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Numbat's Review: Human Alliance Soundwave

Name: Soundwave
Function: Communications Master and Sadistic Spy Extraordinaire
Subgroup: Dark of the Moon Mechtech Human Alliance Class

Soundwave is one of the iconic G1 Transformers characters. In fact, he was originally released as the counterpart to Optimus Prime in some countries back in the 1980s, in lieu of Megatron. His absence from the first live action Transformers movie (TFTM) seemed a glaring oversight, although Blackout clearly had evolved from a Soundwave concept. Concerns over finding an appropriate alternate mode for a movieverse Soundwave seemed to be partly to blame for this, and frankly I’m glad the outcome was the ominous and awesome Blackout. We were finally introduced to a live action Soundwave in Revenge of the Fallen (ROTF) where he has traded up his boombox alternate mode for a Cybertronian Communications Satellite. He coordinates the Decepticon actions from a distance in ROTF, with a suitably creepy voice provided by the original G1 Soundwave voice actor, Frank Welker. However, Soundwave doesn’t really get his hands dirty in ROTF, and the Deluxe Class toy left a lot to be desired, with a dumpy weird robot mode (it’s worth noting that we never see his robot mode in ROTF). Finally, with Dark of the Moon (DOTM), the third in the live action Transformers film series, we get an Earth-based Soundwave – something I am sure fans were very excited about.

I don’t think Soundwave’s character disappoints either – he is a cold hearted spy, engages happily in torture of human and Transformer alike, and takes pleasure in executing prisoners. His alternate may have upset some, though – after concerns that an appropriate alternate mode was important and difficult to decide upon back for TFTM, it seems ironic that at the end of it all Soundwave transforms into a car (how much more generic can you get for a Transformer?) when he finally makes his appearance on Earth in the DOTM. However, the use of the Soundwave’s silver Mercedes Benz SLS AMG alternate mode as an actual disguise is very appropriate for the character, and leads to some of the most memorable scenes in the film.

And, of course, Soundwave is accompanied by his iconic lackey – Laserbeak. Happy days!

So, surely with this absolute iconic fan favourite character finally making a proper appearance in the live action films, Hasbro would be releasing a toy quick off the bat? Erm, nope. Afraid not. Although Deluxe Class and Human Alliance Class figures were designed, these only saw release in the Asian markets – even though they were packaged in US boxes ready for American release, they never saw Stateside. Instead, these figures suffered the same fate as Deluxe Que and Leadfoot, while non-screen characters such as Jolt, Skids, Mudflap and various non-entities saw wide release alongside myriad Bumblebees. Surely a missed opportunity and poor marketing decision not to release most of the new on-screen characters in what would become the fourth highest grossing blockbuster of all time – no wonder the toy line bombed and Bumblebees were still to be seen shelf-warming over a year later.

Sadly, only the Legion Class Soundwave saw a Western release, and both the Deluxe and the Human Alliance figures remain the province of the Asian market and scalpers.

Fortunately, I didn’t wait for the announcement that Human Alliance (HA) Soundwave was cancelled – I really enjoyed his role in the film and the design. Plus he came with a Legion scale Laserbeak, and I wasn’t a big fan of the blocky Deluxe Class figure. And he came with Dylan Gould, and not only is he the lead human villain in DOTM, a large chunk of my family are Goulds… So I bought HA Soundwave at a fairly reasonable price.

(I should also add I always wanted a Soundwave when I was wee, but never had one – other than Cybertron Legends Class Soundwave and World's Smallest Transformer [WST] Soundwave, this is the first Soundwave toy I have ever owned!)

Of course, Soundwave is also a rarity – a Human Alliance Class villain. The only other on-screen character to have received such a toy Barricade (although, oddly, as part of the ROTF line – the only one of the three live-action films to date he did not feature in…). Sadly, both HA Barricade and HA Soundwave saw limited distribution and are rarities…

Stock photos of the figure do look pretty terrible, and a lot of people seem to struggle to transform him, so hopefully this review will help dispel some of the myths surrounding what is undoubtedly one of the most fun HA figures out there – but he’s not without his flaws…

Alternate Mode:

As already mentioned, DOTM Soundwave transforms into a sleek, sexy, inordinately expensive silver Mercedes Benz SLS AMG. One of the Human Alliance selling points is the highly detailed realistic alternate modes, and HA Soundwave is no exception.

