Wednesday, February 19, 2014

REVIEW: Mega Bloks Call of Duty Mountain Recon Set

Produced by Mega Brands | Released Fall 2013

Mega Bloks Call of Duty
Over the last couple of years, Mega Bloks has been slowly building a catalog of licensed minifigures and play sets. From Skylanders to The Power Rangers, the company has tackled a variety of properties and brands but the new Call of Duty line not only illustrates a shift toward the ''collector'' market but also a new evolution of their - already - highly pose-able minifigures.

Focusing predominantly on - unsurprisingly - military vehicles and soldiers, the Call of Duty range spans a variety of campaigns, settings and historical periods, with modern era, World War 2 and even the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse(!) offering a fairly broad choice for collectors. Today we're taking a look at one of the ''entry level'' modern era set, the Mountain Recon snowmobile and cold weather soldier.

The set comes in a compact yet eye-catching box, featuring a number of photographs of the assembled contents.
As you can see, the rear of the packaging includes a breakdown of the accessories and shows the vehicle and figure in a variety of action poses/situations.

Within you'll find four sealed bags, each featuring the 62 pieces that you'll need to assemble to complete the vehicle and rider.

Assembling the set is fairly simple. I did find that the ''nose'' of the snowmobile had a tendency to ''explode'' during construction but this is more in part due to the order in which the pieces are put together than any weakness in the locking mechanism used and once the pieces are in place, you shouldn't experience any issues with them coming apart.
One thing I will say about this set (and it's probably applicable to the others) is that if you're expecting some kind of Lego-style ''rebuild and recycle'' kind of construction toy, you may be disappointed. There are a number of set-specific parts that I doubt could be used in any other construction and of the ''generic'' bricks that are included, I don't see how you could do much with them beyond build this vehicle. That's not a criticism at all, though, and I'm merely pointing out that this more a toy you construct than a construction toy.
The minifigure must also be assembled and comes in his own individual bag, complete with his own instructions. I think it was probably unfamiliarity with the pieces more than any kind of technical or design flaw but I found it took me longer to assemble the figure than I expected. It's also worth noting that the figure requires that odd combination of strength and a delicate touch to assemble, so if you find yourself struggling to force a piece into place, try instead screwing it into place and be sure you double-checking that you're connecting the correct pieces - the arms are not generic pieces and the left forearm will, for example, only fit into the left upper arm/shoulder piece.

Minor quibbles aside though (and as I say, that's more my issue than the toy's!) construction is a quick, simple process. Oh and I even had about 10 pieces left over, which was surprising, given that the set only includes 62!

The Snowmobile
With everything assembled, it's time to take a look first at the snowmobile.
As I mentioned above, the snowmobile uses some very specific parts, with the rear track and seat mount forming the majority of the vehicle's construction. Assembly is fairly simple, with the rubber track stretching comfortably over the wheels and the ''axles'' snapping nicely together. The whole thing will move when you push the vehicle but, as you'll often find with such tread-based vehicles, it can feel a little sluggish.
The ski and ''nose'' sections are relatively easy to assemble (although as I mentioned above, it can take a light touch here, as the pieces are a little unstable until the entire assembly is completed) and it all works together nicely, with the double-ski mount even swiveling to allow the rider to steer the vehicle. Of all the assembled pieces though the skis feel the weakest and, due to their size, angle and ''tubular'' connection used, they have a very slight tendency to come off if accidentally caught.
As you can see, there are some cool details and play features included, such as the brake light, dash display and even twin mounts on the rear to allow the rider to store his backpacks (and yes, those packs will fit into the rear port on his torso.)
The other thing to note - and I don't think it's showing up so well in these images, as it's quite subtle - is that the nose sections feature a camouflage effect ''embedded'' in the plastic. I initially noticed it on a 2x1 ''flat'' piece and thought it was an error in the manufacturing until I realized it was actually deliberate. It's an unexpected - and not entirely unwelcome - feature that certainly looks cool. Although given it's a mountain recon SNOWmobile, I'd have thought it would be cast in shades of grey and white rather than olive and green...

