Articulation: 24 total points - Swivel neck; 6 points each arm: Universal joint shoulder, bicep swivel, double hinge elbow, wrist swivel; swivel waist; 5 points each leg: Universal hip joint, thigh swivel, hinge knee, tilt ankle.
Colors: Molded forest green, grey, black; Painted silver, copper, gold, black, red, blue.
Accessories: Guns x many, knife
Release Data: Released in the United States in May 2014 at a retail price of US$24.99
Autobot Hound might only be a single soldier, but he prides himself on being able to do the jobs of ten. Whether the objective is a tactical deployment, recon mission, or infiltration and sabotage, Hound can get the job done. Heavily armored, he isn't about the back down from an all-out firefight if one comes his way. Some bots might see that versatility as showing off. To Hound, it's all in the line of duty.
Straight up, this is Bulkhead. So why is the design being called Hound? I can't
say for sure, but it makes a lot of sense to me that where the design teams
would have wanted to carry on the path of development and featured use Bulkhead
has enjoyed in the previous two TV series, the forces of marketing preferred to
have a name that would be more familiar to the adult fans which would also fall
in to the "green military vehicle" range. But honestly it's hard to look and
not see Bulkhead. It's a fusion of Prime and Animated, with the military
transport truck alternate mode, heavy combat and weaponry angle, the heavy-set
look of the movie version of the design at least, and the beard is completely
the heavy lower law thing that defines the appearance of a Bulkhead. I even
heard one case where a child was overheard insisting the name on a Power
Battler package was wrong and the toy was Bulkhead.
See? Kids know.
Given the absence of gut, this is not the most accurate possible take on the movie character design. But even so this is still much more Bulkhead than it would ever be Hound. A bit smaller than Galvatron, but that's due to actually having the parts that make the robot actually having some connection to the alternate mode. Hound doesn't look or feel small in isolation, and while he's not exactly bulked out in this case, he's rocking pretty natural body proportions. Hound carries on the stylistic process that I'm liking with this movie's toys where the vehicle parts look integral rather than a skin being worn by the robot. There's still sharp angles and random edges in spots, mostly the lower legs, and there's not a lot of immediately recognizable vehicle components in the robot, but at the same time you see little or nothing trying to look like robot skeleton and telling you that these are fully formed robots under the vehicle leftovers. I hated that about previous movie lines, and Hound thankfully looks to at least mostly be made OF a vehicle.
The robot mode goes for some false vehicle bits. The shoulders have paint apps to make it look like they're formed from the front end of the alternate mode, the feet are bunched up tires (even though the real tires are RIGHT THERE on the back of the legs) and the chest I'm pretty sure is trying to be a really bunched up chunk of the front end of the truck, but none of it plays badly here. The tire toes are even cast in the same black plastic as the real tires so they match perfectly in color and the sheen of the unpainted plastic. It's a cool attention to detail that sells the concept. Hound has some really big bullets attached to the biceps, which are on swivels to rotate around the arm within a limited range. The forearms are made to look like they're wrapped in ammo belts, which is a neat style choice. They're cast out of a soft plastic and attached at either end of the forearm so that while the arm turns, the belts twist around it. Again, it's neat on a concept level, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't kind of concerned about long term durability. When the plasticizing agent in this plastic starts to wear off, they're gonna stiffen and turn brittle, and there's probably gonna be a lot of Hounds with broken arms. Also in the new material category, the front of Hound's face is also soft plastic to try to capture sharper detail in the face and beard sculpt and let the beard seem to have some movement and flexibility. I'm not sure how much detail the beard had originally, but I think some has been lost under the gloss black paint applied to it. I'll give them credit for getting such a close match in greens between the two plastic types.
Hound's articulation is pretty solid. The elbows are double jointed, though
only one of them is even really worth using anyway. You can't get the arms
doubled up on themselves in any case. There's a solid frame inside the forearm
providing the structure, and the wrist turns around a swivel pulling the ammo
belt sleeve with it. One of the designers noted this work and lets a pose be
held, but that's only true within a small range of movement before the sleeve
pulls the hand back. I'd have more happily done without the twisting gimmick
here, solving two problems at once without sacrificing the interesting look of
the bullet arms. Similarly, the neck swivels but only within a short range
because of the beard. You can push that a little farther if you let the beard
distort, but it'll start pushing back before getting very far. And I'd just as
soon not bend the soft plastic out of its natural shape at all. Hound has the
illusion of tilting ankles, but in practice they're not useful much. The toy is
going to mainly be standing on the edge of the actual foot behind the toe
section, and tilting the toes will generally only make that more difficult. A
related issue is an absence of decent heels. Little projections exist, but
they're on the inside where they have really limited effectiveness outside of
some specific leg poses. And in any case they don't stick out back far enough
to always account for the toy's center of balance. But even with these issues
present, the articulation model is pretty solid, and it's another example like
Grimlock was of the joint tolerances overall being just "right". The one
exception to that is the waist swivel which is pretty loose. Hardly a toy
killer there, though!
