Tuesday, March 1, 2011

REVIEW: GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra - Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank with H.I.S.S. Tank Driver

Desert Battle Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank with Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank Driver
Produced by Hasbro | Released July 2010

As the desert battle unfolds, Cobra unleashes its devastating new weapon - the Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank! The chassis elevates and rotates 360 degrees, to expand visual range and shut down any surprise attacks. Extreme terrain treads speed over the roughest ground, as the tank punctuates its message of destruction with an explosive blast from its pulse cannon!

Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank Drivers are the most highly trained and aggressive drivers in the Cobra ranks. They have to be: they're at the controls of one of the most sophisticated and destructive ground weapons in the world. They unleash the full force of this new weapon in the desert battle against the G.I. Joe team.

An iconic vehicle from the GI Joe universe, the HISS Tank is finally here and ready for Review!

The HISS Tank comes in a fairly large box which, sadly, hides most of the pieces within (the HISS Tank comes in parts and must be put together.) A small window at the front shows the HISS Tank Driver figure and there are a number of photos and illustrations on the box's front and back to show-off the vehicle. 

I understand why the box is sealed this way even though I would prefer to see the toy within, rather than rely on photos and pre-produced images.

The box is opened at either end. A cardboard retaining tray within holds the figure and the HISS Tank parts. Like most vehicle boxes, it can be resealed.

HISS Tank Driver
The HISS Tank Driver, included with the set, has a very old-school Cobra look. From what I gather, he's actually made-up from three previous releases (an armoured Cobra Commander, a Destro and an old HISS Driver) with a look that's quite... unique.

The figure resembles a mash-up between a 15th Century Conquistador and a futuristic cybog, thanks to his plate cuirass and weirdly-mechanoidal legs. I like the look but it does stand-out a little when you compare him to the more lifelike figures like, say Dusty or even Zartan. Maybe it's supposed to be some kind of dress/ceremonial uniform rather than a more practical ''grunt'' outfit.

Poseability is an issue with the HISS Tank Driver, thanks to the armoured plates on his forearms - they simply restrict elbow movement too much. Maybe that's the point and he's supposed to look as if he's restricted in his armour, but I'd prefer a wider range of movement. Similarly, his shoulder joints are forced outward by his armoured shoulder plates. Leg and head movement are fine though, with the legs (at least on my HISS Tank Driver) having good, firm joints.

The figure's basic sculpt is augmented with some removable accessory pieces, a blue cuirass and a matching subligar/leg harness. The former is fine (even if it does look a little archaic) but the leg pieces are just odd, especially given that the Driver's boots come up to his thighs. This, combined with the harness, make it appear as if he's wearing a suspender/garter belt. Transvestites for World Domination!

The paintwork on the HISS Tank Driver is, at best, acceptable. The visor is painted a dull silver and there's a black respirator/mask on the lower-half of his face that's also painted on. His boots and gloves are also painted. The paintwork isn't badly applied but there's a splodge on his visor and the edging on his boots isn't as clean as I'd have liked.

The HISS Tank
The HISS Tank requires some assembly. The main canopy/hull, tread mounting and twin sets of treads must all be combined (which is actually a little awkward at first) and once they're connected, the weapons, canopy cover and transfers can be applied.

The HISS Tank is an unusual design, with a sleek, almost insectoid hull that looks more like a helicopter gunship than a tank, mounted on two triangular track-mountings. The cabin section is sealed, with no windows (the Driver navigates using video screens, I assume) and this gives it a very hostile, inhuman look. I approve.

There are a number of weapons that can be - rather cleverly - repositioned about the tank, thanks to the presence of numerous weapons ports. As well as twin cannons, there's a Gatling gun (with rotating barrels and its own ammo feed - which sadly is for show only) and a large, firing missile launcher. In their default positions (at the rear of the tank) they may be rotated individually by hand or together using the targeting switch positioned between the two ports. It's a little gimmicky and the range of movement is small but it's a fun little feature.

Pressing the release mechanism atop the main hull puts the HISS Tank into its secondary attack mode, where the entire section elevates. This action is relatively smooth (so long as you get your hand away quickly) but it's sadly a little hair-triggered. Pushing down with even the smallest amount of force causes the canopy to rise to this position, so be warned when reconfiguring the weapons.

In the elevated mode, the tank's hull can be rotated through 360 degrees. The tread section is well-balanced and no matter what angle you rotate the hull to, the HISS Tank remains solidly planted with no danger of tipping over.

The HISS Tank features two opening cockpits - a pilot's position at the fore and a gunnery position at the rear, the latter requiring a Cobra operative to be placed within upside-down. I'd have liked to see a second tank operator included for this purpose, but I'm sure you could use any other Cobra guy you have lying around. Both canopy doors are simple ''overlap latches'' that click into place when the door is shut and out when the door is prised open.

The HISS Tank rolls well enough but the tread movement is a little heavy. You need to push pretty hard to get it to go anywhere and it's impossible to freewheel. That's fine, but just be wary of the spring-up/elevated mode action, as this will usually trigger when you try to push it.

There's no paint applied to the HISS Tank, with the colouring coming solely from the plastics used to cast it. The main chassis is a dark brown-burgundy (a ''corrected'' wave of HISS Tanks are also available in black), with greeenish-grey accessories (such as weapons) and the tread mount unit is black. The tracked wheels themselves are grey with black rubber tracks. The colour scheme works quite nicely, overall but like most GI Joe vehicles, it suffers from looking plastic-y. I wish they'd apply some paint or patterns. That aside, though, the HISS Tank is a very unusual but cool-looking toy.

The HISS Tank Driver comes with his pre-equipped (but removable) chest plate and leg harness. He also has a Cobra banner (which can be mounted on the Tank, too) and a small pistol.

The set includes a sheet of decals and instructions. Note however that there are some pieces included that are not covered by the instructions, namely two ''power connectors'' that fit into the tread base and connect to the main hull and a bar/guard/fender that fits onto the hull's rear.

Final Thoughts
The HISS Tank Driver is an oddity. I'm still undecided about his design but having removed his silly garter/suspender belt I'm happier with the figure now. His armoured look seems a little archaic but I guess he's supposed to be a kind of Cobra Elite Warrior so that makes sense. I'd just have preferred to see something more lifelike, along the lines of the Pursuit of Cobra-style figures.

He also suffers from some poor articulation around the arms. Not enough to stop him fulfilling his role as the tank's pilot, but it is something to be aware of if you're considering using him outside of the vehicle.

As for the HISS Tank itself, it's a unique-looking, nicely-produced toy, but it's not without its flaws, chief of which is the twitchy lock on the elevated attack mode. I like the HISS Tank much more in its non-elevated mode (the elevated mode reminds me too much of a jacked-up monster truck) but it's very easy to trigger the elevation of the hull by pressing on the chassis or - if it's not fully locked - simply touching it.  Be wary of how you display the vehicle, as it would be quite easy for a curious visitor to cause it to pop up and - depending how your figures are arranged - it could cause some headaches.

The tracks are also a little heavy for my tastes. Given that the chassis tends to pop up whenever it's pressed, you'll find this happening a lot should you try to push the vehicle along, as getting the treads to move requires a little effort, certainly enough to make the spring mechanism unlock.

As a toy and a display piece, the HISS Tank works well. I just wish the spring-loaded elevation mechanism wasn't so twitchy.

Cobra HISS Tank Driver

Production QualityB-
Final ScoreB-

Cobra HISS Tank
Production QualityB-
Final ScoreB+

Final ScoreB+

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