The Minifigure
Perhaps the most innovative element of the set - and indeed the entire Call of Duty line - is the new minifigure. In the past we've seen Mega Blok's original minifigure articulation (such as in this Review of the Iron Man blindbag figure) and whilst it was impressive, the new articulation is an even bigger leap forward.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet and instead we'll begin with a look at the basic sculpt. As you can see, it's a detailed design, with an assortment of pockets, pouches, knee-pads and folds reminiscent of the best GI Joe figures. I particularly like the folds at the elbows and the knee-pads but there's also a lot of neat detail in the close-up work, such as in the helmet/mask ridges, the Batman-esque utility belt and even on the ridges of his hands. Given this figure is less than two an inches tall, there's some great work here. 
I do have to say though, the length of the arms is marginally off. Whether this is a stylistic decision or is something to do with the new articulation, I'm not sure, but as a result the figure can look a little ape-like in some poses.

Like the vehicle, the plastic of the minifigure's limbs are ''embedded'' with paint detail, in this case spots of dark grey on white, presumably intended to be snow camouflage. It can look strange at first but once you get used to it it's a neat effect that helps add a real sense of scale and lifelike detail to the figure.

The articulation is the real star here, though. From the peg-mounted head down, we've ball-jointed shoulders, ball-jointed elbows, a twist-waist, ball-jointed hips and single-jointed knees. The range of movement this figure possesses puts a lot of larger figures to shame!
I'm sure you'll agree that the results are most impressive...

Extras and Accessories
As well as focusing on super-pose-ability, the Call of Duty sets also include a number of accessories and weapons. Even a set small as this is no exception, with the soldier figure including a leg sheath for his knife, a removable vest, a small items pack, two backpacks and an assault rifle that even sports a removable ammo clip.

What's particularly neat is that the items use the same size peg and port system and this encourages a lot of interchangeability between the pieces. As mentioned above, the backpacks fit onto the snowmobile's rear mount as neatly as they do in the figure's back port, for example and the dagger and ammo clip both use the same sized port, meaning they could be clipped onto his vest or leg or even the backpack. From what I've seen of the ''army builder'' 5-figure sets, there are a host of additional items (from shovels and tools to laptops and pouches) that use this same system and it's a great idea. And being a fan of figures that can store their gear, I'm certainly glad to see that that's the case here, too.

The box also includes two sets of instructions: one for the snowmobile and a generic figure assembly guide.

Final Thoughts
It's really difficult to find fault with this set. Yes, the figure's arms are a little out of proportion and the initial assembly can be a touch frustrating (although much of that is, I think, unfamiliarity with the pieces and oddly sequences instructions rather than any technical issues) but these are really just minor points and do little to diminish what's here.

As is always the case when looking at the first of a new toy line, it can be difficult to give an opinion solely on the toy in-hand, so I'm going to take a moment to offer some comments on the line as a whole and then we can get back to the Mountain Recon set. Put simply, Mega Bloks has got it so right. If you're a fan of military toys - especially GI Joe - then you'll find a lot to like here. The sculpts are detailed, there are tons of accessories and the real world-accurate vehicles will no doubt prove very popular with fans of all things military. If you're looking for the Next Lego, though, you probably won't be taken with the line. Whilst some of the larger sets may offer the kind of rebuild-ability associated with Lego, the majority feature very specific pieces you won't be able to use to do anything but build the toy they're designed for. And that's perfectly fine. I just wanted to add that minor note of caution because the mindset you'll require to really enjoy these toys is more akin to that of a model kit enthusiast or even - again - larger GI Joe vehicles, rather than that of a Master Builder.

Anyway, as for the Mountain Recon set itself, it's a really great intro to the line. For $10 you get a snap together vehicle that's got some great touches and a superb minifigure, complete with an assortment of neat gear. There's really very little else to say that the pictures don't already tell you but if you're a fan of GI Joe, military toys or you just want a really pose-able minifigure with a cool vehicle, then you really can't go wrong with this.

A superbly articulated, neatly-sculpted figure with a fun vehicle, all at a great price. 

Image Gallery


  1. Man these sets look great, I am very much looking forward to getting a few.

    1. Yeah, I snagged the Desert Troopers set last night. Review coming very soon!


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