Monday, March 17, 2014

REVIEW: Mega Bloks Call of Duty Chopper Strike

Produced by Mega Bloks | Released 2013

Mega Bloks Call of Duty
Based upon the hugely popular videogame-cum-racial-slurfest series, Call of Duty, the Mega Bloks sets feature vehicles, characters and equipment as seen in the various games. Although the sets are constructed from pieces, to me they feel more akin to models than something like LEGO, due to the number of set-specific pieces and the fact that they don't seem to be the kind of thing you'd take apart and rebuild as another vehicle. But maybe that's just me. 

The sets also include highly pose-able Micro Action Figures, again based on the characters seen in the games. Available both with vehicles and in ''troop building'' packs, the figures not only sport articulation almost akin to that found on figures twice their size but also include interchangeable weapons, webbing, pouches and other cool accessories.

So with all that said, let's take a look at the subject of today's Review, the Chopper Strike set.

Call of Duty Chopper Strike
The Chopper Strike set, as the name suggests, is a helicopter-themed play set, consisting of a ''Little Bird''-style helicopter, an unnamed pilot Micro Action Figure and a Micro Action Figure of Call of Duty: Black Ops' Frank Woods, plus an assortment of accessories and weapons.

Note that the ''invisible'' stand used in these images is not included and was constructed by me for the purposes of this Review.

The process of construction is a straightforward - albeit time consuming - one. The instructions are, on the whole, clear (although as with all Call of Duty Mega Bloks sets, I would advise reading the instructions in a well-lit room, as it can be difficult to decipher some of the more complex illustrations in poor light) and although assembling the copter can take some time, it's worth it, as the end result is a very solid, robust build.

Assembling the Micro Action Figures can be a little awkward, especially if you have fat sausage fingers as I do. My advice when assembling the arm joints in particular is to rotate, not force. I believe Mega Bloks has revised the Micro Action Figure assembly state and in future the figures will come at least partially assembled, so this may be a moot point.

The Chopper
The Chopper is based upon the ''Little Bird'' designation of helicopter, used by the military from the 70s onward. Although designed for a variety of purposes, the Little Birds are primarily used for recon or fast extraction. The version here also comes with a fairly hefty arsenal of rocket pods and mini-guns. 
There's some neat detail to the weapons, with the mini-guns featuring spinning barrels and even chain-linked ammo feeds. This model also includes the reinforced ''wing stubs'' that allow passengers to ride outside the copter (more on that in a minute) and an interior space for passengers. Sadly the scale is slightly off here, making it more an internal storage space than anything else.
The copter includes spinning tail and overhead rotors, both of which move with ease yet are very securely attached to the vehicle. As I mentioned above, there's a robust, solid feel to it that's reassuring and also surprising, given that this is intended as a ''collectible'' toy rather than one aimed at the younger audience.
One interesting feature is the inclusion of a drop cable, which can be attached to the Micro Action Figure's back to allow him to then descend from the copter. It would have been nice to see some kind of winch play feature here (the cable is simply attached to the copter) but it's a very minor complaint, especially as this is, as I mentioned above, a ''collector's piece'' rather than a feature-laden plaything.
The cockpit canopy is hinged to allow access to the interior, which is a great feature, given how difficult it would otherwise be to get the figures inside. The cockpit itself is designed to seat two figures but unfortunately the scale issues mentioned above again return here, with the canopy bubble being marginally too small for the figures to sit comfortably within. Your Micro Action Figures will wind up with one arm out of the cockpit and their heads at least brushing against the clear dome. It's a shame, as the rest of the set looks great.
One other cockpit-related issue is the fact that although the interior features some very cool flight displays (which are pre-printed on the blocks, so you don't have to apply any annoying stickers!) there are no actual controls within the cockpit. I'd expect at least a cyclic stick and possibly collective lever but sadly neither are present (this is odd, as the Light Armor Firebase set - which we'll be looking at later - includes a steering wheel and gear shift.) My guess is they were simply too pressed for space and elected to omit any controls that could have got in the way of the figures.

Micro Action Figures
The Chopper Strike set includes two Micro Action Figures: a pilot and Frank Woods.
Both figures feature the super-intricate Micro Action Figure articulation set-up, which - to recap - includes a ball-jointed head, ball-jointed shoulders, hinge and twist elbows, twist wrists, twist waist, ball-joint hips and single-jointed twist knees. For figures of such a tiny scale to have articulation on-par or even beyond that of some 4'' figures is highly impressive and allows for some great poses.
Of the two, Frank Woods is the more interesting figure. His facial paint app, head sculpt and general design (including his forearm tattoo!) are all nicely done and add a lot of neat depth to the figure. That's not to say the pilot is poor. He's simply not as interesting and a little more generic than Woods, which is understandable given he's not the ''star'' of the set.
Each figure also comes with an assortment of clip-on accessories (more on that below) and weapons, plus various removable uniform pieces, including combat vests, belts and harnesses, which allow you to not only display them both ''fully loaded'' but also mix and match to customize your figures to your own design.

Extras & Accessories
The set includes a ''care package'' case, designed to store the unused accessory and weapon pieces. And whilst we're on the subject of weapons, it's worth noting that the included weapons can be stripped down and combined with other weapons to customize their look and purpose, with each including removable stock, ammo clip, barrel and scope.
I'd have liked to have seen the set include a pistol for the pilot but that's a minor point and, as you can see, the included accessories (which include a flashlight, binoculars, Claymore mine, radio and more) provide plenty of opportunities to play with and pose your set as you see fit.

Final Thoughts
The Call of Duty Chopper Strike is the line's first entry level ''large'' vehicle (I'm not including the RIB Beach Assault, as it's smaller and not as complex a build as the Chopper Strike set) and is a fine example of the line's combination of robust builds and intricate construction. 

At $29.99 it's in the same ballpark as similar-sized sets from LEGO but also includes a level of detail and intricacy in its build you don't normally see in construction toys of this scale. I'd also be quite confident in allowing a younger child to play with this set without too many worries. The construction is solid, it feels robust and I could imagine it surviving a pretty heavy play session without any issues. Although they do include some small accessories, the figures themselves are also pretty tough, especially given how well articulated they are and whilst it may be a wise move to strip off some of the accessories before play, they would again I'm sure stand-up well to a rigorous play session.

For collectors there's a lot of good detail here. The level of pose-ability each Micro Action Figure possesses is great and allows for some fantastic displays. There are enough accessories to allow you to customize each figure to your needs and the sculpt work and paint apps are all nicely done. Yes, they do suffer a little from Gorilla Arm but it's a minor point and, in the right pose, not something you'll really notice.

As for the chopper, it also has some very cool touches but I can't help but feel a little disappointed that it's not quite as awesome as it could have been. The mid-fuselage passenger space is too small* , there's no winch mechanism to allow you to lower/raise drop troops, the cockpit is cramped and - perhaps most disappointing of all - there are no controls for the pilot. These are all very minor points I know but when you look at how good everything else is, it does tend to highlight such oversights. Still if you can live with these minor issues, you're sure to enjoy this set.

A robust, fun and complex construction toy with great figures and accessories marred ever so slightly by a lack of up-close detail.

* It's since been brought to my attention that this '''passenger space'' is not actually designed for internal seating. 

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