Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe: Retaliation - Cobra HISS Tank (with Cobra Commander)

Produced by Hasbro | Released June 2012

GI Joe: Retaliation - Cobra HISS Tank
Following on from yesterday's Ghost Hawk II Review, here's our look at its wave-mate, the all-new Cobra HISS Tank, along with the bundled driver, Cobra Commander.

Cobra Commander
As we explained yesterday, Hasbro took the decision to release some of the GI Joe: Retaliation figures with reduced articulation in order to keep costs down and - as you may have gathered, given the Cobra HISS Tank was released simultaneously with the Ghost Hawk II - the bundled Cobra Commander figure does indeed feature a somewhat limited number of joints - but we'll come back to that in a moment.

Sculpt & Design
This incarnation of Cobra Commander is very different to the usual uniformed-and-hooded (or helmeted) character we're used to. How accurate this is to any version of the character appearing in the movie remains to be seen but the head sculpt at least resembles that seen in the trailers.

So does different equate to bad? Actually, no. It may be a somewhat different look than the norm (although it's by no means the first time we've seen Cobra Commander don a suit of armor) but I actually quite like it. It makes sense, if he's going into battle, that he wears more than his usual uniform.

As for the sculpt, it's pretty good, overall. It may seem a little more Star Wars than GI Joe but the execution of the design is solid, with some cool pouches, armor plates and even a wrist-mounted weapon all giving Cobra Commander a more aggressive, combatant look. I particularly like the asymmetrical styling of the design, although this does lead to a pretty major flaw, namely that the figure's left leg is significantly longer than his right. It's not a huge deal if you plan to display him in the vehicle, but if not you may find you'll have trouble getting him to stand properly without support.

Cobra Commander - like the Ghost Hawk II Duke - features a vastly reduced articulation set-up, limited again to shoulder joints, T-crotch hips and a ball-mounted head (the movement of which seems somewhat restircted.)

It's reminiscent of the original Star Wars figures from the 70s and 80s and whether you appreciate it or not will probably depend on your views on those toys. I have to admit that there's a little bit of a nostalgic appeal to the figure, despite the fact that I don't like the reduced articulation (their poseability is one of the reasons I like GI Joe figures so much.)

If that wasn't bad enough, the joints are further limited by the sculpt, with Cobra Commander's hips and shoulder guards inhibiting movement somewhat. But given that the driver's role is essentially to sit in either the turret or cockpit, he's just about capable of fulfilling his role, so long as that's all you limit him to.

Paintwork is, on the whole, pretty good. The chest tampo is neat and there are some cool pick-out details in the sculpt that are accentuated pretty well by the paint app. It's not particularly stunning (and I think the visor would have benefited from a more chromed effect) but overall it's fine for what it is.

Cobra HISS Tank
So what of the Cobra HISS Tank? How does it shape up?

Sculpt & Design
The new Cobra HISS Tank's design is a decent enough homage to the earlier design (or if you wanted to be unfair about it, it's Hasbro re-using a few old parts) whilst adding some new - and actually quite cool - twists. 

At least, that's the idea. In reality, whilst there's a lot of cool stuff here to enjoy, it also feels a little gimped. And as I don't want you to leave this Review on a negative note, we're going to actually start with a list of what's wrong with it before moving onto the good stuff.

For starters, some of the plastic has a ''cheap'' feel to it. The vehicle feels very light (especially compared to the earlier HISS Tanks) and the silver components look as if they're cast from a very low-grade of plastic, with the nose-mounted turret being particularly ''marbled'' and almost ''squishy'' feeling to it. Thankfully this cheapness is limited to just these silver/grey parts, though, although it does mean that some of the more visible/''highlighted'' areas of the vehicle suffer from a slightly ''fuzzy'' look, with some of the detail and sculpt work being a little softer around the edges than it really should be.

The other major change from the earlier HISS Tanks is that this version features solid tracks, with smaller wheels along the base to help it move (which presumably accounts for the lighter feel of this vehicle.) This isn't a new idea (we've seen it before in such vehicles as the Ice Dagger) but it does, again, contribute to the feeling that Hasbro was trying to cut a few corners.

Perhaps the biggest change - and in all honesty, this is not something I miss - is that the new HISS Tank no longer features the ''rearing up'' spring-loaded action of the earlier versions, replacing it instead with a ''tilt-forward'' gimmick that allows the nose to point to the ground. I'm really not sure what it brings to the party but it's there.

For all that though, there are some pretty neat features here. I like that the canopy is now transparent (a feature that will, I'm sure, divide fans), as it's cool to be able to see the driver within. The tank has also been given something of an upgrade in the firepower department, with the addition of two chain-guns on either side, which can also be repositioned to the rear (should you so desire), thanks to the use of a standard port-and-peg system. And although these cannons don't spin as you'd expect them to, they still look pretty mean.

Unlike the previous HISS Tanks, the new Cobra vehicle does not include the hatch-covered co-pilot/gunner position, with the underside of the chassis now being completely sealed.

Play Features
The coolest upgrade comes in the form of the rear-mounted turret. The entire piece can rotate through 360 degrees and the gunnery position is designed to accommodate the figure very well indeed. Some form of vertical movement would have been a cool touch, though. And yes, the gun is a working, spring-loaded missile launcher and although it's not particularly powerful, it's capable of firing the projectile over a reasonable range.

As mentioned above, I also like the fact that the weapon pods can be moved into a variety of positions based upon your personal preference. Although it's nowhere near Micronaut level of interchangeability, it's a cool little feature and I'd like to see Hasbro expand this to other vehicles. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to swap parts from one to another?

The Cobra HISS Tank does not feature any paint detail, with all color coming instead from the various hues of plastic used in its production. Whilst the black and blue pieces look fine (although whether you'll actually like them or not is a different matter), as I mentioned above, the grey/silver pieces do have some ''marbling'' that indicates the use of a cheaper grade of plastic.

The vehicle also comes with a set of decals, although, as you can see, I decided to keep the vehicle relatively transfer-free.

Extras & Accessories
As mentioned, the box includes a set of decals. Beyond that there are no accessories included.

Final Thoughts
I'm a little torn on this new HISS Tank. On the one hand, I love the design overhaul and the way it looks as if  if could do some serious damage in battle. The side-mounted weapons are cool (as is the option of being able to re-position them) and the turret is a really great addition to the concept. I also love the clear canopy.

But when it comes to the actual execution, I'm not quite so enthusiastic. It's by no means a terrible toy but when Hasbro announced the line they admitted they'd be looking at ways to cut costs and, when you play with this toy, those cuts are pretty obvious. The vehicle seems to lack weight, the ''pretend'' tracks seem a little bit of a cop-out, the bundled driver's articulation is pretty gimped and - worst of all - in some places the plastic simply looks and feels cheap.

With that said, for around $20 this is a pretty neat toy. As a display piece it looks cool (the new guns seriously kick butt) and if you display it in the right light/position you probably won't notice the cost-cutting. As a toy for kids it feels pretty sturdy and I wouldn't have any worries about it breaking. It's just a shame it lacks that extra fun factor that really makes the Ghost Hawk II so much of a joy.

A cool update, marred by Hasbro's cost-cutting. Which is a shame, as this could have been awesome.

Final Score: B

Image Gallery


  1. I like the Tank itself but i don't care for the figure but if it could be found at the right(cheap)price i would get one.

    1. To be honest, he looks OK sat in the cockpit or even in the gunnery position but he'd be better with proper articulation!


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