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"Headshot" Locust Drone

Gears of War
by yo go re

We OAFEs have always maintained that a good toy is more important than a good property. I've never played a second of Halo, but I have about a dozen of McFarlane's Halo 3 toys, just because they're so much fun. Similarly, Poe's awesome review made me get a Marcus Fenix, even though I know nothing about Gears of War.

The savage Drones power the Locust Horde. A single Drone, armed with its Hammerburst assault rifle, is more than a match for a squad of COG Soldiers. In groups, they're even worse. Drones work together to ambush their enemy, emerging unexpectedly from the underground with devastating results. This unfortunate Drone was hit in the head by a COG sniper using a Longshot rifle.

Everything I know about the Locusts I learned by looking it up online. They're subterranean creatures on whatever generic planet it is humans have foolishly colonized in the... future? Alternate dimension? That part's not really clear. Whatever, the Locusts live deep inside the planet. Fairly soon after a decades-long war of attrition among the humans, these guys come up through the ground on "Emergence Day," killing 25% of the human population in the first 24 hours, and 90% of all the humans before they're finally driven back. It's unknown what they call themselves, but the "Locust" name was coined because death on that scale had only ever been seen during plagues. Plus they're ugly, so that makes them the bad guys.

The Locust Drone is done in a 7" scale, but since he's hunched over slightly, he doesn't quite reach that full measure. His skin is covered in thick, warty plates, which help protect him from small-arms fire. The lumps are thickest on his head, neck and shoulders, but they propegate around the wrists, as well. His face is vaguely humanoid, with a nose, a mouth and two eyes, but it's still alien. The nose is mashed flat situated just below the eyeline. There's a smooth patch on his forehead, but I can't tell if that's a design feature or if it's just some kind of molding error.

This bad boy was sculpted by Mike Locasio and Jason Frailey, but the package doesn't bother to break down who did what. I like to imagine that Mike did the right half of the figure, Jason did the left half, and then they crossed their fingers that everything would line up properly when they put them together. That's probably not even close to what happened, though. It's fun to pretend. The armor on his torso is mostly symmetrical, but there's a parge, multi-part pad on his left shoulder and additional armor all down his left arm - the right is bare, though that does allow you to see the Locust Horde symbol branded onto his shoulder. There's a large pod on his back that could be armor or a backpack, or possibly both. It's got eight sculpted pockets, all with buckles holding them shut - how is he supposed to reach those things?

The Drone's wearing pants, with an inexplicable harness system of straps around his thighs. Maybe they're there to help hold up his giant clompy boots, though those have their own straps, as well, both arouns the shins and even over the tops of the feet. The boots are big enough that if the Drone ran out of ammo, he could still take one of them off and beat someone to death with it. There are a few more pouches on his belt, a non-removable knife on his hip and something that looks like a flashlight on his thigh. Maybe if I'd played the game, I'd know what that is. It's on there permanently, either way.

On the right hip is a working holster with a removable Boltok pistol, the Horde's fallback weapon. It has a high stopping power, but only holds six shots, which is why it isn't the main weapon. For that, we go to the Hammerburst rifle, the gun that would probably be more popular if it hadn't been introduced in the same game that gave us the chainsaw bayonet. That thing trumps all.

This is specifically the Hammerburst I, not the Hammerburst II introduced in Gears of War 2 - that one has a protruding barrel and a few other cosmetic changes that make the difference easy to spot. The Hammerburst is good for medium and long-range combat, but kind of sucks up close. The figure can hold the gun in his right hand and support it with the left. The grip is wrapped with tape, possibly because the Drone is worried about leaving fingerprints. There's a separate removable... something... right in front of the clip. It's a drum of some sort, and pulls out easily, but darned if I can find out what it's for.

With their early Gears of War toys, NECA had to fight with Epic Games to get more articulation in the figures. Judging by the final product, I'd hate to have seen what Epic wanted them to do. The Drone has a swivel neck, balljointed shoulders, a swivel bicep and elbow on the left arm (and nothing on the rught), swivel wrists, balljointed torso, v-crotch, swivel thighs, balljointed knees and balljointed ankles. The lack of joints in the right arm is particularly egregious, particularly since the bicep is designed to look like a joint. Now that's what you call an Epic fail! [God I hate you. --ed.]

By himself, the Locust Drone really isn't worth a purchase. The toy just isn't as good as Marcus Fenix, so if you're not already a fan of the game, there's no reason to get the plain Drone. And that's why I didn't - this version has something more to offer. What is that something special?


When the Gears of War figures were first shown off at Toy Fair '08, there was a variant Locust that drew a lot of attention - one whose head had obviously been exploded by a direct headshot. It's taken a longass time for the variant to come out, but it's finally here now, available only from Amazon.

The "Headshot Locust," as he's known, does a pretty good job of representing in three solid dimensions an effect that's really all about fluid dynamics. Yeah, if you stare at this thing for too long, it looks weird, but you look away for a bit and glance back at it? 100% real. See, the reason it looks "fake" is that your brain, logically, knows the blood splatter should be moving: there's no way for it to remain suspended in midair like that. So the longer you look at it, the less the illusion works, but for that first instant? It's perfect.

The chunky salsa is molded from translucent red plastic, with grey paint around the neck for what little skin is left, solid pink for the internal brainy bits, and there's even a somewhat intact section of Locust Drone face flying away in the goo. Missy thought the chainsaw torso wound was vile? This puts that to shame.

In addition to the two guns and the "un-asploded" head, this exclusive includes a set of real metal COG tags. Gears of War... cogs... get it? They're on a thick chain with a fairly chunky clasp, and are engraved with "Property of the Coalition of Ordered Governments." It's a nice piece, and adds some value to the set, but I'd have gladly traded these away for more joints.

A good toy is more important than a good property, but the Locust Drone is only barely a good toy. Great sculpt, but he's missing some key articulation. Unless you're getting one of the special versions, like the two-pack or this headshot, don't bother. Marcus Fenix can fight the Predator or something.

-- 07/30/09

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