Measuring 6 ¾” (17cm) longe, HA Soundwave is 1/27 scale in SLS mode, which is slightly smaller than ROTF HA Bumblebee, both in scale and measurements. It really is noticeably small, by comparison, and Soundwave is more similar in size to HA Skids or Mudflap, despite being a larger considerably larger vehicle than a Chevy Spark in reality.

Another negative is certainly the plastic – Soundwave is moulded in metallic grey plastic, rather than being painted shiny silver like ROTF HA Sideswipe or Jazz. While this looks worse in photos than in real life, the grey plastic is duller than such a premium car deserves, and it’s impossible to overlook this cost-cutting measure – and it does make his alloy wheels stick out like sore thumbs, as these have been painted silver and really highlight the difference. On the positive side, the grey paint used on the doors matches the dull metallic grey plastic perfectly – you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were moulded grey plastic with transparent plastic parts, they looks so good. Rest assured, though, despite the use of metallic grey plastic, HA Soundwave does still look very nice, and does not suffer in the same way as DOTM Deluxe Sideswipe or Deluxe Soundwave do with cheap-looking, less consistent plastics.

Any other negatives? Well, there is a small panel on the boot which is cast in black plastic, and it really makes no sense that the designers have left this unpainted when doing such a great job with the doors. Two of the robot mode toes also protrude beneath the rear of the car, and although these have been designed to fit in like part of the rear of the car the fact they’re moulded in metallic navy plastic means they do stand out a little, but it’s nothing major.

So, that’s the bad stuff out the way – and I’d say these are all fairly minor. The car is gloriously detailed, and there really is no obvious robot mode part showing anywhere (those toes don’t look out of place, other than being blue…). The panels are all sculpted in, as are front and rear Mercedes signs and ‘SLS AMG’ and ‘6.3’ can also be seen on the rear and sides respectively. Ventilation grills are picked out in black, including all of those delicate parts around the front Merc symbol. The brake lights are painted red, and the headlights and windows all cast in transparent blue plastic which looks really nice. The icing on the cake is the rear registration plate which is painted yellow with ‘SUPERIOR’ printed in black – a nice and subtle nod for G1 fans.

Being a Human Alliance figure, of course the doors open (‘wing’ doors like a Delorean) , and HA humans can sit in the seats and hold the steering wheel. Soundwave’s interior includes more details than some other HA figures, with a moulded dashboard (grey) as well as the steering wheel (navy blue) and seats (navy blue and grey). However, there is a giant black ‘spine’ dividing the centre of the car interior. All in all, though, it’s one of the better attempts at a car interior for the HA line, and the fun of having human figures that can sit inside a Transformer never gets old – it’s a childhood dream come true.

Soundwave’s alternate mode is very nice, well proportioned and highly detailed – it’s just a bit of a shame about the grey plastic used for much of the car, and the metallic navy blue plastic robot mode toes which would have blended in perfectly had they at least been painted grey to match the rest of the car, like the doors were. Minor issues aside, though, it’s a car you’d happily display (I do!).

Finally, a word of warning – Soundwave rolls well in SLS mode, but has very little ground clearance (just like the real car…). This wouldn’t be an issue were it not for the fact that his robot mode arm speakers almost touch the ground and have painted details which are apt to get scraped. Be careful!

Robot Mode:

