You’ve spent a stupid amount of hours playing it.. your friends have kicked your butt countless times in it.. your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/mother/father have rolled their eyes while you spent long evenings shooting at things in it.. even your weird red-headed neighbor has probably heard of it. I guarantee their somehow even weirder kids have. I’d say, it’s pretty safe to assume that if you or someone you know has picked up a video game controller in the last decade, you’ve played or at the very least heard of the epic video game series, Halo.
It started with Halo: Combat Evolved way back in 2001 (am I alone in thinking that wasn’t that long ago? Also, where did these crow’s feet come from?) by the very talented game devs, Bungie. Since then, the Halo franchise has become a multi-billion (with a “b”) dollar juggernaut for Microsoft Studios.
I have really fond memories of playing Halo: Combat Evolved on my ugly tan desktop with its massive CRT and beefy BFG Video card. At the time, I didn’t care much for single player games, but I was a multiplayer fiend and that’s what really hooked me! Since then, I’ve picked up each and every Halo game that slips down the chute, despite opinions of fluctuating creativity and quality. Microsoft has a knack for timing Halo releases via some intergalactic series of happenstance, which somehow seems to coincide with the exact moment I start to feel a depressing lull in my gaming world. I take comfort in two things when it comes to Halo games. I know that they’ll always be pretty to look at, and I know that, regardless of how the single player story turns out, I’ll be darn sure to wring my money’s worth out of the multiplayer.
But we’re not here to talk about video games, and I fear I’ve probably gone on too long already about them. Most of you have probably skipped ahead to the pretty pictures or are checking out the video preview which requires little to no active reading skillz. That’s fine, but I feel like I must reward those of you who have stayed true through the choppy waves of my prattle.. yes, something for those who have the obvious steel to see this review through to its hallowed purpose. I offer you, brave reader, an unflinching analysis into what may potentially be the most epic toy to cross my desk!
To the point! Where were we? OH YES! Halo games and toys and BILLIONS of dollars. Despite owning and spending uncountable hours playing every single Halo game, the only one I ever felt compelled to play its single player through to the end, was Halo: Reach.
When ThreeA announced it had landed the Halo license, many were surprised that a character from Reach was to be the first out of the gate, especially since that game came out in 2010. Halo 4 was just around the corner and seemed the much more obvious choice. For me, I simply thought,”Cool, at least they’re starting with the interesting Spartans.” But moreover, I just chalked it up to the idea that ThreeA, when dealing with their 3rd party licenses, appears to prefer releasing secondary or less important characters first, before tackling the Master Chiefs or the Gordan Freemans of said franchise.
Whether or not that’s true, I haven’t any evidence. McFarlane Toys and Play Arts Kai have both released a full range of Halo figures, all starting with the main man, Master Chief. ThreeA went another direction and chose Commander Carter from the long since bargain-binned Halo Reach.
Regardless of the reasons or the contracts at play, Carter is here.. and I can promise, you’ve never seen a Halo figure quite like this.
Brent Ashe must be working overtime over at ThreeA. Since his hire last year, ThreeA’s boxes have a more graphic design flavor, with Ashley Wood occasionally contributing some original artwork to display on the front. Commander Carter’s box goes a route similar to those seen with ThreeA’s Real Steel designs, clean with techy graphics, character specs and icons.
Though it’s doubtful I’ll be leaving it out on display myself, it’s definitely a fitting design choice for something pulled from Halo’s futuristic world.
ThreeA saw it prudent to outfit Carter with a wide selection of armor and weapon elements.
On the armor front, we have two magnetic shoulder pauldrons, two front chest packs and a belt pack for his back.
Carter’s mini armory may be missing the iconic Halo magnum, part of the default starter load-out in multiplayer games of slayer, but what is included doesn’t slouch.
He has two magnetic frag grenades, a combat knife with sheath and the M392 DMR.
I first peeked Carter at last year’s SDCC and he knocked my socks off. He was behind glass, so I couldn’t fondle him or pinch his cheeks.. but just from the looks of him, I was thoroughly impressed. Now that I have him in hand, he’s… well, I’ll say this: I haven’t spent this much initial time posing and playing with a toy in at least the last six months.
The details on him just pop from under all that great rusty blue paint. The sculpt itself is nothing short of fantastic. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again, and I hope to say it many more times down the road; ThreeA has somehow raised the stakes on its paint work. Each and every extrusion/recess/depression seems to have accurately painted edge details and wear marks. On looks alone, Carter wins my toy collection.
