G.I. Joe V.A.M.P. w/ Twin Battle Gun

Toy name: V.A.M.P. (Multi-Purpose Attack Vehicle) with Twin Battle Gun
Assortment: Toys "R" Us Exclusive
Price: MSRP $19.99
Availability: September, 2004

Key Features

- Includes Pathfinder, Chief Torpedo, and Big Brawler
- Working trailer hitch w/ Twin Battle Gun
- Spring-loaded missile
- Rotating vulcan cannons on Twin Battle Gun
- Twin Battle Gun wheels pivot under for stationary attack position
- Sturdy construction for rugged play

Personally, I'm sure some fans out there will find fault with what I'm about to say, but I really can't thank Toys "R" Us enough. I seriously have to wonder if they didn't stick it out on the line with Hasbro on these classic sculpt exclusives, I really have to wonder if we'd even be seeing them. Personally, I highly doubt it. Because of what one retailer is willing to invest in, thousands of Joefans get to see their beloved older sculpts and toys released again to mass market, where they can either build on their classic armies, fill in holes in their collections, or just keep on buying new stuff to add to their arsenals. Some of the exclusives are home runs...some are strike outs. But the fact that they're seeing the light of day is something that I want to take a few seconds of time with and thank Toys "R" Us. I only hope they're seeing some fiscal reward from it. Well, I'm certain they are, or they wouldn't keep doing it.

So, with that being said, is this particular set one of the aforementioned "home runs", or did it just look at a pathetic outside corner called strike?

Well, the VAMP definitely didn't pound one over the Green Monster, but I think we've got a pretty solid base hit...maybe a double with someone fast running.

Design and Playability

Right out of the gate, the V.A.M.P. comes out stumbling a little bit. For nostalgia reasons, I'm a V.A.M.P. fan, simply because it was the first vehicle I ever owned. I still own the original I had as a kid, even with it's missing steering wheel, busted up roll bar and loose, squeaky wheels, but it has a firm place in my heart. However, compared to recent offerings and even offerings back then, it just seems a little weak.

The original VAMP was based on the Lamborghini Cheetah, a concept vehicle jeep meant to be a fast small-attack vehicle. Hasbro did what they did best back then and took a concept-type design, slapped some state of the art weaponry on it, created a driver with a ton of character and shipped them to toy shelves, delighting the kids of the time. However, a thinly armored jeep with a tiny laser gun in the hood and pretty meager twin cannons on back would probably have a very hard time against something like the HISS Tank, or any countless other COBRA vehicles that have come out since then. Especially considering how much G.I. Joe has grown and developed in the past 20 years, with fast attack craft like the AWE Striker, and transports like the Jungle Strike and Hammer, you just have to wonder where the VAMP fits in.

So, really, the only appealing thing to me about it, is the nostalgia. Well, considering Hasbro completely redesigned the thing so it retains very little of it's classic appeal that makes it familiar. Not only that, but they took the only serious offensive capabilities of the thing and removed them, sticking a spring-loaded missile launcher (and pretty sad looking one at that) in it's place. Granted, they did all of this back in 2001 with the release of the Desert Striker, but even in dark olive drab, it doesn't really do a whole lot for the look of the vehicle.

But here's where it gets sticky...because even with the lack of use in today's Joe force, and the lack of serious offense, I still find myself kind of liking this little jeep. It has the fun feel of the old days with freely rolling tires, solid construction and a nice small footprint allowing for easy pick up and play battles. I do like the machine gun on the hood, accessible to the passenger, but the new rollbar just seems out of place. I find myself actually not minding the newly constructed front panel of the jeep, even though it seems to serve no purpose, but overall the new VAMP just doesn't seem as...magical as it did back in the day.

Luckily for this set, though, the VAMP isn't the only thing packaged in here. Pretty much everything I've said about this jeep being dated and outclassed goes the opposite direction when you're talking about the Whirlwind. Yeah, I'm definitely calling this the Whirlwind, as "Twin Battle Gun" just doesn't quite work for me.

When this gun station came out lo those many years ago, it was far and away ahead of it's time. The twin gatling guns melded with a streamlined control station and the ever-popular towing capacity really combines into a revolutionary and effective battle tool. The angled, layered armor shielding provides great protection from the front, and the swiveling, elevating cannons can quite obviously rain pure hellish destruction on whomever or whatever they choose. Grasping the nicely sculpted joysticks and looking into the black computer monitor perched in front of them, the gunner can easily control these large twin assault cannons, using them as anti-aircraft, anti-personel, or anti-armor.

Shifting from being a towed weapon to a static gun-station is quite simple, with just two swivels of the wheels. I can actually see VAMPs cruising through enemy fire to deposit 5-10 of these in a battlefield, then just stand back and wait for the chain guns to stop hurling firey death at the enemies. The Whirlwind just looks plain MEAN. And it quite honestly, saves this set from potential obscurity. Considering the main vehicle is merely a green repaint of a 2-3 year old small vehicle, and the three figures included are barely repaints, this set needs something to give it some zip. Thank goodness the Whirlwind is included to do just that.

Color Scheme/Paint Applications

With Hasbro's focus on electronic features dwindling, I figured it might be better to add a section that refers to this, rather than Electronic Features, which only a fraction of the vehicles released these days are coming included with.

