G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Cobra HISS w/ Cobra Commander

I must admit I almost feel bad for this vehicle. Not because it has any major faults or because it's substandard necessarily, but it has the distinct disavantage of being released after its Pursuit of Cobra counterpart. I strongly believe if this HISS was released prior to the Pursuit of Cobra version, fans would be falling all over themselves with praise, but instead any praise is tampered by comparisons to previous versions and lamentations that it's not quite perfect.

I will admit, I agree with those sentiments to be sure. Overall the Pursuit of Cobra version is a lot more nicely detailed with a lot more great bells and whistles, but I still think there is plenty to love about this new version of the Cobra HISS.

First and foremost, this vehicle retains the very cool sleek armored body of the Pursuit of Cobra version(s) that preceeded it. This body design has really grown on me and I find myself loving the new look and new style that it brings to the Cobra motor pool. It's almost shaped like a serpent's head which fits the Cobra motif perfectly, yet still looks bulky and armored enough to take some punishment.

Aside from this similar body shape, though, the rest of the tank has a lot of "it's similar, yet different" to it in almost every avenue. Obviously the most striking thing are the treads. The shape and style is similar, and has that HISS style, yet unlike the previous versions, the treads are not movable. I've seen many complaints about this, but frankly from a playability standpoint I almost prefer the immobile treads. Having treads that move sometimes takes away from some of the play value as the vehicle moves somewhat slowly over the floor, or sometimes gets caught on the carpet, and just having the inset wheels on the bottom allows for much more freedom of movement and less concern about tearing stuff up.

Now, here's the funny thing. Aside from the treads now not being able to move, I think many of the changes they made to this vehicle were for the better. Where the original versions of this vehicle had a fairly nondescript top slope to the body with heavy weapons mounted on the top, this version elects to expand the rear of the vehicle a bit more, add a large cannon on top and two mounted chain guns on each side. I really love this different formation to the HISS weapon systems, even though the overall realistic weapon designs of the previous versions are obviously superior. This formation allows a gunner to sit on the top, and adds some much needed symmetry to the overall look of the vehicle, something previous versions were lacking. Sure, the main cannon has a spring-loaded missile, but that can be easily removed and we are left with just a regular high-powered cannon that looks very cool and has a great gunner's seat to boot. I love the rear mounted chain guns as well. One thing I'm not crazy about is the new chin gun which lacks any of the cool detail of the original and looks about as threatening as a squirt gun.

Also, the whole "spring forward" thing doesn't do much for me, either, but I'll admit it stays locked down much better than some of the previous HISS tanks did.

Now, one minor drawback to the vehicle is that it does not have that rear compartment for a second person, but really, who uses that for anything?

Lastly, the color scheme of the vehicle is actually really nice, even if it deviates from the more traditional and realistic shade of past vehicle releases. It goes for a more metallic blue with the black treads and gray/silver weapons. This version of the HISS does have the near clear canopy, which is a great touch, and again, an improvement that many folks were asking for from the original.

If I have a major complaint with the vehicle, it matches my opinion of the Ghost Hawk II, and it's that the vehicle almost feels too "fake". The plastic material is very thin in comparison to past releases, and it just doesn't feel as "sturdy for rugged play" as some past vehicles or toys we're used to. That being said, it still doesn't feel like it's just going to fall apart, and the look of the vehicle is really nice, meshing well with past releases.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Cobra HISS Driver Cobra Commander

Now is that painful or what? I mean, seriously painful. Like stomp on the toes, punch in the gut, fingernails down the chalkboard painful.

First you take a really nice vehicle... and you take a driver which has a fantastic design... and you remove nearly all of the functional articulation from the figure, rendering it practically unusable in any sense aside from sitting in the tank itself. It's a killer, especially because the figure above looks so gorgeous. I've been a long time fan of cybernetic uniforms like the Mega Marines, and yes even the Accelerator Suit figures (emphasis on figures, not necessarily the concept itself) and this figure is a fantastic representation of that. This looks like one hell of an awesome layered armor bodysuit for Cobra Commander. Great sculpted detail in the chestplate...terrific shoulder pads, and awesome detail within the sculpting of the legs. A great sculpted keypad or wrist-mounted computer device, and that absolutely amazing wrist-mounted chain gun. I am IN LOVE with that arm-mounted weapon. Holy crap that looks cool.

So yes, in almost every way, this figure is incredible. I love the futuristic look, I love the overall design concept, and I can totally picture this as a next generation Battle Armor Cobra Commander.

So naturally, they're going to do a figure like this without most functional articulation. He has joints at the hips, shoulders, and neck, but that is all. No swivels, no rockers...this is typically 70's Star Wars figure articulation, folks. Disappointment abounds.

Granted, I'm know why they did it. I understand the financial limitations and I see why Hasbro is doing this, but that does not at all alter the massive disappointment at this figure and his restricted range of motion. In fact I've seen a number of vehicles on store shelves that I was on the fence about, and likely would have purchased if they had good drivers included, but because the drivers are subpar, I've left those vehicles on the shelf for the first time in many years. Hopefully this is something that folks at Hasbro keep in mind for decision making going forward. I do understand the move, but I do wish they could have gotten a bit more creative in finding ways to reduce cost rather than drastically impacting the overall structure of the action figure, which has lived and died for thirty years based on how poseable they are.

In short... vehicle - pretty awesome. Figure - not so much.