Just the fun I had posing him in various degrees of grenade holding/tossing was enough to keep me busy for half an hour. When I got tired of that, it was time to pose him holding and slashing his knife. I kept finding myself trying to imagine in-game moments to pull poses from. This is part of why Carter “wows” you, right out of the box.
Carter’s articulated fingers make holdings things a breeze for the most part. They’re cool to mess with and work great with the knife and ‘nades. I did think they were a little less than the ideal shape to hold the rifle. Something about the way they collect when they close keeps the rifle from laying flush to his palm, which can give him an unnatural looking grip. It’s a little thing that only the pickiest of the picky would notice.. like me. Still, they get the job done.
While I really dig the articulated fingers, there is something about them that bugged me. They occasionally fall out. Hey, it’s better than hearing a “snap,” but when they fall out, there’s no sound at all, particularly if you’re standing on a padded surface like carpet. Few things make a toy collector more nervous than taking a figure out into the woods for a photo shoot while it’s tiny pieces are falling off all willy-nilly.
Speaking of taking photos, I asked my friend, who happens to be a big Halo fan and pro photographer, Dallas Nagata White to join me in snapping some cool shots of Carter in the wild. You can probably tell which ones are hers, because they’re the really good ones. ;0) We had a great time.. and from the marks on my legs and arms, so did the mosquitos.
Let’s talk about Carter’s articulation a bit. A lot of the stuff you’ve grown accustomed to with 1/6 action figures is all here, with a twist.
Carter has a rubber (like?) suit that runs over his entire body, underneath the sculpted hard surface parts. I think it gives his suit a very natural and believable look that would be difficult to imitate otherwise. With that in mind, I expected some limitations in how poseable he’d be. What I didn’t expect was, well.. I’ll get to that.
Carter’s arms have all the articulation you could need for basically any natural pose you may want. His neck is the same. Where things start to get odd is around his pelvis. First off, his waist doesn’t bend.. scratch that, it bends.. it just doesn’t stay bent. There’s flex to it, but it’s so minor I’m not sure it’s meant to bend at all there, simply restricted by the suit or if I’m making it do unintended things.
So let’s just chalk the waist up as “bendy, but not really.” I can live with that. The thing that’s really strange is the hip articulation. You can almost get Carter’s legs out into a split as well as push them into a fairly wide running man stride. The thing is, there’s nothing there “catching” the joint. It’s just, loose. The moment you let go, it flops back to an almost neutral standing position. Check out our video preview at the top of this review for a better look at what I’m talking about.
The good news is, his knees and particularly his ankles have really nice, flexible, but firm joints. So by working the two of those together with his loosey-goosey hips.. you can actually manage some decent poses. Also, despite the hips and some wobble, Carter is really easy to pose and pretty darn stable when standing.
One of the biggest features of Carter is the hidden magnetic points in his armor. It’s a fantastic idea that perfectly mirrors the way Spartans carry gear in-game. It looks great and works well.. almost.
The shoulder pauldrons click on and stay put fairly well. The same can be said for the pack that sits at the small of his back. But honestly, all the magnets are just a little too weak.
One of the two biggest culprits is the shoulder knife, whose sweet spot on his shoulder is so small, the slightest errant jiggle will knock it free. But even worse than that is the magnets meant to hold his rifle in place. Two small magnets on the top of his back line up with two small magnets on the rifle and lock it into place. Except, it really seems like one magnet is either smaller or weaker than the other and tends to come unlocked very easily. The weight of the rifle takes care of the rest and given the fairly delicate nature of the gun itself, it’s not likely to survive a steep fall from a shelf or table top.
The magnets that hold the grenades in place aren’t that much better, but I didn’t seem to have the same problem with them being knocked off. Also, they’re sturdy little round fellahs that can take hit when they do fall.
Unlike everything else, the two included chest packs are not magnetized. Instead, they simply clip into two small slots on Carter’s chest. Strangely enough, one pack stayed on incredibly well while the other seemed to fall of at the smallest nudge. In the end, I left that one off for convenience.
All said, I’d recommend removing all the delicate bits before posing or transporting Carter to reduce the risk of something falling and breaking.
The last thing I want to touch on is the light features of Carter. I’ll start with the bad, then work my way to the good.
First off.. the instructions call for you to insert 3 tiny batteries per the back of each arm. You WILL curse. You will throw things in unfettered rage. They will fly all over the room and under things that have not seen daylight in years. About 20 mins in (yup, 20) the tension coil in the back of Carter’s left arm snapped. I almost lost it… like, my mind AND the coil.
