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Review : AT-AT Driver, Star Wars Black Series Wave 9 (December 2016)

Review : AT-AT Driver (Pilot)

Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro)

Wave/Series : Wave 9 (Phase 3)

Released : December 2016

Price : £22.99

For anyone who knows me, the Empire Strikes Back is arguably my favourite in the Star Wars Saga. Particularly within this is the first half of the film on Hoth. After introducing us to a raft of Imperial Troop types in the 1977 original movie, Empire brought even more Imperial Troop types to the screen. While the Snow Trooper is a particular fan favourite, I always preferred the look of the AT-AT Drivers.

The 9th wave of the Black Series, Phase 3, brings us this iconic Imperial Troop resplendent in his tweaked Tie Fighter helmet and grey and white livery.

The AT-AT Driver is supplied in the standard Black packaging with its red spine and red figure backing card. For mint-on-card collectors there is a box variant to hunt down, with the first releases of these sporting both the name AT-AT Driver and AT-AT Pilot. The Pilot wording appears to be the initial run, while the Driver seems to have been a mid-run amendment.

The AT-AT Driver is number 31 in the Black Series, Phase 3, and this as always is stamped in big font on the gloss red spine. At the front of the box is a lovely grey scale image of the AT-AT Driver helmet and this same image is repeated round the back. Over the top of this image on the box back is a short bio that explains the AT-AT Drivers role within the Imperial machine. Like a lot of the releases in the Black Series, there is no specific reference to the AT-AT Driver being from the Empire Strikes Back. This dove tails perfectly with the way a lot of Original Trilogy characters are showing up in the spin-off films like Rogue One, or in this case how we have seen the AT-AT Drivers in the Rebels TV series. This lets collectors who focus more on Rebels to display the AT-AT Driver with the Rebels figures, or just as well with a Hoth display or just an Imperial Military line-up.

Out of the box and the Driver stands 6 1/4 inches high, arriving packed with one accessory - a E11 blaster rifle. Hasbro do a superb job of sculpting any Imperial armoured figure and the Driver is no exception. The helmet, like the Tie Pilot, is chunky and oversized - it looks like a helmet over a human head. The various breathing gear is detailed around the mouth piece with the Storm Trooper-esque nose split and the additional piping up to the flight helmet either side of the eyes. The helmet is essentially cast in white with the eyes and nasal strip painted black. The breather central vent is also black, while the vents either side are independently coloured. One is silver and the other is red with silver trim. There are two Imperial decals applied in red to either side of the helmet with a black central stripe above the eyebrow ridge that then tapers back into a triangle.

Round the back of the helmet are two canisters, both in silver but with differing details. One side has a black panel, while the other has a red trim. Into these canister sit two corrugated tubes. These are grey plastic and if you follow the direction they snake over the shoulders and into the chest breather section. Here in this central chest panel is another wealth of details. There are buttons and sliders, all sculpted as well as painted in differing colours - I count at least 7 paint apps, with only one of the gold panels slightly offline.

The central chest unit fits onto a chest armour piece which encompasses front and back of the torso. Round the back is a similarly detailed section to the chest box - but set into the armour. Again there are more sculpted buttons and mechanisms - all picked out neatly in black white and red.

The figure is wearing a grey under-suit which is very well done in terms of the folds and creases of the cloth it represents. There is no depth to the paint on this, its flat grey, but being a light colour and with a depth of sculpt the light falling on the figure does bring out the details - although a darker wash would have been beneficial. The armour elements round of with two flexible rubber shoulder pieces.

While there is not a belt as such, there is a strap that feeds down from the chest box and under the groin of the figure. This is separate to the figure and being a soft plastic works with the articulation which we will look at shortly. Like the 2013 Luke X-Wing figure, these straps then wrap round the thighs. The figure is finished with glossy white gloves, the left hand one including what appears to be a communicator or similar mechanism build in. The boots are big and bulky, and what you'd expect the Driver to wear in cold climates at least. The paint, as we've talked about as we worked down the figure, is neat but quite flat. The armour may be glossy and the under-suit matt, but like so many Hasbro figures it is missing one wash of paint to add some realism to the figure.

Articulation is very good for an armoured figure. It starts with the head, which you would assume is fixed by the two large breathing tubes. In fact, these tubes are a lot more flexible than they appear and allow the Driver to look both left and right and up and down. The shoulders are a ball joint, and taking a design used on the clone troopers the shoulder armour slides over the chest armour as you raise the hands. This doesn't work perfectly, and if you have the arms straight to the side and then raise them, then the panel clashes with the chest armour strap. These panels also bend so what is meant to be a hard plastic armour piece ends up looking bent, misshapen and as though it has melted.

The elbows are jointed and also rotate. And to further enhance the arm both wrists rotate and have some lateral movement being on a peg sitting behind the wrist gauntlets. The Driver can hold a blaster in two hands, but the chest unit does impede this like it did with the Tie Fighter pilot leaving the look a little unnatural.

A torso joint sits under the chest panel and is quite loose and free flowing. It allows the torso to swivel right round, and there is a touch of up and down lean if you want it. The hips are jointed and the knees double jointed. The Driver can therefore kneel, crouch or even sit down in a Driving position - just in case Hasbro ever make a vehicle or diorama that he can sit in (or if I get skilled enough to make something). Once again we've got thigh swivels. These are cut right above the pockets so the pocket seam does disguise the joint. I still maintain these add very little value. The final joints are the ankle rockers, allowing the figure to stand pretty solidly.

The only accessory is the E11 blaster. This is the same cast used on the original phase 1 wave 3 Storm Troopers and not the revised version we saw on the Rogue One Troopers. The blaster is cast in black, and like the Leia figure in the same wave has been tweaked with a small silver paint detail to one side of the barrel.

For a fan of Hoth and Empire, this is a brilliant release and gets about 80% to what I would have wanted. The armour is brilliant and the decals and details equally as good. The articulation is impressive, but there is a question mark over how the shoulder panels behave when the arms raise up. The paint while neat, is missing that final layer of wash to add that extra layer of realism and to bring out the detail.

In reflection of all these points I award the AT-AT Driver / Pilot a 4 out of 5.

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