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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Blackjack's review: Payload

Name: Payload
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Technically none, but the head, chestplate and front grille falls off very easily

So, the movie had about a dozen characters, and a dozen does not a toyline make. To pad out numbers, unused designs such as Arcee and Wreckage were made into toys, and then they decided to take Ken Christiansenís designs for the enemy drones in the tie-in games and turn them into toys. Five of them, at least Ė Swindle, Dropkick, Payload, Longarm and Dreadwing. Scrapper the forklift got a toy in Revenge of the Fallen, albeit under the name Dirt Boss because there was a Scrapper in the second movie. Mixmaster, however, overshadowed by the more awesome-looking Decepticon with the same name and alternate mode in the second movie, is likely to remain toyless.

Payload is one of the most irritating enemies in the game, because they do this trick where they bull-rush you and knock you flying, and you have to avoid the attack and beat him with melee attacks when they have stopped running and are looking around. It doesnít sound too daunting, until youíre fighting loads of the lesser enemies at the same time, and you donít see Payloads transform from their alternate mode. Or if there are Longarms around. Or, heaven forbid, a second Payload running just off-screen. And these guys take quite a beating before they blow up, too.

Still, Hasbro took these four designs and turned them into toys, because they are already made with the movie aesthetic in mind anyway. However, unlike the rest of the other drones, apparently Payload was a severe shelfwarmer. I didnít see this myself; it was Swindle who peg-warmed in my area, and it took me a long, long time before I bought a Payload.

See, when back then I donít exactly have lots of Transformers, so I remember the tech specs of these guys. Of course the packaging pretends Payload is an actual character instead of a drone, just like, say, Gnaw. He is characterized as an officer that maintains currency and energy for the Decepticon, basically a muscled version of G1 Swindle, without the Ďbest dealí bit. And the bio had this bit where heís strong and armoured enough to run down or past anyone on the road. I was quite excited when I saw the not-drone Payload appear in the Reign of Starscream comic. Silly, I know, but you guys were probably excited when Searchlight or someone appeared in the Marvel comics, no?

Payload is one of those names that get slapped on toys Hasbro doesnít really care about. As far as I recall, Payload is a G.I. Joe name anyway, and they slapped it in the Armada line on some random Mini-Con, the truck from the Space Team if Iím not mistaken. And then on the dozen repaints that Payload received. A random Mini-Con repaint in the Cybertron line got slapped with the name ĎPayloadí, because Mini-Cons are a good outlet to retain trademarks like Shockwave and Sky Lynx and Razorclaw and Payload. And then it got assigned to this guy.

Alternate Mode:
Payload transforms into a rather accurate representation of a Bulldog II Armoured Truck, similar to those used by banks. I thought it was quite appropriate that a drone who bull-rushes things, as well as a procurement officer who bull-rushes through things in the way to get resources to the field, would adapt an alternate mode that would easily knock down anything in their path. Itís a rather appropriate alternate mode, and I liked having some vehicles that arenít military, sports cars or semi-truck rigs like this.

Payloadís main colour is a rather suitably non-catchy shade of dark navy blue. Like the rest of the movie sculpts, Payload has got loads of moulded detail, although not all of them are painted. Things like little ladders leading to his doors, or small unpainted windows His windows are done with a frosted, translucent grey plastic, his wheels are black with silver hubcaps, his front grille is light grey. Orange details the headlights on both the grille and above the trck window, and a nice red-and-white stripe break the monotony in the hood. Sadly, there is a very jarring difference along the sides of the bar running across the lower side of the truck. While a good bit of it is cast in light grey plastic, the last bit is painted silver, which is a very jarring difference. The rear door of the truck has painted silver windows and red rear lights. There is a fake company logo of ĎArmored Security Servicesí with a Decepticon insignia, in vein of Ratchet or Barricadeís faux-logos. It was actually part of the concept art designed by Ken Christiansen but didnít make it into the game because, well, the drones hardly get seen much in vehicle mode anyway.

Seen from the top, Payloadís very smooth, with very few join lines. The cab looks very fine as well, but the side of the truck body is very obviously made up of hinges and panels. There is an attempt made to hide this by casting it all in the same dark blue plastic, and pasting the bright fake company logo to attract attention.

A common problem in all Payloads, the front grille falls off very easily. Like very easily. It will pop off the moment you take him out of the card, it will pop off when you transform him, it will pop offÖ every single time, that is. It pops back in easily, but itís irritating. Nothing a little superglue wonít fix, and itís not that itís going to be articulated anyway, so I donít see why Hasbro didnít fix it themselves. Itís an annoying little problem.

Robot Mode:
Payloadís got a great, great transformation. Itís a feat that would be difficult to replicate on a toy, to turn a big, blocky vehicle like the Bulldog into a smooth, nearly kibble-less robot from the movie. The concept art details transformation, of course, but it didnít seem practical in a toy, but they did it. I am a big fan on how the big box simply separates and collapses into two tidy long panels sitting above the toyís shoulders, adding to the whole rugby player look. And, more to boot, the game design wasnít very kibbly, and the toy replicates this. Thereís wheels subtly peeking out of the underside of the lower arms, there are some bits of panels and the obvious windows on the feet, but otherwise Payloadís vehicular-mode kibble is very nearly transformed and tucked away. I quite like this sort of transformation myself, and I think the end result of the toy looks far more imposing than the game concept art, mainly due to the heavier-looking robot mode, and the impression of power caused by the giant panels on the shoulders instead of simple wheel kibble.