It's a case where the movements are pretty simple, but if you don't do them
in the exact right order you can't make it work without going back and
following the specific sequence. The upside is that since Hound does do some
panel-body stuff, the correct order of operations serves to help things get
stabilized and held in place well even while not doing the novel trick
Galvatron went with. It's not especially difficult, but it can be a little bit
Hound transforms in to a Medium Tactical Vehicle by Oshkosh Defense. It's a range of load-hauling trucks, so Hound doesn't necessarily represent any particular variation, he's just one of these military trucks with a cargo container attached. I understand these can sometimes be outfitted with rocket launchers, which wouldn't have been out of place going along with the rest of the character's focus on weaponry.
The truck mode is pretty bland looking. Paint apps are seriously minimal. The front end has some for the lights, grill and part of the "bumper", but that's the extent of it. Almost the whole vehicle body is solid chunks of forest green, except where you have the black tires and the tiny bit of medium grey that peeks through from robot mode parts. It's seriously boring and sadly it's probably by design. Because military vehicles aren't really supposed to be flashy, and perhaps Oshkosh wanted Hound to be more representative of their actual product. Or maybe it was just a convenient situation where the deco could be skimped on with the benefit of being realistic. No telling, but I'm really glad the toy isn't packaged in this mode because it's super uninteresting.
And the sculpt can't make up for it much. The rear two-thirds is just a cargo container, so essentially a big box. There's panel lines, and some small details like hinges to denote access hatches on the sides which is all well and good, but it's all a lot of straight lines and smooth sides and there's nothing to really look at. The cab section is a little more interesting. The truck has high exhaust pipes and what I think is an elevated air intake to let the real truck be able to traverse deep water without stalling the engine. There's a roof hatch on the cab, a completely superfluous spare tire behind the driver compartment, and reinforcing bars around the windshield and roof. Have you noticed yet that the current design team is loving this soft plastic they're discovered? Those bars are made of the stuff, as are four of the lights which are part of the same structure. That's cool, but when I touch those bits and the plastic immediately gives and bends under even the lightest pressure it's really offputting.
The structure is not as well executed as Galvatron mostly was, but I guess
that was a bit of a special case. Hound isn't falling apart at the seams, but
it takes more work to get everything lined up and in place to where the
structure actually comes together right, and it's not hard to get wrong and
wind up with a flimsy panel here or there that impacts everything. The biggest
hit to the integrity doesn't even have to do with the panel shell. It's the
front tires, which don't lock in their open position very well. In fact, they
stick at a slight inward angle just before the place where they're meant to
lock a LOT more solidly that the straight resting point. But maybe this is
okay. Maybe the best is still to come...
No lie, the weaponry is what drove my interest in this toy from the beginning. Hound has 7 firearms and a combat knife, so let's go through this bit by bit.
The knife is the only piece among the accessory pool that's painted, given a full coat of silver. It brings out the molded panel lines, but I question the wisdom of painting not only a grip that'll be slid in to a hand repeatedly, but also pegs used to attach it in other places for storage or alternate use. The style of the panel lines on the knife make me see it more like the sheath over the knife's actual blade rather than the blade itself. Naturally the thickness of the blade doesn't help with that perception either. Generally, I find this looks best when stored rather than hand carried.
Starting from the smallest, Hound has a pair of basic pistols. They're probably the best looking of all of the gear the figure carries, treading the line between realistic and sci-fi in the same way that original Star Wars props did. The shape is familiar, but there's just enough added on top of it to sell the visual connection to the toy.
The next pair of guns are a little bigger, with a large ammo canister making up most of the body. I want to say this might be intended as something like a grenade launcher, albeit on the small side. Both guns are hollow on one side, and it's a major problem I have with them. They're the only weapons in the set that have the major open cavities and in a place that's plainly visible from normal viewing angles. They'd be fine guns if each one wasn't just roughly two-thirds of a gun. I guess the way injection molding works makes it impossible to leave the empty spaces on the bottom while keeping these guns as single-piece accessories. That doesn't take the annoyance away though.
