Play Arts Kai – Venom Snake (Metal Gear V: Phantom Pain)

Intro:

This will probably be a pretty quick review… the clocks ticking down 2014 and as of this writing, it’s already 2015 in parts of the world. I want to get this review out before 2015 hits the states!

Anyone who’s been following me here on RtR since the beginning (Has it been 3 Years already?) probably knows by now that I’m a huge Metal Gear fan. I’ve played and replayed all the titles from the Metal Gear franchise more times than I can count.. Metal Gear III and Sons of Liberty especially stand out. While I’m chomping at the bit for Konami to release Phantom Pain, I’ve managed to resist the game bait that is Metal Gear Ground Zero. I’m admitably curious to play what some have called a glorified demo, but I’m saving all my “next gen” Metal Gear cherry for when Konami FINALLY releases their next MGS blockbuster sometime in 2015.

The same could be said of the latest line of MG figures from Play Arts Kai. At SDCC last July, I got to see first hand the oncoming wave of figures. On display they had the Phantom Pain SDCC exclusive bronze, the retail and the Ground Zero version of Venom Snake. The Phantom Pain versions looked so incredibly baller to me with some material layering work like I’ve never seen before from Play Arts. The Ground Zero version looked nice.. but I wasn’t as excited about the glossy blue “sneaking suit” as I was the desert worn getup he sports in Phantom Pain.

When I noticed that the SDCC exclusive bronze version was labeled “Available Now”, I grabbed the closest PAK sales rep and said (in what I’m sure was an overly excited and probably way too high for my age sounding voice) “Can I get one of these please?!” pointing dramatically at the bronze exclusive. The sales rep replied in a friendly, but with a hint of “I hope this psycho doesn’t spaz out on me” sounding voice, “Oh.. I’m sorry, we should have taken that sign down. That guy (pointing at random guy in line) just got the last one.”

“Oh.” I said in a deflated, suddenly saddened whisper.

“But hey, we have the Ground Zero version still available if you want it!” offering it up with a crooked grin as if it were some sort of penance for allowing some other dude to buy MY Bronze Snake.

I glanced at the shiny, slim and sneaky Ground Zero Snake and considered it a moment. Then I glanced at the retail Phantom Pain Venom Snake and at the small sign at it’s base that read… “Coming in December 2014”.

“No thanks, I’ll wait.” I said, in what I imagine was a very Kiefer Sutherland/Venom Snake-like voice…

then I turned and walked away awesomely.

Continue reading

Advertisements

*review* 3A’s Metal Gear Solid REX

INTRO

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been an avid gamer. That joyous affliction is the result of my folks starting me on the fast track at a very young age. They had an Atari 2600 already in place in the living room before I was born, just waiting for me to be able to hold the controller in my tiny, baby hands. Games like Pitfall, Berserk, Centipede and Q Bert, were all at some point a part of our collection. All classic games and iconic characters that, even in my youth, struck various important chords to my psyche. A few years later, my folks purchased a Commodore 64 for their office, which I loaded up with a bunch of old keyboard clicking games like Kung Fu Master and Summer Games.

But gaming didn’t truly hit it’s full stride for me until the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES was responsible for game after game of trend setting, classic goodness.

Mario, Zelda, Bionic Commando, Punchout, Final Fantasy, Metroid, Contra, Ninja Gaiden and of course, Metal Gear.

Fast forward to 1998 and the great Hideo Kojima and Konami released Metal Gear Solid on the  original Playstation.

Bam.

To this day,  it remains as one of my most memorable video game experiences. The story, art, gameplay, characters, all of it. A historic game made only better on the PS2 with MGS 2: Sons of Liberty. While the Metal Gear series continues with spin offs on a variety of systems and numbered releases.. MGS2 maintains it’s absolutely epic status and remains steadfast among my top 10 favorite games of all time.

SO! I could go on and on about the Metal Gear series, how much I love it, how much the games and their “sneaking missions” shaped the types of games I play and enjoy most.. but that’s not why you tuned in.
We’ll move forward and take my Metal Gear Solid fanboydom as firmly given.
METAL GEAR SOLID REX!!

