Cliffbee.com: Binaltech Smokescreen Toy Review

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Name: Smokescreen
Series: Binaltech
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Warrior
Alternate Mode: Subaru WRC Rally Car



WRC MODE
Height: 6cm Length: 18cm Width: 7.5cm

   An incredibly realistic blue Impreza WRC, fully decked out with paint job that SWRT's cars usually feature. Basically, he's metallic blue with neon yellow Subaru logos on the sides, and various sponsor logos and such on the car, including Pirelli, Kenwood and other well known brands. He's no longer the red and blue colours of the original, but the basic idea is still the same. The majority of the car is die cast metal, except the boot, spoiler and rear bumper. He has gold mag wheels, and rubber tyres.

   Smokescreen has clear plastic windows, except for the driver's and passenger's - which I suppose are wound down. While I'm not sure this is a good idea for an actual rally car, what with unpaved roads throwing pebbles up at high speed, Smokescreen doesn't need a driver, so I can deal with it. His headlights are transparent plastic, moulded with parabolas inside and all, while his taillights are transparent red with white bits for the reverse lights. He has a chromed grill with a tiny Subaru logo on it, the air intake on the front bumper and the rear vision mirrors are also chromed. The muffler and tailpipe are chromed, although it's easy to miss since this assembly is under the rear bumper.

   The insane level of detail is continued inside this vehicle. Open one of the doors - they all open, and you'll see the insides of the doors have been moulded. He's got front seats, a dashboard, steering wheel with adjustable steering column, handbrake and gearstick. Lift the hood and you'll find a silver engine block with an Autobot logo on it - incidentally, this is the only ensignia on his car mode - most likely so that the external car mode is true to the SWRT theme.

   Smokescreen is no longer #38 - he's now either #7 or #8 - there are two versions (the Alternator toys are all #8). Despite not really being a road machine, he has a yellow license plate on the back, which has "S30WRT" on #8 and "S40WRT" on #7.

   Smokescreen has great play value in this mode. He doesn't have axles, although he does roll fairly true, he's very heavy so won't roll all that far. The front wheels turn, and have a rack and pinion mechanism, so turning one causes the other to turn. As already mentioned, the doors and bonnet open, although the bonnet doesn't open quite as far as a real Impreza's does. The boot also opens, again it doesn't lift as far as on a real Impreza, but considering that this part of the car splits in half to form the robot feet, the fact that the boot opens in one section is an accomplishment. The steering wheel turns (but this doesn't turn the wheels).

   The play value is great, but I should mention that the metallic blue paint used on Smokescreen is prone to chipping, so while he's got lots of bits that move, you have to be careful. Actually rolling him along is not something I'd recommend. I don't have the Alternator version, but not being die cast metal, I can't see that toy suffering from the same flaw.

   Despite the weak paint, this is a great car mode. Every little detail is there - even the drivers' names and national flags are on this toy - Mäkinen & Lindström (both Finland) on #8 and Solberg (Sweden) & Mills (Wales) on the rear side windows. Solberg won the 2003 Drivers World Rally Championship, incidentally.

   Binaltech is aiming for a level never before reached by the Transformers line, and Smokescreen's car mode reaches this level. It's as convincing as the scale model SWRT kits out there, and unless you open the bonnet and see his Autobot symbol, it's hard to pick him as a Transformer - there's robot legs in the back seats - but racing cars usually don't have back seats anyway. A fantastic Transformer alt mode, this is a good scale model car in it's own right. This toy looks great, partially because of the realism, but also because of the materials used (metallic paint, clear plastic lights, rubber tyres etc). His only real flaw is the fragile paint, although it's not as bad as some toys (the Beast Wars Metals toys, like Jaguar spring to mind).

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   I'm not going to bother trying to explain everything involved in what is a very complex transformation. Suffice it to say it's superficially faithful to the original - the front of the car becomes his chest and shoulders, the rear becomes his feet, his doors become wings behind the arms, which fold out from inside the engine cavity. The engine becomes his handgun. Excuse me for five minutes while I transform him..