Before you transform Soundwave, take a look underneath. He is jam packed – there is no unused space under the vehicle, unlike other HA figures (and, indeed, unlike DOTM Deluxe Soundwave). The designers really used every available part of the car mode and this hints at one Hell of a transformation – and HA Soundwave does not disappoint. The transformation is perhaps the most important part of any Transformer – you want something which is interesting, not needless complex, and that delivers super alternate and robot modes. Undoubtedly, HA Soundwave’s transformation is the most fun thing about him – it is relatively complex, but not so much that you can’t play around with him on your desk without booking in the time (unlike ROTF Leader Prime or MP-05 Megatron for example). It’s really more unique than unusual. Despite Soundwave’s robot mode being a variation on the fairly standard car-mode-as-chest, the requirement that the vehicle mode needed to have space for human figure interaction coupled with what is actually a fairly unusual spin in the CGI model results in some really innovative design here. This does result in a degree of car mode kibble (doors notably), as with all HA figures, but due to the particulars of the SLS and the robot mode design, the standard solution of folding the doors as shoulder wings and the rest of the car shell as a backpack really wasn’t an option with Soundwave. Instead, there he has zero backpack, but the car doors, roof, rear windows and dashboard do end up collapsing down into the tops of his arms. Amazingly, his legs and feet unfold from just the rear 1” (2.5cm) of the car mode – absolutely exceptional, as they are actually well proportioned and support the robot mode perfectly!

Anyway, if you get HA Soundwave, you’ll see how much fun he is to transform.

In robot mode Soundwave stands 6 ¾” (17cm) tall. While this is exactly as long as the car mode, the parts have rearranged themselves well beyond recognition, and in a far more complex manner than any other car Transformer I own – Human Alliance figures truly are the successors to Alternators / Binaltech which are simple by comparison!

Sadly, it’s (more than) a little short compared with say ROTF Human Alliance Bumblebee, who should be around the same size in robot mode, which is a shame.

Still, HA Soundwave is a bulky ‘bot that matches his CGI proportions well. Stock photos clearly were taken at a funny angle (from above, looking down) and oddly posed, as his legs are perfectly in proportion. His arms are bulky and long, but they are in the film anyway (seems gorilla arms are in vogue with Movieverse Decepticons…). His feet are a common complaint, being as they are a tripod of toes, but again, this is what Soundwave has in the film! He’s also extremely well balanced, despite being top heavy with all of the car effectively on his upper arms. Amazingly, though, the kibble on his arms barely interferes with his silhouette, and not at all with poseability. While his abdomen is rather thin, I think this is more noticeable because of the bulky arms, and it's not something that has ever bothered me particularly.

Basically, Human Alliance Soundwave is an excellent representation of the film CGI model.

The only negatives with the robot mode, mould-wise, really, are the shoulder-wheels. One of the iconic elements of the DOTM CGI design for Soundwave are the front wheels of the SLS mounted in his shoulders. It looks awesome. And HA Soundwave does have these shoulder-wheels. However, they fold over from his upper arms, and do look like they were an afterthought. Furthermore, they are attached to his arms and so move with them (which looks weird) and interfere with poseability a bit. Plus they do not lock in place at all, even for a rigid pose. I really don’t think it would have been hard to have designed the figure so as these wheels were independent of the shoulder articulation and locked into place, so this is a bit of a niggle of mine with what is otherwise a phenomenal robot mode.

The other negative in robot mode is paint/colour. Whereas the car mode is mainly grey, there’s a lot of black, navy blue, gold and AllSpark blue. None of this is a problem, with the exception of the metallic navy blue used on his toes and for his upper chest. You see, the toes should be the same colour as the car body, as should the upper chest. It’s a real shame – particularly the chest pieces – as dark contrast really means that you don’t get the same impression as you would were these pieces grey.

Okay, some negatives out the way – what’s to like? Well, erm, he’s an amazingly close likeness to the CGI model, and is packed with details. I love how the rear wheels of the car fold over to become two of Soundwave’s speakers, the way the car front collapses into the twisted chest which has a frame, almost, which perhaps hints at the G1 cassette door chest. The robot mode uses no false car pieces at all, and the parts rearrange themselves incredibly from this compact sleek SLS mode to a bulky pointy robot from Hell. The head is also superbly detailed, and an excellent mould, although it is let down by the metallic black paint and bright blood red visor which both obscure details – some light piping would have worked better for the visor (with black details perhaps) and silver for the other parts. Also, his opening mouth feature is a bit weird – he just looks like an alligator snapping turtle snapping for food when it’s open. Undoubtedly, the head shape is a nice sinister nod to G1.

Articulation-wise, HA Soundwave is jam-packed. Five joints in each leg, three (with wide ranges of motion on multiple planes) in each arm, three in each hand and of course his neck allow Soundwave to be posed pretty much however you like (sadly waist articulation is precluded by the incredible transformation).

