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Dead End - Generations Combiner Wars - Deluxe Figure

Height: 13.5cm

Articulation: 14 total points - Ball joint neck; 3 points each arm: Ball joint shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow; Waist swivel; 3 points each leg: Ball joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee.

Colors: Molded maroon, dark grey, light grey, black, purple; Painted maroon, grey, bronze, silver, black, purple.

Accessories: Combiner Extremity, beating pipe.

Release Data: Released in the United States in April of 2015 at a retail price of US$14.99

Author: ExVee


Most Decepticons would say the Autobots are doomed. Dead End is the only one who'd say the same about the Decepticons. He's convinced the end of the universe is right around the corner, and he's going out with his blasters blazing.

Dead End is the Stunticon I expected to like. Going by the stock photos and later when people overseas were getting them ahead of the US release and we got more and better pictures, Dead End just looked the most together. I didn't have the immediate distaste for Breakdown like many seemed to, but Dead End really just hit the notes for me better. I don't think I realized before I had them just how similar the two were, though.


Robot Mode

Dead End is weird. Like, there's a number of design choices that confuse me, and upon realizing why they confuse me, they confuse me even more. Dead End doesn't really have feet. Now, that's not to say there's nothing to stand on, or that there's wheels or something goofy like a movie Sideswipe. But the lower legs are all boot made from the rear quarter of the car and there is literally nothing in there specific to being feet. No moving parts for sure, and no particular attempt to enact a heel or toe structure. The lower legs are big and blocky, but are in fact hollow on the bottom, so the standing surface is just a thin rim on the edges. On a nice, flat surface this is okay, but in a case where you might need balance on something smaller that a solid foot could handle just fine, Dead End may encounter issues. Secondary to this, the transformation design has the shins hinge open out to the side, and I'm finding they don't lock closed. At all. The hinges are strong enough to avoid opening on their own, but if you press in the wring direction the whole lower leg will just open right up without a fight. And honestly I can't even see anything on the involved parts that looks like it was meant to keep it all closed and just didn't work out. It's like nothing was put here to keep these parts secured. But that can't be right, can it?

Now, on my copy the hip joints are on the loose side. That may vary by the unit, though. Plus that's fixable with a couple of options so it's not as much of a big deal. But actually, most of the joints feel far less tight than what they seem like they should. The thigh swivels move a little too smoothly, but that's about the least to be concerned with since that joint would never really be load-bearing. The weird thing here is the knees. Besides that they're also farther toward the "smooth" side of things than I think is good for the toy overall, the outer discs of the hinge are grooved in a way I would expect to see as a component of a "soft-ratcheting" joint. Except it doesn't, and there doesn't seem to be anything trying to catch the notches. I could be misreading it, I'll grant you, but I can't shake that something feels off right there. The waist joint is a little loose too, but only for the few degrees to either side of center. Meaning that it can do just enough to pitch the body to one side or another to be annoying before it stops itself.

The arms are just designed weird. There's a basically functional double shoulder joint, mainly there to make the transformation work, but let's not dismiss a free point of meaningful articulation. The stems of the shoulder ball joints are offset, so the actual point of movement in the shoulder is a little higher than the shoulder line itself. It makes the arms sit noticeably high, and combined with the fact that the arms are a bit short in the first place, things gets to looking weird. You might try to push the hinge side of the shoulder down to normalize the proportions a little. Not a bad idea, except that hinge is soft ratcheted to help it bear heavier load like the Combiner Extremity weapon, I guess. So the next step down from the intended robot mode position is too low. And even if you decided you preferred that to shoulder too high, the angle you're forced to kills a lot of the range of motion of the ball joint.

The elbows have to be bent, or else the hands barely make it past the waist. Bending the elbow a little makes the inner line of the arm look straight, but from the outside the positions of the panels reinforce that it's always bent. Plus, going with the inside line, if you try to pose the arm so it's hanging what looks like straight down on the inside, panels on the back of the forearms bump against the wheels on the backpack. So the arms always need to be pointed forward some, or you have to bend the arm more so the bicep can be straight, but then the arm always appears bent from wherever you're looking. Effectively, there's no way to reconcile everything so that the arm positioning looks completely natural. Anyway, the elbow joint is a hinge, and it's offset to the front. Usually this has the effect of giving double-joint range of motion with a single joint. But no, there's a tiny bit of panel on the forearm that hits another panel on the bicep and blocks the movement after 90 degrees. And there's no specific reason that panel has to exist on the forearm. It's part of the door paneling, but that could have been represented in the actual structure of the forearm rather than an extra projection that only serves to get in the way and pointlessly restrict a perfectly good joint.

