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Ironhide

Transformers
by Artemis

Yes, the Autobots are good, but they're not all nice.

Ironhide is the Autobots' Ironhide resident weapons specialist and Optimus Prime's old friend. He is old because he is hard. He's probably had enough replacement parts to build a small army, but Ironhide doggedly refuses to roll over and die for anyone. He'll fight to the bitter end and take down more than his fair share of Decepticons in the process.

Ironhide's the designated Grizzled Veteran™ of the Autobot team - if the whole thing weren't based on giant robots, he'd be a cigar-chewing career sergeant played by some guy with more lines on his face than a street map and biceps you can strike a match on. He also replaced Arcee in the movie's lineup, but I try not to hold that against him - anyone who wants to shoot a Chihuahua can't be all bad. At least he's not just a repaint of Ratchet this time.

Ironhide's altmode is a GMC TopKick C4500, a kind of highly-polished pickup truck for tradesmen who need climate control - it's the crew cab model, with additional passenger space, weird truck but between you and me I'd be a bit wary of driving around in Ironhide, he seems the kind of grumpy bastard who'd "accidentally" transform without letting passengers out, and grunt an unconvincing "Whoops," as liquefied people leak out of his torso. As a vehicle replica, it's fairly good - the dimensions are more or less accurate, the contrast between medium gloss on the bodywork and high gloss windows is neat, and there are enough detail paint apps to carry off the illusion, especially around the headlights and radiator grille. There is a small amount of kibble - the vehicle sits up high, and you can see the forms hidden underneath, beneath the front bumper bar and inside of the rear wheels. Oh, and there's a pair of Cybertronian cannons stuck just below the doors - I don't think real TopKicks have those.

Transformation is an interesting experience - in the same way that catching bird flu livens up your life for a while. I'll try to give you the authentic Ironhide experience:

First, swing out the rear bay panels, and flip down the front bumper bar (with considerable force). Detach the rear doors from the chassis and flip up the doors and attached hood halves (I hope you enjoyed having the hood stay where it was, that's the last time it'll ever happen). I hate you, floppy leg-panels Rotate front tires and arms out from beneath body. Swing down legs and align with hips (after spending a moment guessing whether that's what the instructions are trying to indicate, and trying to figure out if the waist is supposed to lock in place that crappily). Rotate forearms 180°. After disengaging the front chassis locking panel (which the instructions leave as a surprise), rotate front of car 180° (by avoiding touching the majority of it, and awkwardly reaching inside the bodywork to push the one bit of it that's going to turn the stiff waist joint without falling apart). Separate the legs and automorph them into robot mode (freeing up the shin panels, which will now flop about like beached salmon whenever you touch them). Flip down the windshield and roof (and stow them behind the back in a manner left up to your imagination by the instructions), rotate the head into place, and flip the shoulders into place, locking the head up (did you like that bit? It's the only competent lock on the whole thing). Swing the arms down (and re-transform the waist if you held the legs while you were doing that, as the shoulders are massively stiffer than the supposedly-locked waist). Open the chassis lock panel and rotate it up between the hood halves (taking care not to touch the top of it, or you'll have to rotate it down again to fix it), and finally fold the rear doors in against the front doors (and readjust the hood halves, as you'll be doing any time you even touch the blasted toy).

If that all sounded frustrating... well, yeah, it is. It's a complex transformation, but a flawed one, sunken chest and it all comes down to one thing: locking, or lack thereof. Aside from the shoulders keeping the head in position, nothing on Ironhide is locked in place when he's a robot - the hood halves, shin panels and roof are all free to move any way they want (and the hood is spring-loaded, so believe me it will), the chest panel will fold in if you touch it, and needs to be opened up to be fixed (which'll put the hood out again), and the piece masquerading as a waist lock is so flimsy that you can un-transform it by accident just trying to move the arms and legs. It makes Ironhide as a robot maddeningly difficult to play with, or even just pose, without having to fix his appearance at every stage - and let those of us who just get these things to put on a shelf and look at remember, he's a toy. A toy you can't adequately play with is on shaky footing, any way you look at it.

Speaking of looking at it, Ironhide's a bit further from his CGI form than I'd really be happy with. CGIronhide As with all the toys, they're not as tall as robots, compared to their vehicle modes, as they should be - toys can't unfold as much as CGI models can, that's to be expected. The result is that the visible pieces of vehicle left on the robot form are too large, and while most of the Transformers are designed to draw attention away from this, Ironhide practically brags about it, with the enormous halves of the front of the car dominating his entire upper body. Meanwhile the chest plate is far smaller than it should be, and between the two of them, they make his body fundamentally the wrong shape - CGI Ironhide is a stocky, barrel-chested fighter, but toy Ironhide is a gridiron player, a regular guy with ridiculously big shoulder pads - he's about as well-proportioned as the Fox Sports Robot. On top of that (or beneath it, rather) his legs are also wrong, especially lacking the wide, powerful feet of the CGI model, and he's the wrong damn colour, all black instead of gunmetal grey. You can tell he's meant to be Ironhide, but only by recognising bits of him.

Let's say you ignore the fact that half his body panels flap out of place if you move him - how does he move? He has a swivel neck - which, like his Voyager Class buddy Ratchet, could easily have been a balljoint - swivel/peg shoulders, swivel biceps, and peg elbows. His wrists look like balljoints - in fact, they are - but the design of the forearms is such that if you try to tilt the hands even a little, they'll pop off (and be an absolute pain to get back on), so effectively they're swivels. His legs have swivel/peg hips, swivel thighs, and peg knees - no ankles of any kind, so getting him stable and looking natural at the same time is tricky, and what's worse the automorph gearing on the heels is loose, so the heels do nothing to stop him falling over backwards. He should have a waist joint, but doesn't - the waist swivel as part of his transformation is immobilised by the chest panel, and all that ineffectual stuffing about the waist does with trying (and failing) to lock in place properly means there's no room elsewhere for a joint.

Ironhide doesn't really have accessories, but he does have his guns - two tickets to the gun show! and even they disappoint. For starters, neither of them are the right shape - the right is much more cylindrical and solid than it should be (to accommodate an action feature, of course), and the left one is basically on backwards. It should be a flat-nosed cannon with tubes (exhausts perhaps) sticking out the back, but instead the back is flat and the missiles stick out the front. Putting it on back to front would be the obvious solution, but of course, you can't - for no real reason, the two pegs holding the cannon to the forearm are different sizes. (My solution is to take the missiles out, and put them in backwards - they'd fall out if you lifted the arm above horizontal, but I think you can guess how unlikely it is I'll be moving Ironhide in a hurry, let alone making him wave his arms aruond.)

you may call me Guiltar! Take the left cannon off and stick it on the front of the right one, and Ironhide will fall over. Ha! But once you've got him upright again the combined weapon will fire the missiles. They can be fired individually, which is neat, but the button to fire them is very firm - you need to be holding the thing with both hands to do it, so Ironhide - the weapons specialist, remember - has the least cooperative weapon out of all the Transformers I've seen. Even the ones that don't actually fire a missile at all work better - Bumblebee could beat an opponent to death with his inert hunk of plastic gun before you'd got Ironhide's into firing mode and shot it.

I honestly didn't go looking for trouble - when I bought Ironhide, I was just pleased that I'd found another of the "movie five" Autobots I'm collecting, since most Transformers are unaccountably scarce around here, and already having two Arcees, I wasn't really holding a grudge that much about Ironhide replacing her. But the moment you start to transform Ironhide out of his altmode, you enter a world of sub-par design - as a Voyager Class toy, he should transform better, look better, and play better.

Winner by knockout, Arcee!


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