Overall, Soundwave looks absolutely awesome on display in robot mode, despite minor issues with regards to the shoulder-wheel design and colour scheme. He’s certainly got one of the most interesting robot modes to emerge from a car and a beautifully designed transformation that begs you to play with him again and again. He’s the figure that unequivocally demonstrates that Human Alliance figures are the true successors to Alternators and Binaltech.

NOTE: A question many people probably ask themselves is whether they should shell out for Human Alliance Soundwave or Deluxe Soundwave – I know I did. I have been fortunate enough to be able to pick them both up at sensible prices, and can happily compare the two. Undoubtedly Human Alliance Soundwave is the best representation of the CGI model from the film. However, if you’re not keen on the slightly odd proportions, Deluxe Soundwave offers a more conventionally proportioned robot mode (although by definition is therefore less film accurate) and normal feet. Deluxe Soundwave has the benefit of shoulder wheels which lock into place and are independent of shoulder joints as well. The two are fairly opposite in terms of transformation – with HA Soundwave most of the car becomes the arms, whereas with Deluxe Soundwave most of the car becomes the legs – hence the different robot mode proportions. Deluxe Soundwave also has a massive amount of car kibble just hanging off his back, whereas HA Soundwave hides his car kibble (which is already less to begin with) relatively well. Deluxe Soundwave also makes use of a false car front for his chest. Deluxe Soundwave does have the benefit of a more film accurate colour scheme though (which also shows off his head better). I’d say if you only bought one, HA Soundwave is undoubtedly the better figure in terms of transformation design and film accuracy. However, Deluxe Soundwave will appeal to those who would rather a more traditionally proportioned Transformer (and one that will display better alongside more Movieverse figures).

Laserbeak:

Laserbeak – bonus! I suppose in a way, Laserbeak bulks out the HA Soundwave set, going some way towards justifying the smaller size of the figure when compared with say HA Bumblebee – much like the Autobot Biker-Bints did with ROTF HA Skids and Mudflap. This is both a blessing and a curse for Laserbeak, who is no doubt an excellent inclusion, and helped sway me to but HA Soundwave – I really wanted a Laserbeak (he’s one of the most memorable characters from any of the three live action films) in better scale with other DOTM figures than the massive blocky and plain weird Deluxe Class version – but has ended up more than a little on the large-side (measuring 6” [15.25cm] in wingspan – not far off as long as the SLS!) in order to accommodate a pointless Human Alliance interface feature for use with human figures.

So, as has been the trend set by Soundwave, let’s get this out the way first – Laserbeak transforms into a wired thing that doubles as a kind of hover-bike for Dylan Gould, and a rocket launcher for Soundwave. These pointless play features interfere with the almost perfect dragon-turkey mode, sadly, by having the end of a red rocket stick out his arse, and having the legs attached to the wings rather than the body, which makes posing Laserbeak more challenging that it ought to be.

Moving on, Laserbeak has an amazing level of detail, and is blessed with gorgeous paint applications – metallic red feathers which fade to grey the further from the tips you get (sadly the paint is not replicated on the underside of the wings), red VTOL engines, blue eyes, some black paint highlighting a few armour panels and, erm, for no earthly good reason bright red legs. Those legs just seem so random after the superb effort the designers put into moulding and painting the rest of the guy.

Articulation-wise, Laserbeak isn’t bad for what is a slightly oversized Legends/Legion Class figure – ball joints for wings and legs (although again, it’s frustrating that the legs connect to the wings and not the body, making posing trickier than it need be). That rocket launcher / hover bike mode again gets in the way as the neck has to be rigid in order to hide the rocket, unfortunately.

So, whereas in many figures it is the Transformer itself that suffers the compromises necessary to incorporate the play-value human interaction gimmicks in the Human Alliance series, Laserbeak suffers the brunt here instead of Soundwave. I think this is a good thing (I’d rather have an awesome Soundwave for my £30 to £40 quid!), but a better articulated Laserbeak would have been nice.

