Some fans were worried when word got out that Joyride Studios had shut down. Now, let's be honest, their Halo figures were less than impressive, but they were also the only ones available, so fans of the games loved them. But "good enough" isn't the same thing as "good," so the field was pretty much wide open for any company that wanted to nab the license and take Joyride to school - and just before SDCC '07, we found out that Todd McFarlane would be the one driving the bus.
The line's debut was announced for Spring of '08, but Wal*Mart has busted ass to get early shipments and have the first figures on their shelves a few weeks early.
McToys' Halo 3 figures are divided
into "Campaign" and "Multiplayer" groupings, though it's mostly a semantic thing: the Campaign figures comprise Master Chief, Cortana and all the game's enemies, while the Multiplayer figures are pretty much just variant suits of armor (since Halo 3's mutiplayer mode allows you to customize your gear). While most people will probably head straight for Master Chief himself, I opted for the Wal*Mart-exclusive Spartan Soldier (CQB).
The intent with the MJOLNIR Mark VI Powered Assault Armor/C variant was to improve survivability in close combat, specifically by looking at alternate methods of K dispersal and improving joint mobility. Developed at Beweglichrüstungsysteme of Essen, Deutshland and tested at the Special Warfare Center in Songham, Hanguk, respectively, integrating feedback gathered from the Jericho VII Theater.
The first thing you'll notice when you find the Halo figures is how small they are. It's one thing to read that they're in a 5" scale,
but quite another to see it in person. Maybe it's just the mental contrast of being used to Joyride's giants, but McFarlane Toys' Spartans just look tiny in their package. The packaging itself is nothing special, just the small, rounded clamshell McToys has recently switched to, with the figure standing plainly in the tray in front of a dull, lifeless backdrop. There are downloadable backdrops on McFarlane's site, but the packaging could still stand to be a bit more interesting. Since the line includes some really big figures, like the Brute Chieftan, the bubble looks particularly dull and empty when there's just a Spartan in there. Maybe that's part of why the figures seem so small?
The Close Quarters Battle armor
first appeared in a GamePro article about the then-upcoming game, as part of a collage of various armor options. The figure's sculpt is, as you might expect, astoundingly detailed. The dozens of metal plates are clearly delineated, and the inside of the joints look like flexible, ribbed rubber. Remember those promo ads for Halo 3 in which the camera panned over a museum-style diorama of exquisitely crafted miniatures (sculpted by special effects master Stan Winston)? This figure easily matches those in terms of subtle detailing. The hands could use some more work, but that's the only problem
A good 90% of all the sculpt is shared by all the Spartan figures, but that's okay: after all, they all look alike in the game, too. Besides, that kind of reuse saves money that can be spent in other areas - more on that later. In order to differentiate one Spartan from the next, each figure's helmet, shoulder armor and chest plate are removable. That way, diehard Halo-heads can build their own custom multiplayer character without having to worry about their sculpting skills.
The CQB armor can be distinguished from the regular Spartan armor by its rectangular shoulder armor, which actually fails to cover the shoulder; it runs horizontally over the upper arm, so it's really more "bicep" armor than "shoulder" armor, isn't it?
In the game world, the pads have a forward-facing light, and the sculpt matches that - just don't expect it to actually light up. The chest armor is the regular MJOLNIR plate with additional pads overlaid - though for this figure, it's a solid piece sculpted to look like two, not just an extra bit glued on the standard mold. A (non-removeable) knife is sheathed over the heart, as well.
For those tired of plain old Master Chief,
the multiplayer designs offer a ton of new helmets to set your Spartan apart. The CQB helmet looks like it was stolen from Metroid's Samus Aran, with its T-shaped visor and large cheek guards. A large brace runs over the top of the helmet, as well - probably to help cushion blows when fighting in close quarters. If this helmet is anything like the ones worn by real Spartans, the limited field of view not only protects the face, but helps keep the wearer's attention focused on the foe they're facing.
Since this suit is designed for close fighting,
you'd expect the figure to come with melee weapons. Nope: instead, he has a MA5C Assault Rifle and an M9 HE-DP Grenade. There are also two odd pegs in the blister, with no clear purpose. What are they? They're pegs. Really. Plug one in his back and one in his thigh, and you can attach his weapons. Why isn't there anything to indicate that's what they're for? For that matter, why are they seperate pieces? Their inclusion is without a doubt a big plus for the figure, but it's still odd.
Cool weapons mean nothing if the figure can't use them well, and in that regard, McFarlane's Spartan Soldier is a huge success. Yes, the company known for its embarrassingly under-articulated toys is finally taking a tentative step
into the world of real toymaking, giving us a Spartan that moves like an action figure should. He has a double-balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, balljointed elbows, balljointed wrists, balljointed torso, peg hips with balljoints at the top of the thigh, balljointed knees, balljointed ankles and hinge/swivels for the toes.
That's an assload of articulation right there, but it's even more when you realize how most of the balljoints have a swivel on both sides instead of just one. For instance, the shoulder has a swivel where it connects to the body, another where it connects to the arm, and a hinge in between. The elbows and ankles are the same way. The packaging lists the total as 18 points of articulation, but that's a low count. It may be 18 points, but it's 38 joints. Don't sell yourselves short, McToys:
this is exactly what we've always wanted from you. I mean, holy crap, guys, where have you been hiding this kind of skill? Now, can you carry it over into other lines, please?
The CQB Spartan Soldier is a damn fine figure, though so far it's only available in two exclusive releases: this blue version at Wal*Mart and a grey version at Gamestop. Wal*Mart's prices are lower, of course - less than $10 - and they've already got their shipments, while everyone else is still waiting. McFarlane's Spartan is a hell of a toy, no matter which version you get, and while I would have preferred a 6" scale, once you start playing with this figure, you won't notice the size deficiency at all: the poseability more than makes up for it. Even if you're not a huge fan of the games, it's worth getting this figure. We're two months into 2008, and this is already one of the best toys of the year.