If you’re reading this page then you probably know at least a little bit about the young toy company, ThreeA. They announced they’re partnership with Konami/Kojima way back in 2009. The first toy to be released from the international handshake was to be Rex.

Being a massive Metal Gear Solid AND 3A fan, my ears perked up, my heart did a leap and my wallet ran off to hide in the shadows. A match made in.. “Outer Heaven.”

Whamp whaaaamp.

That was back in late 2009/early 2010. Suffice to say, it’s been a slow roasting process. Ashley Wood, who’s ties to the Metal Gear franchise go deep, continued to pump out fantastic designs from his own worlds for us to pose, photograph and play with. But despite how fantastic the larger majority of those were, they couldn’t satiate the craving of Metal Gear fans. It seemed like someone over on the official 3A forums was asking practically daily for more information, any information, about REX.

The year of our Lord, 2012 just also happens to be Metal Gear’s 25th Anniversary and just in time too! In February the massively pregnant wait came to an end as REX finally hit bambaland.com for a whopping $490 buckaroos! The seemingly steep price tag didn’t stop fans from throwing their money at their computer screens and yelling “Take my money! Take it all!”

The excitement was palatable.

3A has put out a ton of great, sometimes downright AMAZING, toys over its short four(ish) years in operation and today, I have REX sitting here on the table in front of me.

As we’re coming up to the tail end of 2012… let me tell you this,

stuff just got real.

PACKAGING

Do I need to say it? This box is HUGE! Look at the two crazy cute slobbery fifty pound pups sitting astride it. It’s silly big!

I had to laugh when I popped the lid open. The oh so iconic “!” beaming up at me like a pretty girl’s smile. Wrestling it from the packaging took some real doing. I recommend you snag a friend or friendly hobo to assist you. Keep him or her around, because you’ll need them for the next part too.

Ash’s inks dot the front of the box calling back to his work on the epic Metal Gear Solid graphic novel. On the back, we get REX SPECS(tm) and a little background on him.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

First thing to fall out was a ThreeA catalog featuring a bunch of toys you can’t get anywhere but Ebay or via fan based BSTs.  Next, to my surprise, was a couple of instructional booklets. Yes, there are booklets aimed at instructing you in how to play with your toy. Believe it or not fellows, you’ll probably need to read it and refer to it often. More on that later.

Also included is a little plastic wrench-like tool which you’ll want to keep close at hand. It’s your new buddy.

THE BREAKDOWN

I was unable to show the ornate process of me actually removing this guy from his box. I contorted myself in ways I’ve only seen tiny, exotic acrobats twist. As I tried to support the heft of the box and pull the styrofoam trays free, I kept wondering to myself “Why didn’t I wait until my wife got home?”

Keep that friendly hobo close, he’ll come in handy.

The long rail gun is separate from the rest of REX proper and snaps in with zero fuss.

It’s possible I’ll say this a few times, so steel your resolve… “REX is huge!” I don’t even know where to start with him. There’s a ton going on with gears and removable pieces layered all over him. Not only is REX huge, he’s complex. There’s with good reason he comes with two instructional booklets and a tool.

I thought it best to start with some of the technical bits before I rushed out the door to snap away in strange territory. As mentioned, the gun is separate and has to be attached, as does the antennae to the satellite dish. There’s also a baggy full of tiny bits that attach to each of his legs as well.

Even though I didn’t plan on doing any of my night shots until later, I went ahead and installed the batteries for REX’s various light features. He takes three AAA in the gun and three AAA under his head. Bring your own to play, none are included. The rail gun’s side pops off rather conveniently for a quick install. The head lights require you to unscrew a tiny screw underneath REX’s head to access the panel. You can light up the rail gun by pushing an easy to access button on top, but to turn the head lamps on, you have to hunt for a wee switch towards the bottom/back of his head. Easy enough if you have light.. an absolute pain if you don’t.

REX has a ton of removable panels scattered all over his body. The booklet will illustrate exactly where all of them are, but I thought it was fun to leave much of it up to discovery. The following pics showcase a few of the panels you can take off. Kim and company did a great job at accurately mimicking the body damage REX takes in MGS 4 all of which shows off the faux mechanics that make this monster work. It’s pretty fun popping them on and off to mix up his look.