ROBOT MODE
Height: 17.5cm Width: 16cm
exact height depends on pose, width is his wingspan

   The metallic blue that dominated the Impreza is still dominant here. His head is blue, with a silver face, gold antennae and light blue eyes - it really looks like the original Smokescreen - the solid neck matches his cartoon incarnation, too, which is nice. His forearms and thighs are grey, his fists black. While it's not an exact colour match to the original, everything is in the same place, and with the head that looks like the original, it's clearly the Smokescreen we know from G1. He still has some of the neon yellow visible, including the words "SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM" central on his chest, as well as on his feet and wings. The number 7/8 is on his wings, but unlike the original, there's no number on his chest.

   His rear windscreen is on his shins, and his front wheels are behind his shoulders, just as on the original. Additions include feet that stick out further, since the rear bumper lifts out, and heelspurs underneath. Gone are the shoulder mounted missile launchers - but this isn't a bad thing, since if you lost those he'd have exposed holes on the sides of his head. Smokescreen has Autobot symbols on each shoulder, so while the car mode might hide it, as a robot he's clearly an Autobot. The gun also has Autobot symbols on either side, since it's the engine block.

   Not only does Binaltech incorporate scale model vehicle modes, it also features poseable robot modes. Smokescreen's head is on a ball joint, his shoulders are double swivels, his elbows are double joints, his wrists rotate and his fingers open and close, the index finger by itself and the others as one unit (allowing him to grasp his gun). Aside from the fingers, this provides identical articulation to the original. the double joints in the elbows give them a little more poseability, but there's no swivels so he can't shoot to the side unless he lifts his up right up.

   The waist swivel, for the transformation, like the original, but now it's available for posing, unlike the original, which locked once transformed. The knees are hinged, however the ball jointed hips allow you to rotate his toes apart slightly. His toes (ie the car bumper) are poseable, as are the heelspurs, so he's stable in most poses, with a little posing of the feet. Oh, he also has hinged ankles, which is easy to miss since they're the spot where the back of the car (feet) and rear windscreen (shins) met. They are a little restricted by the rear doors which wrap around the back of his feet, but you can unwrap them slightly if you'd like.

   It's difficult to find much fault with this robot mode, aside from the paint problems. Swivels in his knees and elbows would be nice, but in the case of the knees I suspect they'd become weak points, so I'm not sure I'd really count the omission as a fault. Despite these limitations, the poseability is still great, especially for such a realistic car mode. It's very much reminiscent of the original Smokescreen's robot mode, and looks great anyway. There's no car kibble - the integration of the hood, rear windshield and rear section into this mode all look good, and the door wings work aesthetically, so I wont count them as kibble.

VARIATIONS

   As mentioned, he comes in #7 or #8, which have different drivers on the windows and different number plates. The #7 version also has small pink pigs on the mirrors (which the real #7 has). The Alternators version uses plastic instead of metal, and has less of a metallic sheen. it's #8, incidentally.

   A later release, in 2004, as BT07 rather than BT01, saw Smokescreen updated to the 2004 WRC model. Amongst the changes are different wheels, numbers now #1 or #2, an added missile launcher (that can't stow anywhere in the vehicle mode), some hood and bumper remoulding and slight paint job change. Thanks to Andrew Murchison for the info on this release. Andrew also added than he found BT07 to be slightly disappointing compared to BT01, partly because the gun is made of a matte grey plastic that doesn't fit the rest of the grey plastic on the toy.

OVERALL

   The realism of the car mode and poseability of the robot mode are both excellent. The robot form, head mould and basic transformation scheme are Smokescreen, so it's a great update of the character. Aesthetically, this toy works in both modes, partly because of the level of detail, but also because the colour scheme works. While this line is pricey, you get what you pay for in Smokescreen, even at the import price of the Binaltech version. The attention to detail in this toy is great, the transformation is quite complex, but not difficult once you get the hang of it. Probably the only real flaw is the tendency of the paint to chip - if it bothers you get the Alternators version - 9.5 - 10/10


Want more on this toy? Read Goktimus Prime's review

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