Still, I’m not really complaining – he serves his purpose on display perfectly well, as he can sit on Soundwave’s arm (there’s a clip on the car seat which Laserbeak’s feet can attach to), and speak into his master’s chest speaker-ma-bobs – nice touch!

Dylan Gould:

I’m going to give Dylan the benefit of the doubt and say he’s 2 ½” (6.25cm) tall. He’s not quite, but I want to make him feel better. That puts him at 1/28 scale, which is almost in scale with Soundwave’s SLS mode. For some reason other reviewer’s complain Dylan is too small for Soundwave’s car mode, and I can understand where they’re coming from – he does feel small – but the pure stats just don’t back that up. He is only a little too small, but on these scales it makes no real odds. However, he is a little shorter than the Sam Witwicky that came with ROTF HA Bumblebee, which is back to front in reality.

Dylan Gould is moulded wearing a grey suit and blue shirt, with black shoes and dark brown hair. He bears about as much resemblance to Patrick Dempsey as Sam Witwicky does to Shia Labeouf – perhaps a tad more, but he’s not quite as good as Agent Simmons. Still miles better than Human Alliance Mikaela Banes though (come on, the designers just seem to have thought ‘if we make her look like a woman we’re there, job done’). He’s super articulated for such a small figure with a huge range of movement at the shoulders and hips, hinge joints at the knees and a swivel of the head. However, he does lack a waist joint, whereas ROTF HA Humans had super-flexible waists. This doesn’t make a huge different to what you can do with the little fellow, but it is a step backwards still.

As noted previously, Dylan can interact with Laserbeak’s hover-bike mode, and he can also sit in Soundwave’s SLS mode (a peg on Soundwave’s seat plugs into Dylan’s back to keep him securely in place), and he can pose nicely holding Soundwave’s awesome wing-style door. However, the best use of the guy, as with all Human Alliance humans, is as scale on a display really – he makes Soundwave look huge and very imposing in robot mode, and also looks good next to other figures such as Hunt for the Decepticons (HFTD) Leader Class Starscream (while not in scale with the F-22 Raptor mode, the humans look more-or-less right for his robot mode).

Plus, much as with Soundwave, it’s nice to have a Human Alliance villain – they’re few and far between.



Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 9 – Human Alliance Soundwave’s transformation is easily one of the most interesting and fun of any Transformer I own and, as a real bonus, is not so complex that you don’t pick him up and play with him. In fact, I can’t help myself and transform him all the time. The only negative is the shoulder-wheels which do not lock in place and are attached to the arms which interferes with articulation.
Durability: 7 – Soundwave seems fairly durable, but separating his arms during transformation takes more force than I’d like, and his legs really need ratchet joints to support his body weight, but the don’t have them so I’d worry over time his hips in particular may become loose.
Fun: 10 – Human Alliance Soundwave is one of the most fun Transformers I own, and that’s before Laserbeak and interaction with human figures is brought into the equation. Superb play value!
Aesthetics: 9 – Soundwave looks superb in both modes, but would have been perfect had the upper chest and toes been cast in the same colour as the car body, which should be silver and not the metallic grey used. Colours let Soundwave down…
Articulation: 9 – Soundwave has superb articulation and is extremely poseable. The only things preventing a ‘10’ are those shoulder-wheels which should be independent of shoulder articulation, but sadly aren’t.
Value/Price: 6 – I picked up my Soundwave just short of £40 quid, and you can still pick him up for between £40 and £50. While this is a bit steep, frankly he’s a good figure and worth the money if you can afford him. Had he been the RRP of £30 or less, Human Alliance Soundwave would be a ‘10’ and most own for anybody.
Overall: 9 – Human Alliance Soundwave is a really phenomenal figure, brought up short of perfection only by the shoulder-wheel design and colour scheme – both of which are minor issues really. Nine months down the line and I still can’t get over how great the transformation design is on the figure, and how amazing he looks on display in either mode. I am extremely glad I took the risk and bought this guy despite the poor stock photos (Hasbro photographers should be sacked, frankly), and see him remaining one of my favourite Transformers for a long long time. If you can afford him, I’d recommend picking up Human Alliance Soundwave before his cost becomes extortionate.
 
 
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