(UPDATE: Since publishing this review it’s come to our attention that you may, in fact, be able to remove all the panels from both legs. However, I was unable to remove all the panels from the right leg due to how tightly they are attached. It’s possible they’re sealed on by paint but they literally feel permanently attached so I am not going to force them. We apologize for any misinformation. Most of the other removable panels on the body are still only one sided.)

It may be a confusing to some that you can knock off panels on one side but not the mirror side. For example you can almost completely strip down his left leg, but there’s nothing to remove on his right. I didn’t realize this at first and started cursing a little under my breath when I couldn’t get a matching panel to pop off like it had on the opposite side. It’s particularly confusing on REX’s back area because the side that isn’t meant to come off has some give to it and looks to have the same creases and recesses as the other. The only thing that seems to stand in the way is a small screw drilled underneath, through the middle of it.

It’s not a big deal and may not be off-putting to you in the least. I just thought I’d share my confusion so it doesn’t throw any of you who like to jump right in and start messing with things without reading the instructions first.

For the most part, I think I’ll keep his panels intact but I like the asymmetry you can achieve by taking a few off here and there. The satellite looks far more interesting without it’s cover.

After putting all the panels back on I thought I’d attempt to get accustomed to how REX moves around before I headed out to do the rest of the shoot. I popped out his heel supports and extended his toes to get a more dynamic and alive pose.

At this point you can que 15 minutes of me trying to figure out why the legs would not support his weight. Each time I got him into a pose I was happy with, he’d buckle either left or right.

It turns out that my REX’s leg joints were twisted 45 degrees down on both sides. I only realized that after staring at the booklet and comparing it to what I had. Below is a pic of how your leg joints should look out of the box.  An easy way to tell, is that the metal mud flap-like things should be hanging from the front of the leg joints, not the bottom as mine were. It may not really matter in your case, but in mine the rotation joint that originally faced forward was a good deal looser than the joint that should have been. Thus causing the buckling under his weight. After I turned them to face correctly, my problem went away.

So what if your REX has ill-rotated leg joints or what if you want to just move the legs in general? Well there’s the right way to do it and a “do at your own risk” way.

To do it the right way, you need to break out the included black plastic tool and put it to use. You may also consider grabbing your friendly hobo as a spotter as well.

Warning: Please use hobos, friendly or otherwise, at your own risk. Hobos don’t know no better than to ride the rail.. they may wander off with a few of your things in a gunny sack if you don’t watch them carefully. 

I believe the idea with the tool is to give the quad-hinged joint some counter support to your twisting. There’s a substantial amount of resistance in the leg joints, necessary I assume to support the toys weight. That being said, I found some of the joints to be a good deal too tight. Twisting one leg out will put noticeable strain on the neighbor joints, something that I’m positive could lead to breaking if not handled carefully. The tool is there to help prevent that. In the images below, I tried to demonstrate somewhat how to use the tool.

In the image above, I’m using the tool to go across the top of a joint while I swing out the leg, which uses the neighboring joint. This gives the joint I’m NOT using counter support against the pressure I’m putting on it. I’m not 100% sure I’m using as intended but it seemed to work well for me. Don’t worry, it comes with it’s own instruction sheet so you can decipher the best way for you to use it yourself.

With or without the tool, it was a little stressful having to apply that much force to rotate a joint, particularly when loud cracking and popping sounds accompanying it.

Taking REX on the road for some more interesting atmosphere was fun. I had about two dozen or so people stop and ask what the heck I was doing. I’m sure more than a few were concerned of the nuclear capabilities of this guy.

Confused civilian: “Whoa. What is that thing?”

Me: “It’s a toy robot”

Confused civilian: “Is it a transformer? My kid has those..”

Me: “Uh.. sure. Sort of.”

Confused civilian: blank.. long stare followed by walking off a few steps, only to stop and look back warily.

Rest easy civilian, I got this.

Once you get your nerves in check, posing REX is pretty fun. I found myself approaching him as more of a puzzle than something you’d simply grab and toss into a pose.  You have to think a little bit about what you want to go for before you do it. It’s difficult for me not to look at him as some sort of menacing, mechanical K-9, so I just went with it. Opening up the cockpit, lowering the head with the backend in the air, we could be playing fetch..