Speaking of pointless, there's the wrists. They serve no benefit to posing since they only hinge inward so they can store away in vehicle mode. Now, let's make this clear: the way they're made to move means that they don't have an inherent difficulty holding something heavy. They don't flip down or have a ball joint or anything that would lead to potential sagging when holding a heavy accessory, right? But the wrist hinges are soft ratchets. And that was when my comprehension broke. Because I just cannot figure out at all what that could be doing for the toy at all, especially over giving the knees or even elbows that treatment. The knees moreso since they're a major load-bearing point in the arm mode, but even the elbows could be seen as having a practical purpose. Why are the wrists that move to no effect other than hiding in car mode given ratcheting? It makes no sense!

The neck is ball jointed. It's not very mobile outside of swiveling, and that is itself restricted to 90 degrees left or right thanks to the big hinge behind the head bumping the helmet details. The head design is very much media based, with visor and faceplate rather than the original toy's actual face. It has been detail enhanced some, and looks really cool as its been done. That's really the strength of the figure too, the style of the design is really good.

The chest flap hiding the combiner plug, and the torso itself is more angular, so Dead End looks a bit slimmer than Breakdown. The chest plate has generic mechanical detailing sculpted in, just enough to be interesting looking. The arms look big and thick, which setting aside anything to do with the functional aspects works really well in the toy's favor. The legs are a bit simple, but have clear panel layers and vent details and the like to make sure they fit in. The boots look cool too with a similar aesthetic driving the sculpt. The chest is probably the most complex bit of sculpt. Everything else does a lot with a little and presents this nice simplicity that really grabs me.

So, here's an interesting thing. Dead End disposes of the car's hood and windshield in a way very similar to Breakdown. The windshield flips back and sticks off the lower back and the hood folds to make up the backpack. Except Dead End gets the top of the hood facing out the back so the hollow side of that chunk is hidden. If you've read Breakdown's review already, you'll know that there was good reason to let that hood show the empty face, but it is very proof of concept that it was never outright necessary to do that in the first place. And y'know, if not for the windshield panel, Dead End would have a pretty tidy looking back. But the way the hood rests on the back, it's not able to cover that up. It's unfortunate for sure.


Click for larger.

Dead End's deco is pretty good here, but there will certainly be some things that could bug you. First off, points where they're due: The maroon paint is a really good match for the plastic color. You have to really scrutinize to tell them apart even where they meet on the toy. The little bit of bronze highlights are also really nice and fit the surrounding maroon really well. No, it's really just the grey where you're gonna be upset. Two shades are used, one likely representing unpaintable plastic, if not both. But like, the pelvis is one grey, and the thighs are another, and then the knees are the first grey again. It looks really unattractively mismatched. The second grey would need to be a lot darker to make this end up working as a two tone scheme. As it is, you just get the feeling like from a bad paint/plastic color match. It looks bad and messes up an otherwise good look.

Transformation

So, Dead End isn't doing anything especially different from Breakdown, except that it takes some different approaches to accomplishing the same ends and results in a generally much more pleasant experience. The legs have a very simple and incredibly intuitive series of moves to become the rear end of the car and collapse in on themselves. The only part maybe not immediately obvious is needing to rotate the waist first. The arms slide down in place very easily, and most of the move to set up the hood goes well too. There are notch points on the hinges involved that sometimes feel like you're not supposed to go past them, but you actually are in order to get it to do what's needed, and then everything is fine. This is the kind of fun, Aerialbot-like process overall that I was hoping for with Breakdown. I'm glad to see one of them got it right.

Vehicle Mode

Dead End has the "generic sportscar" thing down pretty well. Breakdown kind of aims for a more classic Lamborghini look, but Dead End feels like it's trying to be all things modern, and I like the outcome. It's just round and smooth enough to look weird in that way you're taught to associate with really expensive and impractical cars. You know, it's no Porsche at all, but there's things about this where I could see it adapted in to Nightbeat. That is, if we hadn't gotten one just last year. And thinking on the robot mode, that would pretty much be able to work as well. Huh. Anyway, that's probably not what we're here for.

There is a dragging/scraping problem with the underbody, where what are in the place the robots toes should be hang far enough down to touch a tabletop. If you try to roll the car, it just scrapes along while either the front or real set of wheels turn, but not all of them at the same time. That is more than a little disappointing, honestly. The lack of real feet elements was bad enough already in robot mode, but that same design choice is adversely affecting the only function the vehicle mode even has. There is one other thing it can do, but it's fully unintentional and something I just noticed by accident and found to be amusing. The rear quarter panels, including the wheels, can hinge up easily in vehicle mode, orienting the tires almost perfectly as hoverfans. Add to that the combiner port on the back looking a little like a jet engine, and you can get a halfway passable flying car mode out of Dead End. Again, fully unintended, but it was good enough to amuse me and add some value to the vehicle mode.