All of this, however, is ruined by one single critical factor. A long bar juts out of Payloadís chest through his back. Itís a long, thick bar connected to the circular stomachorb, ending in the front grille (that will pop off no matter what you do). It wreaks havoc with Payloadís balance, makes him difficult to display in a shelf, makes him look awkward and uglyÖ so what is it for? Well, you push on the front grille, and the long bar will slide forwards, carrying with it the stomach-plate, and springs and gears will cause two claws to swing around and grab whatever is in front of Payload. Yay?

It is a completely pointless action gimmick, and it canít be removed. It completely ruins Payloadís otherwise smooth robot mode, ruins his balanceÖ and itís not like they had any leftover vehicle mode parts to turn into something else anyway. The toy would have worked just fine without this black post with minimal modification, but no, Payload is ruined by this pointless, pointless gimmick. Did I mention that the front grille falls off every time? And so does the stomach piece at the other end, even though supergluing it will make no difference to the toy. And since the gears and springs in mine has since self-destructed at around the second year I owned Payload (despite me never using it) so it irks me even more.

Still, itís not all a loss. Payload looks rather good in robot mode, giant pole sticking out of his chest aside. The dark blue is still the main base colour, with the grey broken up a lot Ė itís used for the collapsed sides of the torso, the elbow joints, the rather nicely thick skeletal hands, the stomach piece, parts of the thigh and the knee guards. The area around Payloadís lens-head (I am one of the few people who adore the game dronesí lens heads, but thatís just me) and bits of the center of his chest are painted silver. The concept art has Payloadís colour scheme stop here, with simply red accents from the fake logo on his arm, but then that would be a bit boring. However, Payload comes at the ĎAllspark Powerí subline where everyone must have random baby blue somewhere in their bodyÖ and while on nine cases out of ten this leads to awkwardly ugly toys at best, on Payload the addition of the baby blue looks good. It helps that it isnít the cheap paint used on Stockade or Landmine, but rather a glossy metallic tampograph. It picks out details on his lower arms, parts of his chest, the area around the circle on his stomach and in the blue parts of his thigh. It blends in nicely with the navy blue, and makes Payload look quite distinctive.

Mind you, the head-and-shoulders piece also falls off very, very easily, just like the front grille and stomach piece. As a kid, this simply means that Payload, coupled with his drone status, would always invariably get bits knocked off him in battle.

Payload has got a decent range of articulation. His head, while initially looking like a solid piece, can look to left and right slightly. His shoulders are on ball joints, elbows are on pin-and-hinge joints, hands are ball-jointed, the waist can turn, thighs are ball-jointed, and both the knees and ankles are hinged. In theory he would be able to strike loads of poses, including running straight at you, but the giant post sticking out of his back ruins this by completely screwing up Payloadís balance. His big, ginormous chest also kind of limits arm articulation somewhat.

In theory, Payload would be a great toy, if someone didnít have the idiocy to add the completely pointless and impractical action gimmick to him.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 7/10 Payloadís transformation is excellently designed, with great kibble distribution, as well as very convincing robot and alternate modes. Unfortunately they didnít do jack with the giant claw post, which costs some points.

Durability: 7/10 Payload is relatively durable, but the three pieces will fall off Ė the head-and-shoulders, the stomach piece and the front grille. And thereís nothing you can do about it. And the gimmick gearing in mine has since self-destructed, but no big loss there.

Aesthetics: 7/10 Payload has got a gorgeous, gorgeous alternate mode, but his robot mode, which, in theory would look grand, is completely ruined, again, by the pointless black rod that sticks out of his back.

Articulation: 3/10 Payloadís got average articulation at best for a toy his age, significantly less than his fellow drones Swindle or Dropkick, but the fact that he can hardly even balance a static standing pose (again, due to the big post rod gimmick thing) means that thereís not a lot he can articulate.

Fun: 4/10 I liked him, and the claw gimmick was kind of cute the first time I used it, but the fact that pieces kept falling off of him and that heís difficult to stand means that he spends most playtimes in alternate mode, delivering fuel or weapons or running down Autobots. Or getting his head blown off by Autobots.

Price/Value: 5/10 Heís a flawed toy, but heís apparently a shelfwarmer in most countries, so you wonít be paying through the nose to get him.

Overall: 5/10 Payload is, by far, one of the better-designed toys Iíve ever seen, marred only by, again, the pointless claw gimmick. Transformation design, aesthetics, articulation and fun, all of those scores would shoot up quite significantly if it wasnít for the problems caused by this silly thing. Itís pointless, and itís a great big shame because I thought Payload was a pretty neat design for a Decepticon mook, and itís got everything. Show-accuracy, a great alternate mode, a great transformationÖ pity.
 
 
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