..or nuking a small village.

You can get a pretty wide variety of looks out REX simply by changing his leg configuration  The back heels have 3 different positions (and everything in between) that cause Rex’s look to go from rested to full alert.

The way his front of his legs extend is pretty nifty. You flip up the toe gates, which kick the motion into gear, then just pull out a bit. It only extends the leg maybe an inch, but it’s cool and gives a surprising amount of lift to him.

The body articulation on REX works a few different ways. You basically have a central, groin area that the leg joints attach to. From there you have the front end (head) and back end (tail) on their own support arms that can be lowered or raised. The back-end also slide extends to allow for more wiggle room.

The rail gun is just so cool looking. 3A didn’t originally design it or anything, but they did a bang up job at recreating it.

The joints attaching the rail gun and satellite allow you to swing them in or out, as well as push them slightly forward or back. I naturally wanted to raise the gun up and down like you would expect to be able to do with a tank-like vehicle, but to raise or lower the nose of the weapon, you have to raise or lower the entire back portion of REX. This seemed a little inconvenient and took a little getting used to, but I believe it holds true to the source material so shouldn’t really be an issue.

One thing you may have already heard is that 3A didn’t implement any kind of head rotating articulation that the in-game REX appeared to have. In the game, Konami made REX much more alive and animalistic than what we’d generally relate to a nuclear tank-like weapon. I assume 3A’s decision was due to how much REX weighs and that adding a rotating joint would risk leaving him with a slack, hanging head. The harshly clicking joints are tight for a reason. It’s been bemoaned by many, but once you actually see this guy, I think you’ll understand just how complex and impressive he is.

While his head doesn’t rotate around, you can cheat to get similar looks by using the well designed multi-jointed leg hip/torso articulation. Through some finessing you can twist the entire body one way and the legs  the other and he’ll look as though he’s panning the landscape for Snake. It would have definitely been nice to have but after spending some time with him, I don’t miss the idea of rotation too much.

One thing that did slightly annoy me was that some of the little panels, particularly the vents on his legs, just will NOT stay in place. Some are literally just resting there thanks to the grace and magic of gravity. Just posing him and clicking a stiff leg out can cause 3 or 4 of the little covers to pop off and go jettisoning across the room. Just be mindful of that when/where you’re posing this guy so if one does unintentionally spring free, you won’t lose pieces.

Now it’s time for a flood of photos.

There’s so many cool little details on REX. The machine gun underneath him is one of my favorites.
edit: It was called to my attention that it isn’t a machine gun at all but actually a FE laser. The same one  responsible for slicing Gray Fox’s arm off. Thank for the help!

The afore mentioned removable panels shows a variety of cool engineering underneath.

His paint application is top notch and stays on par with the best of what 3A has ever offered. Also, since some have asked and just in case you can’t tell from the photos, REX is mostly an unsaturated green in color.

Here you can see some of the light details 3A worked in. I love the fact that the screen for the driver has a small light that you can only really see if you’re practically in the cockpit. Details man.. amazing details!

Other than the glow from the cockpit, you get 4 flood lights which basically look like Rex’s eyes and of course the ever impressive rail gun lights which pulse just before it evaporates your neighborhood.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention..

REX can also do this..

Yes, REX can stand completely upright without heel support in appropriate T-Rex fashion. He’s obviously intentionally designed to, but it’s challenging to balance and you need a good level playing field to do so. It’s totally worth the effort because he looks absolutely bonkers this way. REX just got huge-ER!

Just amazing.

We thought a good way to really show off the lighting system 3A has built into this guy, was to shoot him at night. Setting our shutter speeds to slower than your average bear, the fun really began.

(Editors note: Some extra lights were used for illumination and effect. IE REX does not have body glow or back lights)

The cab lights are really bright. Even with the hatch closed, blue light still spills out. I know this is basically a fun gimmick, but having the cool rail gun’s pulsing light effect made me wish there was an accompanying sound effect. Even cooler would have been having some sort of metallic/animal-like scream.
Real quick, I have to give props to my supporting wife who is responsible for many of the awesome night time photos you see here! Go team us!

