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A.W.E. Striker w/ Night Fox

GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

As the GI Joe brand went along in the '80s, old figures would be replaced by newer equivalents. Zap became Bazooka, Blowtorch became Barbeque, etc. It wasn't just the characters, either: the VAMP came out in 1982, and in 1985 Hasbro put out the AWE Striker.

The A.W.E. Striker (All Weather and Environment) vehicle blasts over the desert sand. With its rugged suspension and highly responsive steering, this 4x4 glides over the toughest dunes and roughest rock trails in its path. Cobra forces are in trouble when the A.W.E. Striker aims its advanced cannon system and opens fire.

While the VAMP was a jeep, the AWE Striker is a dune buggy. Seems to offer a little less protection, doesn't it? You're more likely to catch a bullet in an open rollcage than in an enclosed cabin, right? This is the third modern release of this vehicle: the first, in green, was one of the Target-exclusive releases; the second, in tan, came out at the same time as the CLAW and FANG. And now this one is part of the Pursuit of Cobra line.

The new AWE Striker is easily the most striking of the bunch (no pun intended). Rather than being one solid color, it's got a black body, tan rollcage, and a green engine cover and gun. This could have ended up looking like a mishmash of leftover parts, but in practice it really blends together well. No, it might not blend into any one specific environment very well, but the combo of colors is pleasing to the eye. Being one solid color made the previous versions pretty boring, and this one fixes that. At last, there's an AWE Striker that has more going for it than "hey, that driver was a G1 figure and hasn't been updated yet!"

The AWE Striker has large, thick tires, prefect for staying on top of muddy terrain - they get brown paint apps over black plastic, to make them look dirty, and there's a really great "splattered" pattern on the body behind the front wheels. The wheels are attached to a real working suspension, which makes them slightly "bouncy"; it's a feature that's been there since the first version.

The headlights are clear plastic set into the front brushbar, and two long antennae are mounted to the rear of the seats. The large cannon on top swivels and elevates, and a black hose connects it to the infared sighting camera mounted on the passenger's side dashboard. The gun looks like it should fire a missile, but no, it's just designed that way. The interior of the AWE Striker is fully detailed, with padded seats, a steering wheel, a gear shift and even what appears to be the emergency brake. Two figures can sit in there, and two more can stand on the running boards.

The engine cover can be removed, which would have been really handy to know before struggling to put the stickers on; then, once you've taken engine cover off, the actual engine itself can be pulled out as well. That feature is mentioned on the back of the box, but you'd think there would be a note about it in the paperwork that came with this set, too. After all, who pays attention to the packaging when there's a toy to be played with? The AWE Striker is 7¼" long, 4¾" wide and 7⅞" tall.

Night Fox is the GI Joe team's special combat and operations expert. This former Navy SEAL takes control of challenging situations with tactical force and strategic impact, calling on a broad range of skills including marksman, explosives expert and combat diver. In the desert battle, he blasts through a Cobra blockade to weaken the enemy's defenses and open a path for his team.

This guy, Night Fox, is one of the few Pursuit of Cobra figures who isn't a reference to a Generation 1 character. His real name, Armadno Ortiz, has never been used before, nor has his codename. In a line obsessed with updating the past, Night Fox is an eye on the future. Now, admittedly, being the Joes' "special combat and operations expert" doesn't really mean anything, because they're just random words that could easily be applied to any character at all, and we have no idea what his personality is like, but it's still some nice variety.

The figure uses Desert Ambush Duke's body and Shockblast's head, done in colors that match the AWE Striker: tan pants, black shirt, and green gloves and scarf. He's wearing a green belt with a holster, and is wearing fancy webgear that appears to be new - it's got pockets on the front and padding on the back, and the clasp is hidden on the left side. The way the belt and vest bump against each other means that the vest sits too high on the torso. It would have been preferable if they'd just foregone the belt and put a holster directly on the leg - it doesn't help that when you put him behind the wheel the holster has to be pushed out to the side, hanging into the passenger's seat.

Since the figure uses a masked head, there isn't anything to say about the face. However, you can still get some nice variety to his look, thanks to accessories. The scarf is removable, and he can put on either a ballcap or a helmet with flip-down night vision goggles. All three are existing pieces, but they look good here.

Most vehicle drivers only come with a knife or pistol, but Night Fox gets a lot more. He has two pistols, a combat shotgun and Roadblock's backpack, ammo belt and .50 cal setup. Why does he get so much? Who knows. Better yet, who cares? You can distribute weapons to other characters who need them. It's kind of annoying that he has two pistols but only one holster: maybe it's a hint that we should remove the one holster he does have. The articulation is good enough that you can get a pretty realistic pose even with the shotgun.

Like the Doom Cycle, the backdrop behind the AWE Striker can be expanded to become a display scene - a desert vista with an explosion in the distance on one side. If you like storing your vehicles in their packaging after you open them, you should be warned that the AWE Striker, once assembled, won't fit back in: the rear tires are too wide, and the antennae are too tall. Of course, if you're careful, you can pop those off.

Like we said, the previous AWE Striker releases were quite dull, which is why I didn't bother picking either of them up. This one, though is a lot cooler. The colorscheme is impressive, the paintwork is stunning, and the play features are all good ones. Plus, Night Fox may be a new character made from old parts, but he's a fine addition to the ranks of GI Joe. This set originally retailed for $15, but it's been showing up at closeout discounters for about half that, and at that price, it's a great buy!

-- 09/02/11

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