The color scheme for this set is very simple and straight forward, and as effective as it needs to be. These two vehicles are utility vehicles, plain and simple. The attack weapon, and the jeep that carts it around. As such, they don't really need elaborate paint schemes, complicated deco, or subtle hints of blues and blacks. They are straight-up olive drab green with some black and gray tossed in for good measure, and this color works well. Sure, it's a little boring since they are mostly monochromatic, but like I said, for these vehicles it works, and the shade of green is a deep, dark one, that looks quite nice.

Figures and Accessories

Now, how about this motley crew?

In all honesty, the choices of figure for this set kind of bewilders me. They all seem jungle oriented in specialty, but not in uniform design or colors, and none of their uniforms come close to matching the overall scheme of the vehicles included.

Not only that, but two of the figures are nearly identical to figures already released within the past few years.

Pathfinder has some very minor paint-shade differences (and a different colored belt buckle) than the one that came with the AWE Striker a few years ago. One very nice added bonus to this Pathfinder, though, is that he comes fully equipped with ALL of his original accessories! Yeah, even the weed whacker! They're all cast in black and fit the figure well, and are a very nice compliment to what could have been a completely lackluster, almost lazy addition to this set.

The thing that bugs me, is if they had done up Pathfinder in a nice shade of dark green with camouflage pants or something, he would have matched the vehicle perfectly and would have been an awesome update to the original. As it is, he's barely different than the AWE Striker version, and does nothing to make this set more "buyable" other than the added accessories (which you can probably find on eBay for less than the cost of this set).

Chief Torpedo is also somewhat of a disappointment, for a few reasons. First of all, due to the head sculpt, everyone assumed it was Wet Suit. We've been lacking a decent land version of Wet Suit ever since he originally got released (and ever since Larry Hama featured him so heavily in land garb in his Special Missions comic). This figure looked like it had the potential to be a good land-based version of everyone's favorite cantankerous SEAL. Instead, it's Chief Torpedo, which isn't necessarily bad, since this figure's head almost looks more like Torpedo than Wet Suit anyway. But we already got a land version of 'Pedo last year, so I was really hoping for a Wet Suit for my ground missions.

The figure itself isn't anything spectacular either. It's basically one of the gray Dreadheads from the 2004 Convention Exclusive Set with the '92 Wet Suit's head and black hair. I guess it looks okay, although the bright gray really doesn't suit him for jungle missions, and makes him stick out quite a bit from the VAMP. Chief Torpedo does look really cool in a boonie hat, though, which is great, and it makes him look more like he does when he gets included on land missions in the comics. Of course, unfortuntely, he doesn't COME with it..that would have been too cool.

As for Big Brawler--well, one can hardly talk about Mr. Brawler without getting comedic, but I'm going to try. This figure is basically a release of the Tiger Force Brawler, only with a white shirt instead of "mustard" (unless you got one of the early releases, and then this figure also has different colored hair). For a figure who is, again, supposed to represent a jungle trooper with a dark green vehicle and gun station, his shirt just looks too bright. Of course, it works on some levels, as it will draw all of the enemy's attention to his brawliness, and then when they see it, they will run away scared, negating the need for any of the other troops in the field. Perhaps they should have just included Brawler in the set...no VAMP, no Twin Battle Gun, and no other troops. Brawler can handle them all on his own.

In all seriousness, though, the look of this Brawler figure just falls a little short. Whether it's his non-receding hairline, or his magically camouflaged gunbelts on his legs, this Brawler pales in comparison to the original version, even with the all-powerful bleach-white t-shirt.

Final Comments

I like seeing these exclusives start taking a step in a different direction. With this set, and the upcoming Crimson Sabotage set, Hasbro has taken a pair of different vehicles and combined them together, then added a few different figures for a different effect. It's nice and works well, I think, giving us more than just a single repainted vehicle for our money.

As long as they can keep producing these items and keep up the quality level, I think they've got a potential goldmine on their hands, since back in the day they actually produced a decent number of vehicles with the tow-hitches.

The value of this set is a little mixed; the VAMP is pretty nice in it's new color scheme, but the re-tooling still has very ho-hum results. I dig it, but I'm not sure I dig it $20.00 worth. The Twin Battle Gun adds a LOT of value to the overall set...I'm not sure how much mint complete Whirlwinds go for on the secondary market, but it's a pretty safe bet that this might be a good resource to use to stock up on your G.I. Joe last-line defenses. The three figures honestly don't add a whole lot of value, in my opinion, since they're not really anything new or exciting, but for customizers or people who don't have the original versions, 3 figures included with these two vehicles makes for a bargain at $20.00.

Fans of the Desert Striker or fans of the Whirlwind should definitely pick this up, as it has great versions of both vehicles. Brawler fans, don't hesitate either...it's essential to keep your Brawler collection complete, after all. For those folks more interested in the newer items, you might not see a whole lot of use here. Personally, from my POV, these two smaller vehicles and a trio of figures is worth the twenty bones.

Ratings below are of the whole set combined...the Twin Battle Gun definitely saves the day when it comes to those.

Ratings (out of 10)

Presentation: 6.5
Design: 6.5
Playability: 7
Value: 7
Overall score (not an average): 7

Please note- Chief Torpedo does NOT come with this boonie hat...it belongs to Night Force Crosshair. I just liked the looks of it.


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