Next up, shotguns! Five-barrel shotguns, because when overkill still isn't enough... These may only be designed as four-barrel shotguns. I'm interpreting the space in the middle as another barrel, but that may just be "support" for the others with the opening for the extra functionality I'll get to shortly. The shotguns are the first to be multiple pieces, in this case with a grip that can fold away on a pinned hinge. The grip does have a soft ratchet point to keep it locked in its fully open position, so it shouldn't start sagging while being held even if the hinge might wear a little over time.
And now the big boy. Hound has a triple-barrel minigun. Which is the say three miniguns linked together in one Rhinoxian death package. This is a transformable weapon, which undergoes a shift for its vehicle storage mode. Of important note, as packaged the weapon is in its normal weapon mode, and to change it to storage mode you have to pull the bottom barrel and the grip down to open up the hinge. Mine came with a lot of stress marks in package, but I may have made one or two a bit worse by not getting the lower barrel fully pulled down before I tried to switch it to storage mode. The stock folds in as well for storage, and that needs to be done before folding the barrel out, because that locks the stock in place.
So that's great, there's a bunch of guns, but how many can Hound even hold at once? Typically just two, but that's okay because this has been planned for! Hound has storage options for EVERYTHING AT ONCE. Every gun has at least one 3mm peg, and there's a series of 3mm ports spread over the robot mode. Besides that, some guns have special connectors to sit in particular places on the toy. The instructions suggest one configuration for stowing all the gear away, though I don't find that ideal. But there's a LOT of flexibility in this. In fact, the only things that have only one storage option are the small pistols. And it's really cool and works very well. Hound has ankle holsters, essentially. Cavities in the legs are made to let the small guns snap in place and hold really securely, not to mention looking really cool with the pistol sticking up just a little and the grip pointing out back.
The canister-based guns are intended to tab on the hips. I've found that fit a little hard to work with. The tolerances seem a little off, and the guns sometimes want to pop out under their own power. But again, there are options. There are ports under the arms, behind the shoulders, in back of the ankles, and one just above the butt and one on the left chest. My experience has some pegs fitting some ports a little better than others, but usually that's only a matter of swapping sides to get a good enough fit. The small guns can go basically wherever. The only one that uses the pegs to store and has only one good storage location is the triple-minigun which works well. On the butt. But basically, play around with this, you can find a satisfying arrangement just by trial and error and not even have to leave Hound carrying any guns to account for them all.
Vehicle storage is not quite so flexible. The canister guns for instance mostly have to go in their one intended spot given the lower number of ports available. There is an option, which I'm okay with, but may not suit everyone. The small pistols actually stay in their same storage spot, but everything else gets new homes. The flattened minigun rides the left side of the truck, the two shotguns are on the right, and one canister gun fits on either side. The minigun's connection is a little tenuous. The third plug needed to make it stable is on a panel that moves under pressure, so you can't snap it in unless you do so before the vehicle is locked together. ...at which point you can't lock the vehicle together anymore. Oops. The shotguns have an issue of not being super solidly attached either, but it's less of a thing with them. The upshot to the stowed weaponry is adding some contrast to the otherwise solid green vehicle body. The medium grey is nice for offering a lighter contrast along the cargo section. There's also an angled port on the roof that should accept a grip from one of the guns, but the fit is very shallow, and the angle isn't enough to get any of the guns pointing forward except maybe the shotguns since you can adjust the grip angle. Oh, and the knife stores best under the truck. Point the blade to the back to get the best ground clearance with it attached.
The other use for the 3mm pegs and the ports on the guns themselves is an extension of the Prime Cyberverse concept of weapon combination. A variety of smaller combos can be done, though some specific "would be nice" things like attaching the probable grenade launchers under the shotguns can't be done for lack of connectors in the right places. The ultimate purpose is to make a large, single weapon that uses everything including the knife. Given the needed connection points, you sadly don't have as many barrels as the input number of guns, but it's a nicely solid chunk of plastic. And who doesn't need a bayonet on their ludicrous slaughtergun, right?
Hound's the general winner of this Voyager wave. Galvatron had a trick I liked a lot and an attractive vehicle mode, but that's it. Hound may not be excelling in any particular area, but he does everything at least "okay" which adds up to a greater net result. I was right going in that the weapons system basically makes this toy. It's a solid enough figure apart from that, but not special. Being part of a breed of movie toys that better fits my aesthetic tastes helps a little there too.
Hound scores a Good on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale, and if it was $5 less SRP I'd probably push that to Very. I can't exactly say that you should spend $25 primarily on the weapons. Because you shouldn't. But Hound is okay and they make a great package together. Plus thanks to the movie this'll always be robot John Goodman, and that has to carry some appeal points, right?
...now I just have to wonder how many times I might have accidentally called this thing Bulkhead in the process of writing...
|Date||June 13th 2014|
|Score||(7 out of 10)|
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