Ultra Magnus - Generations Combiner Wars - Leader Class Figure

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Generations Leader Class Ultra Magnus, sold as part of the Combiner Wars line, was not just the surprise hit of this year's Toy Fair, it was the only major surprise revealed there. With Devastator having been thoroughly spoiled beforehand, Ultra Magnus became the star of the show. Many thanks to BigBadToyStore for making this review possible!

The legend of Ultra Magnus is exceeded only by the legend of Optimus Prime. When Ultra Magnus was lost, the forces of justice would not let a warrior of his caliber fall. Minimus Ambus, using the power of his rare loadbearer spark, enables Ultra Magnus to fight on.

Ultra Magnus takes a lot from the modern IDW design of the character. This is clearly visible in the chest design with the distinctive angled armor shapes.

The style of the shoulder stacks is also largely comics inspired, as are some aspects of the legs.

Magnus is a fusion of IDW elements and classic character design, so you have some things like the sides of the legs which favor the toy.

But then you get to the face, which reminds me of nothing so much as Marvel UK art. The eyes styled like glasses really pushes this point.

Magnus has a moderate amount of design detail. Many areas may seem sort of plain. The arms and thighs have some basic sculpt work, but nothing elaborate.

There's a nice detail on the lower legs with missile launchers sculpted as part of the "boots". The feet also have some basic sculpting to show heavy duty false joints to convey the robot's mass.

Even with the detailing being on the simple side, it all works well and strikes a solid balance. Magnus is never left wanting for something to dress up the flat surfaces, and isn't cluttered either. Still, I wonder where all the sculpting could have gone...?

One thing I ended up well pleased with is the deco. I was worried about it looking at various photos prior to release. The white especially had me concerned since it seemed almost like some of the poorer white plastics Transformers have used in the past. I was happy to discover that in person that all looks much better. The color layout also works well in person. What seems like a huge swath of unbroken white is more clearly delineated. I won't deny a little more detail paint in the pelvis and shins would help some, but I think it gets by well as is.

The metallic red on the chest stands out very nicely to me, and is set off nicely by the silver band to either side. The metallic blue on the eyes doesn't work as well, making them blend in between the silver face and blue helmet. Yellow would have been great here.

Magnus has some attention paid to being poseable, and shows how limited Megatron really was for this price point. There's hinged flaps on the shoulder armor to let the missile pods get out of the way. Problem is, they don't help unless you move them first; you only get about three clicks before the arm is stopped. And if you think you can just keep pushing it, you'll probably just pull the stack down instead. But when you go ahead and pull the flap up, it does four.

You get a typical range of motion from the elbows, which are soft ratcheted.

The wrists are not jointed, sadly. In their place you get hinged fingers. More on those in a little bit.

The head swivels side to side just this far, and has no other movement.

No waist, but you have ratcheted universal joint hips, ratchet-hinged knees, and double hinged ankles.

This is the part where we start hitting problems with the toy. I purposely left off the shoulder joints in the articulation run down so I could talk about them here. On my Magnus, the figure's right shoulder ratchets reasonably well and can hold up a bit of weight. The left barely ratchets at all and is nearly incapable of holding the accessories it comes with.

The knees are significantly weaker than the hips, so posing the legs typically bends the knee too. And the ankles are where material tolerances meet design problems.

The feet are meant to be arranged like this in robot mode.

The result is that the toy's weight is borne by these simple hinges.

Now unfortunately the foot is primarily in front of the center of balance, and has no way to lock in place. As a result, Magnus wants to fall backwards a lot, and there isn't much to do about it.

The best thing you can do is fold the feet back like this.

It brings them under the center of mass, and puts the heels under the bottom edge of the calves which sort of locks it all in place.

It also doesn't look too bad, giving a bit more of a thick super robot boot look like an Astro Boy or Mega Man. Magnus can potentially tip forward like this, but it's less likely than falling backward was the other way. These things come down to a matter of plastic tolerances. This is a case where specific parts fit is needed, and it's not being done precisely enough. And in the case of the ankles, it's design oversight for not realizing those turn in to a handy pivot the way the weight gets distributed. There's another bad design decision too, but we're not quite there yet.

Right, so let's stop avoiding the subject: Magnus is full of smaller men. Or at least man.

Opening up the cab is not the easiest thing. It really works best to lift the cab a little and grab from the top and bottom.

Anyway, here's Minimus Ambus. He's very small. How small? Well...

This is a Mega Bloks minifigure, just about two inches tall.

Minimus is smaller than any Legends toy, and isn't far off from the old Targetmaster Mini-Con Micromaster buddies.

Given the small size, I'm surprised by the level of paint Minimus has.

The articulation is basic - shoulders, hips and knees. It's really only even there for transformation and sitting him inside Magnus. Otherwise you need to leave him alone when you get him to stand, because it is not easy to do.

And yes, the Mega Bloks dudes can fit properly inside Magnus, though they don't quite reach the pedals.

