-- 07/16/10

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