The deco is pretty good. The maroon is much more prominent, broken up by the bronze racing stripe more than anything. The windows don't seem as super-gloss as Breakdown, but they're okay. The hubcaps and headlight strips all get picked out in silver, and the bumper, grill and foglight bank all get colored over in gunmetal similar to the dark grey plastic. And there's the rub. The door panels keep the grey alive in this mode by painting the air dams in gunmetal. This also is to do with a chunk of grey plastic that makes up part of the arms intersecting the door surface. But it looks like that grey in an unpaintable plastic, so while the air dam maintains its color, above and below the maroon is just interrupted in a really ugly way. I try to be tolerant and understanding of the limitations of some required materials, but there had to be a better deco solution to this to get everything to blend together better. It's really the only significant blemish to the car's deco, and it sadly stands out to a disproportionate degree.


Combinering

I had a very interesting question posed to me by HeyMickey, who asked me where Dead End's arms are supposed to go when Dead End was being an arm. At that point I hadn't combined the toys yet, so I had no answer. But when I came around to doing a test fit, I realized there was no good answer. This is probably not going to be true of every torso, but on Menasor where Dead End "belongs", the toy's arms majorly get in the way and there's very little you can do about it. Leaving them in place for vehicle mode isn't any good, or taking them and pointing them upward, or trying to find a way to point them away that doesn't look stupid. There's just nothing there that doesn't make a problem. The only thing I worked out was to angle them back. That can move the offending edges away from Motormaster, and at least looks less dumb than some alternatives that didn't work as well. There's no locking like this, so if you grab Dead End by the body to move his arm mode, you're going to be pushing around the robot arms. You can use Dead End's hood instead. It stays in place solidly, so the twisting motion will result in moving the arm before moving the hood chunk.

The leg mode is just the car with the hood folded back and a foot under it, there's no big thing here. But take note, the instructions give bad advice for how the car's hood should be arranged. It can and does fold all the way back against the roof of the car instead of sticking straight out and looking weird. I'm afraid there's not a good option for pointing the hood up and using it as a knee plate, though. The hinges just don't work to get stuff close enough to do it.

Accessories

Dead End comes with the best accessory of all: A pipe. For hitting people with. No hidden gun, no bladed edge, nothing. It's just a thick pipe for smashing someone's head in. Actually, it's a semi-truck style smokestack, which makes me super sad that Motormaster doesn't just have an extraneous 5mm port on one side of the truck mode so this could be plugged in on him optionally. There's something entertaining about the notion of Dead End ripping a chunk of Motormaster's vehicle mode off him for want of a weapon. Granted, Motormaster would take it back and start beating Dead End with it, but that's not the point. We need to focus on that brief middle step. The package photo shows Dead End holding this like a tonfa, but the side peg won't stay in the bottom of the fist. You can wedge the other post in to some panel junk under the arm, but it's not very ideal. It can be held just fine with the other peg, though. The side peg is good for attaching the pipe to the car mode, where there's one 5mm port on either side, so this ends up looking like some absurd custom exhaust system except for how it's not connected to anything. Of course, you can get more absurd if you really want to...

The sad part is the Extremity Weapon, and it's not even this thing's fault. Dead End's plastic tolerances didn't seem quite right all along, but this cemented it for me. There's no port save the specific combiner attachment socket that will actually grip this part. Even the hands refuse to take hold. Actually, I think the hands are the worst. The ports on the shoulders barely hold on to it, and the roof top port is about as pointless as it is useless. Thankfully the combination specific connection works as well as is needed, but Dead End functionally can't use this piece in any other mode. And peg or socket thickening is kind of a bad idea, since there's an important socket that already works, and the others have something else that needs to use them, and that fits well in those places. Change one, and none of the rest will work right anymore. And Dead End doesn't even have an amazing alternative storage/usage option like Breakdown. This is sadly kind of a write-off.

Closing Remarks

Dead End is really interesting when taken in comparison with Breakdown. Because both of them are ultimately trying to do the same things, but take different approaches to it. If you told me that two designers were each presented with the same base concept and told to both independently make a toy out of it, I'd probably believe it. Unfortunately in this study of divergent evolution, Breakdown comes out mostly ahead. Dead End does some good things. I super appreciate the ease and simple fun of the transformation, and there's plenty in the visual styling I like. But there's things that just don't work for me, like the arm design, in which I guess we'd also include the extraneous grey on the doors in car mode. The difficulty using Dead End as an arm isn't helping anything either. ...which comes back down to the robot arms. Geez, those things basically ruined EVERYTHING.

Dead End scores in the Could Have Been Better range of the Figurereviews Non-Numeric Scale. But that's with the qualifier that the things about Dead End I like, I like quite a bit. There are just important things that need to be better and drag the toy down a step. I'd like to hope for Steetwise to be different enough to avoid a lot of this, but I'll have to wait and see how that actually works out. It is tempering my enthusiasm for Wildrider - or rather, Brake-Neck, however.



ReviewerExVee  
DateApril 9th 2015  
Score 5 stars (5 out of 10)  
Reads3744
LinkCombiner Wars Dead End Review Album  


Combiner Wars Dead End Review Album Image Gallery


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