Review : Imperial Hovertank Pilot
Star Wars Black Series (Hasbro)
Wave/Series : Toys R Us Exclusive
Released : October 2016
Price : £22.99
Rogue One is almost upon us, and this year there are even more 6" scale Black Series retailer exclusives than ever before. Most are US only, which is frustrating for us here in the UK as well as everyone else outside the US. One that has been made available worldwide is the Imperial Hovertank Pilot.
I am writing this review before the film release, so all we know about the character/trooper is the brief look we have had on the trailers. This review should therefore be spoiler free, but we will be looking at the card back bio which make give away very minor plot points.
Like all Rogue One figures to date in the Black Series, the Hovertank Pilot comes in the phase 3 boxed packaging. The front triangular art is particularly nice, capturing a partially side on profile of the new helmet design with the back half in shadow. The character name sits in red text to the bottom left with the word Imperial repeated in 4 different languages. The figure is presented in the window box offset to the left as you look at it with the blaster slotted to the right at head height. Round the right hand side the spine is the bold gloss red. Being an exclusive this has no numbering, but instead has a hatched box with the character name in small font - like the wording round the front the word Imperial is repeated in four languages while the Hovertank Pilot is in English.
On the back of the box the line art is repeated but blown up to cover the majority of the box rear. Overlaid onto this is a short character description - which is also repeated in four languages. It really gives very little away and talks purely about the tanks and vehicles these drivers operate and how their armour stacks up vs the other Stormtrooper variations. The rest of the box rear is made up of the various legal warnings - with the bottom third covered with 23 different words for Warning.
Interestingly there are two box variations already for this figure with one coming with the same glossy embossed foil circle on the front that was included on last years Toys R Us Snowtrooper exclusive. For me as a loose collector this is not a big issue, but were I a MIB collector then I would see the foil version as more sought after while completists will want both versions.
Out of the pack the Pilot is snuck into the usual plastic tray which then sits on top of the bright red background. The blaster is the sole accessory.
As soon as you get the Pilot in hand you know that this figure is a bit special. Not only is the design a great one - reminiscent of the original movie's - but the execution of the figure by Hasbro is absolutely superb.
Let's look at the sculpt and design first and this starts with the new helmet design. Essentially this takes certain elements of the Stormtrooper helmets and mixes them up a little with elements of the Return of the Jedi Scouts and also goes back to the Recon Saleucami troopers from Revenge of the Sith - grounding the Pilot and the evolution of the armour back into Star Wars history really well.
Moving down to the body armour, this is sculpted so it looks like it is body armour over a human body, where as the Death Trooper for example looks more robotic - the Hovertank Pilot can;t deny it is a trooper in armour. I had initial suspicions that the chest armour, with its over the shoulder straps and buckles, was a direct re-use from the Death Trooper. On inspection this isn't the case. Although the design is shared between both, the Hovertank version is wider and a different piece - no corner cutting here from Hasbro. Round the back the rear piece is also different, moving away from the original trilogy back section to a slimline back pack with two vented pieces. The arms start with shoulder panels, under which are tucked armoured upper arms. there is then a gap through which the black under-suit can be seen, and the armour returns with the forearms. The hands end with simple gloves over which is a further armoured panel on the rear of the hand.
Under the chest piece is a complex stomach panel which includes some crisp and intricate details such as a ridged panel with red indicator. This sits just above a utility belt. This is reminiscent again of the original Stormtrooper belt, but contains slimmer pouches. Round the back of this belt is the iconic cylindrical container seen on many Stormtrooper armour designs.
The trousers are plain, reminding you this is a light weight trooper who relies on speed and the equipment he operates to fight the Rebels. The leg armour starts at the knee with the all familiar 6 sided knee panel on the left knee and down into ridged boots.
All of the amour is presented in an off white shade, with some of the best weathering I have seen on a Black Series figures. There is a clear wash to dirty up the recessed parts and darken the edges, while there is then dry-brushing weathering and panels of dirt splash around the helmet. The under-suit is black at the top and the trousers are then a plain brown. All the other details such as the painted black visor and the rear vents on the back pack are done neatly and cleanly although on the version I received from Toys R Us there was a tiny splodge of cream paint on the black inner shoulder.
This is all brilliant so far. Surely they can;t have nailed the articulation too?
Well they can actually. Essentially the articulation is the standard black series 16 points of articulation. The difference is that it all works really well, with some though behind the relationship between the sculpted armour and the articulation. The head sits on a ball joint, rotating round fully while looking up and down. The shoulders are ball jointed and despite the bulky looking shoulder armour, the movement is full to 90 degrees out to the side. This is achieved with a gap built into the chest piece so when the arms are raised the shoulder arm retracts under the straps on the chest piece. These shoulders also rotate so you can push the arms up above the head as well. The elbows bend 90 degrees and the gap between the upper and lower arm armour is sufficient so the full bend is achieved, and this means a two handed weapon pose is a breeze and is further supported by jointed wrists which both rotate and flex up and down to a align them to the weapon when the arms are bent.
The torso has a joint hidden under the chest armour. Now this does not move massively, but moves enough to tweak the torso side to side to aid in action orientated poses. There is no waist joint, and frankly it is not needed. Down to the hips and the joint here can be swung out in front to a full sitting position, or out to the side - not quite to the splits, but enough for a wider firing stance. In lots of armoured figures the belt stops the hip joint - but on this one the two longer pouches on the belt have been designed to bend with the hips.
The leg articulation includes a thigh split. This is not a joint I am a fan of as I think it can spoil the look of a figure. Here it isn't too visible thanks to the dark brown trousers and it does work in terms of swivelling the legs outward for wider leg stances. Both knees are double jointed, and beautifully hidden behind the top of the armoured boots. The knees allow the trooper to kneel on one or both knees, and get into some one kneed firing position. This is helped by the last joint on the ankle where the foot can be fully pointed downward so the trailing leg has a flat base when the figure is kneeling.
The single accessory is the blaster, a tweaked beefier version of the E11 blaster. This is cast in a grey plastic so lacks any paint application. It is however crisp in detail and a harder plastic than a number of the "bendy" guns we have had recently. The blaster fits cleanly into the right hand with the trigger fitting the outstretched finger on the right hand. The the left hand is formed to grip the barrel if you wish.
The only downside to this figure for me is the exclusivity. As a trooper it will be one that collectors may want to troop build, particularly if squads of them are seen in the film. That of course relies on Toys R Us stocking these in depth through Christmas and into the New Year. Should it follow suit to last years Snowtrooper Commander then this won't be a problem - although I believe this is a far superior figure and will be in much bigger demand being closer to an Original Trilogy figure.
Having already scored the Rogue One Death Trooper a 5 out of 5, then the same score has to be applicable to the Hover Tank Pilot. It is arguably the best Black Series figure we have had in the phase 3 range, if not one of the best since launch in 2015. Had it the paint been absolutely perfect and had there been some added extra's like other weapons then this figure could have been pushing for our very exclusive and elusive 5* rating. If you love Star Wars troopers then get this figure now!