So, I decided to just try 2 batteries instead of the 3. After they were in place, I slid the broken piece of coil back in best I could and viola! The lights (or should I say “light,” seriously, that much work for one tiny bicep light!) came on and worked just fine. I’m sure the life of them will be greatly decreased as it calls for 3, but I’ll take my chances.
Moving onto the next arm with my revised plan, tragedy stuck. It didn’t work. The light would not come on. I swapped out different batteries, moved things around, everything. In fact, I managed to get all three installed and it still didn’t work. That’s when I noticed the split at the back seam of his arm. You can see from the pic that it’s clearly not meant to be that way. This is probably a good spot for me to bring up the purple-ish tape you see in some of these photos. You see, once I broke the paint seal on the battery cover for this arm, I wouldn’t snap back into place securely due to the warped plastic in the surrounding area. The tape is what I used to prevent myself from losing the cover.
(I’ve already contacted CS and it is a defect specific to my figure and not something you should have to worry about)
Unlike those tiny little devils, the batteries for the body of Carter are a lot (understatement) less aggravating to put in. His back pops open with relative ease and the two batteries slide into place. The thing I don’t like about it is that, unlike the arms, you have to open that same panel up to access the light’s switch. It’s really inconvenient.
But when you finally do emerge, blistered and bruised, and you get the LED lights on.. man does he look great.
I wanted to give you guys an idea of how big Carter is. Here’s a quick pic of one of Ashley Wood’s Tomorrow Kings and Damtoys Spade J standing next to him for reference.
Hey there, big fellah!
THE FINAL WORD
ThreeA has without question released the most impressive looking Halo toy yet. Impeccable details, fantastic paint, etc.. it’s all here and it all looks amazing.Even with the issues I had, I’m still a big fan of this toy. I’ll no doubt add the next one to my collection and the next one after that. That’s not stopping me from hoping they improve a few things of course.
The body has some good articulation and then some that just doesn’t make any sense. The rubber isn’t the problem, it’s the hips themselves. They just don’t catch at any point to stick in a position. They’re almost completely loose. While it apparently doesn’t hinder his balance at all thanks to a generous ankle and knee joint, it definitely limits the kind of poses you can get out of him. It also seems like something that could have been easily avoided by just giving Carter regular hip joints!
I really like the magnet feature. All the parts fit naturally and look really great. Swapping off pieces of armor so easily is just a lot of fun. But they need to be stronger so they hold in place what they’re supposed to hold in place. The more delicate bits like the rifle are at a pretty big risk of falling and breaking, as is.
Delicate. That’s not a word I’d normally use to describe a Spartan, but honestly.. that’s a bit how Carter feels. The base figure itself is solid enough, sure. But with the loose wobble of his hips, the fingers falling out of place when you move them and the magnets not being strong enough to hold things in place well enough to endure a vaguely moderate bump, it’s difficult to describe him any other way.
Hiccups and all, I’m really looking forward to seeing what ThreeA does next with their Halo license. They’ve already done a really great, if flawed, job setting the tone this time around with Carter. If I refer back to my original statement about this figure, before the batteries, loose hips and weak magnets distracted me, I had fun with Carter. Spending all that time just seeing what was possible with him was nothing but pure joy.
I have little doubt the skilled ladies and gents at ThreeA will improve on the groundwork laid out with Carter. Even now, I’m looking over at him and trying to imagine just how amazing he’d look on my shelf, flanked by Jorge and Emile. Now that’s going to be some seriously epic stuff.
- Everything looks fantastic, spot-on sculpt and a clever use of a variety of materials give a very believable look
- Paint application is top notch, some of 3A’s best
- The LED light feature (body) really looks amazing
- Magnet attached accessories are super cool and I want more!
- Sturdy and easy to balance
- Articulated fingers are super cool
- Those frag grenades
- A heck of a lotta fun to mess with
- Magnets aren’t nearly as strong as they should be
- The very odd freeball’n hip joint situation
- The instructions’ ludicrous suggestion that we struggle to jam 3 tiny batteries into that impossibly small area, when two work just as well (though they’ll certainly be shorter lived)
- I wish the chest packs didn’t block some of the LED lights
- Switch for armor lights or ANY lights should be external and easy to access
Massively huge thanks to ThreeA for giving me a playdate with Carter.
A huge thanks to Dallas Nagata White for hanging out and taking some fantastic photos! Everyone be a love and go check out more of her stuff at dallasnagatawhite.com