Wednesday, February 8, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe 30th Anniversary - Techno-Viper

Produced by Hasbro | Released December 2011

TECHNO-VIPERS are COBRA engineers who can build, rebuild and retrofit anything from weapons to fortresses. They use whatever materials they have on hand, and send troopers to ''take'' what they need to complete their project. Their engineering creations are usually powerful, effective and full of deadly surprises.

30th Anniversary Techno-Viper
Despite the seeming campaign of hate Hasbro is currently subjecting GI Joe collectors to by apparently deciding to make trying to turn find these figures in store into a nerve-shredding ''game'' of disappointment and annoyance, I was finally able to get my hands on the Techno-Viper. Although I did have to order it online, something I'd recommend to anybody else trying to find the latest Joes, as frankly it looks like Hasbro has decided that they're no longer in the business of actually shipping anything to stores these days...

Anyway, after all the months - and gas money - spent fruitlessly trying to pursue him, should I finally be happy now I have my very own Techno-Viper?

What can I say? It's the standard GI Joe single carded figure packaging. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as the design is pretty solid and eye-catching enough. And kudos to GI Joe for still using individual card backs over generic ones.

Sculpt And Design
The Techno-Viper is primarily an update of the 1987 figure of the same name and - like many of other 30th Anniversary figures - is pretty much a direct modernisation of the character, right down to his accessories (which we'll come to later.) As an update it's actually a successful figure and if you owned - or always wanted to own - an 87 version then you'll love what Hasbro has done here.

The basic sculpt is excellent, with the Techno-Viper's uniform sporting all manner of folds and creases and other clothing detail. There's a definite Steampunk influence on the whole look, not just in terms of the cables/pipes adorning his forearms but also in the knee-boots and (removable) button-over jacket. It's like Downton Abbey's Branson got recruited to Cobra by the Borg. It's a very unique look.

The head sculpt is solid in its execution, being a modern take on the original but adding a more alien, angular design that's part Darth Vader, part Samurai. Whilst there's a definite 80s vibe about the design - which is good, as it's supposed to be an update to the original - I have to admit I'm not a massive fan of the actual look of it. Put simply, the two cheek ''panels'' and inverted triangle eyes all add up to give him a bit of a sad  puppy face. That's not really a good image.

Articulation is, as you'd expect from a GI Joe figure, very good. There's a wide range of movement and poseability and the joints are solid without feeling tight, although the knees do feel a little ratcheted.

The Techno-Viper includes a tilt-able joint on his left wrist, which is a definite plus, too and further opens-up the possibilities for this figure.

However, whilst the body sculpt looks great it does adversely impact upon the figure's articulation set-up in that the extra bulk of the forearms and their pipes/cables makes it very difficult for him to hold some of his equipment and they do sometimes get in the way when you're posing him. You can work around it with most of his gear but the rifle (nail gun?) is rendered pretty useless, simply because the stock and his bulky forearm can't occupy the same space.

That aside, though, all is good.

Paintwork is solid and well-applied on the whole. The dark purple/grey uniform is unlike anything I've seen on a Cobra figure before but the Techno-Vipers are - I guess - a specialist unit so it makes sense that they'd have their own uniform. It's also cool to see Hasbro taking the neon day-glo bright purple of the 80s version and tone it down to a more sedate tone.

Unfortunately my Techno-Viper's head app is a little sloppy around the eyes. This is the point where I'd advise you to pay extra attention when buying your Techno-Viper and make sure you pick-out the one with the best app but given that you'll probably not have that option, I'll save my breath. Or fingers. 

Minor mis-application aside though, the actual colouring is very good and the combination of grey-purple, silver and black is very striking.

Extras And Accessories
The Techno-Viper is intended to be a field engineer and so rather than be weighted-down with a ton of weapons, he comes with his own specialised equipment and tools.

There's a backpack-cum-tool case that features a rifle, a welding torch, a power-wrench and a cutting claw. The case is a very cool accessory that can be carried or stowed on his back and features three slots, into which you can insert the various tools. The actual mechanics of this aren't quite as precise as I'd have hoped but everything fits (they just tend to jiggle a little once they're in place.) There's even a port on the pack into which the rifle can be slotted when it's not in use and a connecting pipe/cable that can be used to ''power'' each tool. The pack has two connectors for the pipe/cable, which allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to posing the figure.

Overall it works pretty well and - given how many different tools the Techno-Viper has - it's not only nice to have display choices but also somewhere to store the spares. 

Whilst most of the tools work just fine, though, the rifle is a bit of a pain. I know it's based on the 80s Techno-Viper weapon (and that's a cool nod for the retro-collectors) but it simply doesn't work as a weapon with this sculpt, as the forearms are too bulky and the rifle butt too long. It's a shame he can't hold it straight, as it's actually a pretty neat-looking weapon (in a sci-fi-ish way.)

His other weapon comes in the form of a pistol, which slots neatly into the left-thigh holster and is a good fit in his hand. It's fine for what it is, although it looks a little too Star Wars for my tastes.

The other character-specific accessory is this rather awesome day-glo green cone. I guess he uses it to indicate where he's working or that there's a hazard ahead, which is hilarious. I always find it funny that Cobra - ''a ruthless terrorist organisation'' - has Health and Safety-conforming ''danger'' stickers on their vehicles but this just takes it to a whole other level, especially as it's even embossed with a little Cobra sticker.

Final Thoughts
The Techno-Viper is a figure that will please fans of the original. It's an excellent update that takes all the elements of the original (right down to the tool selection) and uses modern sculpt and assembly techniques to bring him into the 21st Century. So if you're looking for a great bit of nostalgia, look no further.

For those of us who never owned (or even knew about) the original Techno-Viper though, he's a little bit of an also-ran. Don't get me wrong, everything about the figure construction, the sculpt detail and the accessories (with the exception of that rifle/forearm issue) is of the highest standard. It's just the Techno-Viper's role or ''character'' is a little on the bland side. I know he's a combat engineer but he doesn't seem at all scary or that threatening. I'd have preferred to see him come with some kind of auto-turret or even some mines, to give the impression he's built something that can kill your Joes. As it is, he looks like he's come around to fix your leaking cistern.

I'm sure this is a figure that will have its fans but to be honest if you're having trouble finding one at retail (or at a decent price) I wouldn't be too concerned. He's not a figure I'd really urge you to rush out and buy or put yourself to too much trouble to find and there are better figures in the 30th range that are more widely available.

A nicely-produced bit of nostalgia for retro fans. For the rest of us, a good but not essential addition to the line.

Sculpt and DesignB+
Extras and Accessories B+
Final ScoreB

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