On second thought, perhaps silence is golden. Everyone knows that toys with sound effects are the unholy work of Mephistopheles.

I wanted to show a few silhouettes of REX to give you a little better idea of how his back heel positions change his appearance.

THE FINAL WORD

3A’s Metal Gear Rex. Man, Oh man is he something special. If you were fortunate enough to pick one of these guys up, you’re in for a real treat come delivery day. Personally, I can’t wait to see how some of you guys will display him with the rest of your collection. He huge so he takes up a big chunk of real estate and isn’t necessarily to scale with much else I’ve seen.. (mini mates maybe?).  I have a few of the Play Arts Kai Metal Gear figures that I think would look cool sitting next to him, even if the scale is completely out of whack.  It’ll be interesting to see what you do.

Technically, there are things going on with Rex that I’ve only ever seen hints of before in 3A’s own Real Steel Ambush figure. They continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in realistic, highly articulated, borderline seamless (the toy aspects, joints, buttons, etc.. are well hidden) toy robots. You will be in awe.

But there’s something else that struck me about Rex.

There’s really only so much you can do with him. He’s not a humanoid with articulated fingers and arms, carrying a bunch of weapons. He’s not a Transformer, jumping from vehicle to fighting robot with a few clicks. He’s basically, a very sophisticated vehicle. You can move his legs around to a half dozen or so different ways, tilt his head and body up or down and play with his light features. That’s really it. Combine that with the fact he’s somewhat challenging to pose, made easier only with the help of a friend or friendly hobo, it takes away some of the impulse to move him around very often, so after a few days, you probably won’t.

I’m not pointing this out as a negative, I’m pointing this out to manage expectations. Rex has a lot going on, with a lot of cool things to discover and move around. But most likely you’ll find a pose you’re happiest with and leave him like that, fondling only occasionally to trigger the rail gun lights and open/close the cockpit/jaw.

The fact is, I wouldn’t call REX just a toy. If anything, he’s too much of a toy.

I’d  more appropriately call him a display piece. Heck, he’s the CENTER piece.

He’s the one thing that your non-toy collecting friends will notice above all else when they walk into the room . They’ll scan over your collection of Hot Toys, 3A, Sideshow, vintage Transformers and GI Joes with dull, lifeless eyes, possibly mumble a few, “neat”s or “cool”s.  All the while, they’re quietly internalizing the question of their friend’s manchild-ness and how they can segue this unfortunate turn in activities into a drinking game.

However, when they get to Rex, I can almost promise you their eyes will widen and their jaw will drop. The words you’ll hear will be something along the lines of, “Holy ..!! That thing’s freaking incredible!!”

And you’ll be standing there, arms folded and cocky, nodding your head.

“Yeah, he is. He most definitely is.”

I can’t wait to see what 3A does next with the Metal Gear Franchise. The unpainted RAY prototype was on display at this years Hong Kong Venture and from the photos, looked very impressive.  However, not much has been said on availability, price, etc. RAY may be just as REX was. A very long wait. It could be mid to late 2013 before we even get the chance to drain our bank accounts into another plastic MGS masterpiece. Which would mean sometime in mid to late 2014 before he joins our collections on the shelf.

Don’t lose sleep over it. REX isn’t human and won’t get lonely. RAY’s long development gives us time to save our pennies and enjoy one of the coolest pieces 3A has put out yet.

In the end, if RAY turns out anything like REX, it’ll be worth every penny and every second.

PROS:

  • Incredibly detailed, accurate portrayal of a beloved and iconic video game character
  • Highly sophisticated articulation
  • Impressive looking and functioning lighting system
  • Massive to the point of shocking
  • Fun break away bits to show off hidden details
  • It’s a Metal Gear figure done 100% right

CONS:

  • His huge size and very tight joints make posing him a little stressful/difficult (aka, hobo/tool almost required)
  • Some of the break-away panels do not stay soundly in place.

Huge thanks to 3A, Kim, Cody and Gimbat for sending me Rex to review. Thanks for the support guys!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated with the latest rad toy reviews!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.