He stands above them all. His souffle is legendary. His skill with a skillet is matched only by his ingenuity with ingredients. He is ... the Master Chef!
No, wait. Wrong guy.
In 2000-2001, the console to have was the Playstation 2. But around the same time, computer giant Microsoft also introduced their own console, the Xbox. Sales were initially sluggish and third-party support was thin.
Meanwhile, a computer game company, Bungie, was working on a first person shooter (FPS) game called Halo. The game had more than a few featurtes that Bungie and its fans knew would revolutionize the stagnating FPS genre. Lord Gates and his minions got wind of this and quickly drove a fleet of garbage trucks filled with cash to Bungie's door. Soon Halo was an Xbox-exclusive, and within a year, it was the
fabled Killer App that made the Xbox a must-buy.
What differentiated Halo from other FPS games was its innovative gameplay - particularly the way vehicles worked in the game - and its storyline, which, while not as complex as a Pynchon novel, offered more of a story than most big-budget science fiction films.
The plot involved an interstellar war between humans and a confederacy of alien species known as the Covenant. As the game begins, both groups have come upon Halo, an ancient alien construct of purpose unknown.
The hero of Halo is a space marine known only as the Master Chief. Decked out in green armor with a distinctive gold faceplate, the Master Chief has become a mascot not just for Bungie but for the Xbox and the FPS genre as a whole.
As you may have heard, there's a sequel to Halo coming out soon - tomorrow, actually. In what will no doubt be known as Black Tuesday in the tech industry, millions of people will hunker down in front of their televisions for hours or even days to find out the next part of the Master Chief's story.
Since no popular franchise can exist for long without being marketed into the ground (thanks George Lucas!), Halo has spread quickly to other arenas such as tie-in novels and yes, action figures. Rather than go with one of the heavy hitters such as Mattel or Hasbro, Bungie and Microsoft took a chance on a small company called Joyride Studios, who until that point were best known for making decent but not overly popular toy lines based on videogames. Halo, however, would secure Joyride a place on the toy industry map. The first line was well-received and is still going strong, so it came as no surprise when Joyride announced they would be producing toys based on
Halo 2 as well.
The first Master Chief figure was good, but the new one is better. As in the game, the Chief is a bit leaner and meaner this time around.
First, the sculpt. It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, the figure is more detailed than the first one. Joyride has clearly made strides in this area. But there is still a certain, for lack of a better term, "cartooniness" to the Master Chief. Put another way, it looks like an action figure of the Master Chief, not a miniature Chief.
Also, there are some problems with accuracy - the sculpt doesn't quite match the look of Master Chief in Halo 2. The backpack runs a little high over the shoulders, and the mouthplate just looks wrong to me. But this is still some fine work, and I have no doubt Joyride will continue to improve as its stock rises.
Joyride says these figures are in 1/12th scale, which means that one inch equals one foot. If that's true, however, the Master Chief - who is even taller than the original figure - is about 1" to 1 1/2" too tall.
The paint applications aren't bad, though I think the shininess of the figure - which is due to the fact that most of the parts were simply cast in the color they had to be, rather than being painted - adds to the "action figure" feel. The Chief also has the same odd silver speckling as the original figure.
But Joyride makes up for these quibbles with the articulation. While the first Chief had good articulation for an early effort, the new one shows what more money and experience can do. The new Chief has balljointed shoulders, a peg neck, ball hips, ball wrists, ball ankles, double-joints on the knees and elbows, peg biceps and thighs, a peg waist, and a balljointed torso. So you can get him into any pose you want, essentially, including better battle-ready poses than the original figure.
Master Chief comes with four accessories: a battle rifle, two SMGs (small, one-handed machine guns), and an extra left hand with a trigger finger so he can hold the two SMGs. The SMGs have an interesting feature: they can be extended so the guns can be worked into the hands, then closed. To me, the SMGs seem a little small; Master Chief looks best with the rifle.
Overall, the Halo 2 Master Chief figure represent a great step for Joyride Studios. It's a must for any Halo fan. If the folks at Joyride keep improving and continuing to raise the bar for themselves, Joyride can look forward to becoming an industry player on par with the likes of Mezco, NECA or even McFarlane.
Halo: sign of Xbox's greatness, or solo star on a failing system? Discuss it over at The Loafing Lounge.