Warcry's Review: Predacon
The Armada line hasn't aged well. It was well-received at the time, since this was the first time in a decade that a line had focused entirely on an all-vehicle lineup with the same sort of blocky aesthetic as the original Transformers line. Poor articulation, simple transformations and random name reuse have made the line a bit of a running joke as time as gone by and much better toylines surpassed it in the fans' eyes. But Armada was a success at the time, so much so that Hasbro was caught by surprise and had to recycle molds from previous toylines to get more product on the shelves. The molds they used were mocked at the time for being such an odd, unfitting choice -- five Beast Wars Transmetals, figures whose animal alternate modes, organic-looking robot modes and high amounts of articulation made them the antithesis of the rest of the line. Ten years on, though, the beasts are just about the only toys from Armada that are remembered fondly.
The five figures -- Cheetor, Airazor, Rhinox, Terrorsaur and the subject of this review, Predacon -- really didn't have anything to do with the Armada story. They didn't appear in the cartoon at all bar a cameo by Rhinox that only lasted a few frames, and while Dreamwave used them in the comics the Energon follow-up was cancelled before they actually did anything. The Armada profile books made a good try of giving them distinct personalities, but they're such nonentities even by the standard of personality-free Unicron Trilogy characters that I and many other fans tend to conflate them with their Beast Wars selves. In Predacon's case that wasn't helped by the fact that the 10th Anniversary Beast Wars Megatron toy was redecoed in Predacon colours but still called Megatron. So in general, I do tend to ignore his actual character and treat him as another incarnation of the Beast wars character. Bur whether he's Beast Wars Megs to you or some random shlub from the Armadaverse, it's hard to argue that he's a bad toy.
Predacon's beast mode is a highly mechanical tyrannosaurus rex. Dark grey is the dominant colour, covering the figure's legs and chest. His tail, arms and some details on his feet are molded in green plastic. His head, toes and the fans on his hips are off-white with just a hint of yellow and green. Paint apps in orange, red, green, silver and gold are spread all over his body in amounts copious enough to make a modern toy blush. Predacon is a letter-perfect redeco, with colours that are so different from the original that he might as well be an entirely different toy. Transmetal Megatron covered in metallic colours and shiny chrome, an exercise in high-contrast eye-catching flamboyance. Predacon's colours are muted and flat, giving the figure's many subtle molded details a chance to stand out. Both decos are beautiful in their own way, and even though Predacon lacks his forebearer's flash he more than makes up for it with his detailed but subdued colour scheme.
By Beast Wars standards, Predacon's beast mode is one of the best. It loses some lustre when you compare it to modern figures, though. He features sixteen points of articulation, but about half of those are in his tail. His legs, which are also the legs in robot mode, have very restricted movement. The robot hips end up covered by large caps and essentially can't move at all, which have a knock-on effect of rendering his excellent knee and ankle articulation useless. His head doesn't move either aside from an articulated jaw, and combined with the restricted legs that reduce his poseability to near zero. He can swish his tail around, waggle his tiny arms or open his mouth, but that doesn't change his silhouette much. His knees have enough flex that you can pose him as either an anatomically correct tyrannosaur or an 80s-style tail-dragger too, but that's about as far as it goes. Looked at alongside more recent attempts at the t. rex like Classics Grimlock, Predacon compares poorly. For a mold that's already fourteen years old, though, he puts up a decent showing.
Predacon, like the other four Armada Beasts, was remolded to have Minicon ports. Although it's an understandable choice from a line-cohesion perspective, the end result is colossally silly. Predacon had hardpoints added to his sides a bit above and behind his shoulders, as well as on his hips attached to the spinning fan blades. Attaching tiny cars or jets to a mechanized dinosaur doesn't do much for his looks, but Minicons have never been about display value and I'm sure any children who got the toy during the Armada run thought it was a fun feature. It's not for me, though.
Predacon, like all Transmetals, has a third "transport" mode. And like all Transmetals, his transport mode verges on absurdity. That's not a bad thing, though. On the contrary, it's a throwback to the days when toy designers were concerned about fun above and beyond anything else, plausibility be damned. Today's designers are far too busy worrying about cramming in-jokes into a toy's deco or coming up with mind-numbing joke license plates, and they'd never be able to take the idea of a flying, roller-skating dinosaur and make it awesome
. But the designers in the 90s did just that.
Predacon's transformation into transport mode is the simplest of any of the Transmetals I own. His hip-guards flip up to become engines and his toes flip up to reveal his roller skates. I tend to straighten out his tail and fold his arms back for maximum aerodynamic silliness too. It's the most ridiculous, tacked-on mode I've ever seen in a modern Transformer toy, but it's hilarious and I love it. The Armada remolding counts as a slight improvement over the original figure here, too -- the Minicon ports double as handles that let you spin Predacon's rotors, and they're a much better shape for it than the shallow cones Megatron featured.
The first thing you notice about Predacon's robot mode is that it has a very different colour scheme. The beast mode tail and head are removed and hidden respectively, eliminating most of the green and off-white. His shins, forearms and shoulder pads are dark grey, but the primary colour now is a rich, earthy reddish-brown that was entirely absent (save for a few not-quite-hidden joints) from the beast mode. This colour makes up his thighs, upper arms, torso and head, augmented by silver paint apps that are subtle enough in some places that you need to look twice to make sure they're not a trick of the light. Green, orange and gold paint apps are still visible on his beast-mode parts. His eyes are a bright, piercing green and his teeth (which, again, are fairly subtle and nothing like the zany Ninja Turtle-esque grimaces many Beast Wars toys feature) area bright white. The look is very different from beast mode, but just as subdued and beautiful. His general layout brings to mind the original Grimlock, with a dinosaur head tucked into his back and dino-kibble wings, but like everything else about the toy the effect is subtle and blends in well with the whole package.