The cockpit has a lot of things sculpted in, and sadly it all goes unpainted so it's hard to see everything. A good paint job can really bring out the lovely, intricate detail. In the meantime, uh... squint.

If you close Magnus up without anyone riding along, everything still works, but you'll probably notce how the collar area is kind of empty without Minimus's shoulders sticking up there. Minimus can't stay inside during transformation either, since Magnus's head has to go in that space.

The missile pods have to be removed for transformation. Following that, the process is a little on the complicated side. No individual step is really difficult, but there's a lot of generally simple moves that have to be done. The only place order of operations is really important is the truck cab. You need to make sure to move the arms first, or there won't be room to swivel the cab. After that, it's a lot of lining up tabs and slots to get everything locked in solidly. The worst part is reorienting the shins to make the rear of the trailer. Finally, while pulling down slightly, pull the cab forward, and you're done.

Apart from the stylized cab, this is a much more solidly G1 Magnus than the robot mode was. Most of the basic notes are hit here, like the ridiculously unsafe looking upper deck.

You get the open framework in the front and similar structural elements along the sides.

And then the rear gate that looks suspiciously like a pair of robot boots. But nothing new about that!

The gate can fold down as ramps, although pretty uselessly since they're suspended off the ground.

Now let's not mistake things: This isn't made for Deluxe cars at all.

Magnus is sized for Legends. The upper deck is spaced just about perfectly for their body width, in fact.

The cab is articulated, and turns very smoothly. Officially it's not removable, but if you're so inclined it's only held on by one screw and comes off as a complete unit.

Magnus has some sculpted detail here. It was there in robot mode too, but it's easier to focus on in carrier mode, so... There's all these doors and ladders and walkways around the truck. They're supposed to be 1:144 scale like common Gundam models. But they're not. At a centimeter tall each, the doors all over Magnus are either less than five feet tall, or they're scaled wrong.

For the most part it's easy to ignore these elements, but if they were gonna put them here, they at least could have got the scale right.

Painted detail is sparse here. What Magnus has is reserved largely for the robot mode, or Minimus. But the cab has a great chunk of silver on it, making the design really stand out. If anything was getting paint, I'm glad that was it.

Minimus is a tiny little hovercar. In this mode he is about on equal terms with Legends partners. I like the green vent paint on the hood, but otherwise it's on the plain side.

The real problem with Minimus comes up when you discover there's no storage for him on the truck. It wouldn't even need to be integrated, just a spot to securely attach on the carrier deck would be fine. Minimus is tiny, and easily could be misplaced while Magnus is in vehicle mode.

For accessories, Magnus has a rifle, a cannon, and the missile pods as shown earlier. And this is where I reveal the last-ish bad design choice.

Magnus has hinged fingers as noted before. And the grips of the weapons are rectangular.

The idea sadly is for the hands to wrap around the grips rather than having them peg in. And like most Masterpiece figures, this does not work well at all in practice. The hold is not secure at all. Sometimes moving the elbow is enough to jostle a gun loose. There's no vital reason to force the hands to be this way, either. One argument may be that is was to facilitate what the accessories can do.

Bring them together, and Magnus gets a hammer. Of very questionable design.

Now, arguably the hands needed to be like this to grasp the hammer, right? Well, no. That implies Magnus is free to hold it anywhere along the length. Instead, it has to be held in one specific place.

These U shaped cutouts in the arms let the handle pass through. But they also catch these flanges, which have no purpose but to stabilize the hammer in the hand. Now, if Magnus had 5mm hands, the hammer could have just pegged in top and bottom to simulate a long handle and saved most of this trouble. Oh, and remember that left shoulder? Yeah, barely able to hold this weight. Great.

Anyway, there's 5mm ports on the trailer, so the weapons can be stored in configurations depending on your preferences. Oh, right. If you were wondering, City Commander's add-on missile pods won't quite fit on Magnus. Pegs are just a bit too thick.

Magnus is a fundamentally okay design that's hurt by some weird and bad choices as well as suffering of poor material controls. Thing is, while no individual issue will kill the toy like some problems end up doing, they stack up and intensify. I feel like if you happen upon a particularly good sample, Magnus can be a pretty fantastic Transformer. But if you get one that has a bad combination of the material tolerance issues, it's gonna play up with the design issues and go south pretty badly.

Overall I think Magnus is a bit better as a representative Leader Class toy than Megatron. The articulation is less restricted feeling, the Minimus component makes the toy feel more engaging, and being a carrier for Legends adds more play and display value. Plus, there's no better Magnus to join an IDW themed display.

This and City Commander are an apples and oranges situation, there isn't a single right answer because they're bringing different things. To represent the character of Ultra Magnus I like this better. But for emulation of the original armor gimmick, City Commander is what can provide that.

I won't tell you to replace your City Commander with this, but I also won't tell you to skip Generations Magnus just because you have that one. There's merit to both. And in the end, I'm still going to recommend Ultra Magnus. Just be aware of the issues you might encounter and be prepared for them.

DateMay 22nd 2015  
Score 7 stars (7 out of 10)  

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