Predacon's fists and forearms are actually painted dark grey (again, the amount of paint on this thing is staggering...it's like a Takara toy from back before they stopped caring and just slapped random chrome and stickers on everything). The paint matching with the grey plastic is so great that I literally didn't even realize that until I sat down to write this review and noticed that the paint is starting to wear a little bit. The forearms rub against each other when you transform him, but even after a decade's worth of that I've only got two tiny, barely noticeable rub-spots on the figure. It's something to be careful with, but not such a huge problem that you need to be paranoid about transforming him.
The second thing you'll notice is that Predacon's robot mode is a lot
smaller than his beast mode was. That's because his tail, which provides about a third of the beast mode's bulk, detaches as a part of the transformation. He can carry the tail in either hand as a weapon (a "whiplash cutlass" if you go by TM Megatron's bio) but that looks ridiculous since he's clearly just brandishing a disembodied tail. If you don't do that you can clip the tail back onto its transformation joint, hang it from Predacon's hip and loop it back around his legs. That looks fine but hampers his poseability. Personally I prefer to just leave it off entirely, and that's probably the best solution if you're looking to maximize display value and poseability.
And poseability is something he has in spades. He's easily as articulated as a modern toy, and frankly better than most of them. With articulation at the hips, thighs, knees, ankles, shoulders, biceps, elbows, neck and (if you disconnect his backpack) waist, he's so much more poseable than the Armada toys he was released alongside that it's a joke. His shoulder pads keep him from raising his arms very high, which is a shame, but he can hold virtually any other pose you can think of. His big feet and articulated ankles give him great balance, and even after a decade of being one of my most played with figures his joints are still nice and tight. Not only does he make Armada toys look embarrassingly simple, he's miles ahead of most of the mold's Beast Wars counterparts as well.
The tail-whip's uselessness is really my only quibble about the toy. Predacon lacks any decent accessories, a problem with the Transmetal range as a whole -- figures tended to brandish random parts of their beast mode as weapons, and only Optimus Primal had decent equipment. But his fists are 5mm-compatable, so you can arm him with spare weapons from thousands of Transformers if you're of the mind to.
His Minicon ports are fairly useless here too. One set ends up on his back as a part of his "wings", more or less out of play. The other set are on his shoulder pads, and would actually make fairly decent mounts for Minicons with gun alternate modes. His partners are nothing of the sort, though, and that kind of ruins the effect.
Predacon is partnered with two Minicon cars named Skid-Z and Side Burn. One of them is red and the other is brown. Apparently Skid-Z is the latter and Side Burn is the former. The reason I don't know which is which is because they're both awful, awful figures. Neither one holds together well in car mode, while in robot mode they tend to either fall over or fall apart with the slightest bump. A lot of Armada Minicons were neat little toys, but these two are the worst of the bunch that I own by a mile. They do
have great articulation for figures of their size, but that's not necessarily a good thing. For these two articulation is the problem -- their joints are too loose and that is directly responsible for the limbs that fall off and the alternate modes that don't hold together.
Much like the Minicon ports, though, these two are a halfhearted "it's Armada, he needs
Minicons" throw-in. Hasbro made no attempt to match them to Predacon, so their colour schemes clash terribly and they're useless as accessories to the big guy. The only reason they even exist is because Hasbro felt they needed to include Minicons with every toy they released in the Armada line. But that was a decade ago, these Minicons are horrible and it's best to just pretend they don't exist.
This is probably Predacon's biggest failing. His stellar robot mode articulation doesn't translate over to the beast mode at all and his beast mode tail is completely superfluous in robot mode. His transport mode, while hilarious, is a sad excuse for actually transforming into something. 5/10
Durability is Predacon's biggest advantage over his forerunner, because Transmetal Megatron is a notoriously fragile toy. Aside from the chipping that plagues shiny chromed paint jobs, he was also prone to snapping at the waist because the joint was made from poor-quality plastic. Predacon has neither of those problems. His joints are big and strong, he's made from good plastic and even a little kid would have a hard time breaking him unless they were actively trying to. 10/10
Predacon's great robot mode is held back a little by not having a good weapon. His beast mode defies conventional expectations -- it doesn't really do anything, but it's awesome anyway because of the silly transport mode. Minicon comparability isn't really my thing, but it's easy to ignore if you don't like it. 9/10
Predacon is a beautiful, beautiful figure. Neither time nor the fact that mine is missing a couple paint apps on one shoulder pad has taken anything away from that. 10/10
Dinosaur mode is sub-par, but I can't judge it too harshly because by the standards of the time there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Robot mode needs no such qualification and is great, full stop. 8/10
A quick glance through completed eBay auctions shows Predacon routinely selling for less than I paid for him in 2003. That's not a surprise, because Armada is a hugely unpopular line. Compared to his Beast Wars counterpart...well, there is no comparison. Transmetal Megatron is at least twice as expensive, and more so if you go for the Japanese version that won't randomly explode when you try to transform it. $20 for a figure of this quality is a no-brainer. 10/10
I'm sure my unmitigated love for Predacon is clear by now. He's a great figure, and anyone who likes the Beast Wars design style absolutely needs to own at least one version of this toy. Transmetal Megatron is great, and because he's a show character people are naturally going to gravitate toward him first. But I've never felt the need to own the Beast Wars version, because Predacon is ever so slightly better than it in every conceivable way. I know a lot of people will disagree with that, but in my opinion, if you can only own one version of this toy it really needs to be Predacon. 9/10