Conspicuous by his absence during Combiner Wars, Predaking has finally deemed us worthy of his presence as Hasbro continue to use Power of the Primes as an opportunity to mop up the last few straggling combiners who were otherwise AWOL. Being the annual Titan Class figure possibly offers up a reason as to why Predaking was left out of Combiner Wars – Hasbro knew he had to be bigger. Two Titan Class figures in one year is out of the question(my wallet thanks you, John Hasbro), and as popular as the Predacons are they are never likely to knock Devastator off his lofty, Technomatter perch.
After waiting what feels like an eternity for this, Predaking has a lot to live up to. As a kid the Predaking were not one of my favourite combiner teams, however in a strange turn of events this new toy may have pushed him quite a way up the list…
Included with the Predacons is a Titan Master apparently containing the spirit of Onyx Prime from all that 13 Primes mumbo jumbo that I don’t go in for. To me he looks like the Tango Man has entered Mortal Kombat. Hasbro missed a trick by not also including a Decoy Suit based on one of the missing Pretenders, and as such my interest evaporated. The 13 Primes might be something grand in Hasbro’s corridors, but in the Toybox Soapbox household it’s as important as an Alan Rodgers consolation goal in an 8-1 drubbing by Manchester United.
Onyx Prime folds up into an orange Opal Fruit with a dead leaf drawn on top of a burning pheonix. Acting as some fashion of candy corn Matrix, Onyx conveniently stores inside Razorclaw’s beast mode head and fortunately it is so unobtrusive that you can completely ignore it. Take it from someone who wasted a good minute and a half of a Saturday afternoon rummaging through a box thinking it was missing. If you are into this stuff, then by all means pretend he is some powerful Matrix talisman device as everyone seems to have an all powerful magical trinket these days.
The box lists Onyx as a “special edition” figure – but is it really special if it’s included in a retail set? No, no it isn’t.
Rocking the alternate mode of an angry, brick like robot rhino, Headstrong won’t win any awards for dynamism but he might viciously headbutt you in the shin. A solid chunk of a toy, his beast mode is heavily based on his vintage toy but with more articulation. Well, only a little bit as articulation is severely limited with Hasbro having set about the combiner conundrum by installing giant thighs into both Headstrong and Tantrum/Torox. Doing this hasn’t left a great degree of room to work with for Headstrong’s individual beast mode but if you pull the front legs out and unclip the head you can make the crazy sod a bit more expressive. A tiny bit. He doesn’t need to do more than be a brick, in fairness, and he accomplishes that well enough for me to wonder how much you’d get for him in bulk down at Screwfix.
What the lack of complexity costs these figures in articulation it Repo Mans back in a simple and swift transformation. A brief unfurling of the legs is really all that needs to done to get from one mode to the other which is the case for most of the Predacons. It’s indicative of a clear plan to put playing with these figures at the heart of this boxset which may sound silly from a collectors point of view, but you know – they are still trying to appeal to kids. Also, people like me who hate transforming complex things and are terrible with a Rubik’s Cube. For what it is, you end up with not only a great look Headstrong robot mode but also reasonable articulation. It isn’t much to write home about but you get ankle tilts and…and….errr….fun. Could have hid that soppy face though.
The Hasbro sticker sadist is back with a vengeance. Not content on giving me eye strain from trying to figure out where the Trypticon stickers are meant to go, they’ve one upped themselves with the Predacons. Rampage gets the worst of it with the horrible, thin foil stickers in many cases needing to be applied to non flat surfaces. Yes, they add nice detailing but what is the point if they don’t actually stick on properly? When you pick him up it’s not a rare occurrence that you end up with a sticker stuck on you somewhere. It’s gotten so bad that I had to try glue and then, once I ended up with Predacons hanging off my eyelids, I had to source a replacement set of stickers from a very kind chap. I like stickers, I do. The nostalgia of them is wonderful and it’s oddly therapeutic sitting here in a peaceful bubble listening to the theme tune from Boon, but not when they are such terrible quality. END THIS MADNESS JOHN HASBRO.
Sticker rage aside, both of Rampage’s modes are pleasant enough. An orange and red tiger in alt mode, he does a good job of evoking the G1 toy aside from the giant combiner piece on his back and the awkward laser cannon tail which I can’t help but imagine fires poop at any poor soul unlucky to be stood behind him in the queue at the Post Office. This form imposes severe limitations on how he can move with even his head perpetually forced to look down as a result of robot head storage blocking it. Rampage’s front beast legs don’t move forward at the knee which blocks any attempt to get him into natural looking stalking pose befitting his chosen animal spirit. It doesn’t particularly diminish the play value though as with all of the Predacons they are such solid chunks of plastic, and full of character, that you still want to keep picking them up and transform them. More than you would if they had more complexity.
Divebomb refuses to let the weight of half of Predakings torso sitting on his back get him down. As the Predacon’s resident aerial ace, he has an impressive wingspan which I bet impresses Bill Oddie. Each wing can pivot up and down for posing and like his peers he holds together incredibly well. We can gripe about articulation or lack of complexity all night long (all nightttt) but these figures lock together solidly which isn’t a bad trade off. Divebomb gets two laser cannons that mount to his bird mode and later become Predakings shoulder cannons. As they did with Devastator, instead of giving each individual bot their signature weapons, Hasbro have opted for a mix of guns and combiner pieces. Rampage and Divebomb get actual guns, Razorclaw gets a sort of NikNak shaped gun with the Headstrong and Torox having to make do with using the combiner feet as either giant shoulder cannons or ghetto blasters. I’m going for the latter. Tantalizingly, both of Divebombs weapons have barrels which can split apart which hints at a deeper mystery reason that I just can’t solve. There isn’t a sword anywhere to be seen because budget. Hrmph.
In robot mode, Divebomb is heavily G1 influenced just like his buddies. Orange, black, gold with dashes of yellow keep him firmly in the Predacon five a side team. He is another big solid chunk, though quite highly articulated for what he is, even going so far as to have an ab crunch as a gift from shared engineering with Rampage. He gets the best head sculpt of the bunch too, with a sculpted frown that makes me imagine someone has just beaten him at Pogs. Sadly, it’s Divebomb where the Hasbro sticker sadist completely lost his marbles. His body lures you in with just a couple of stickers, all on flat surfaces, two of which go on his upper chest and help create what looks like an Optimus Prime truck in hiding away there. But then you get to the wings and oh boy was somebody at the sherbet. Instead of using paint, each feather (Wing tip?) gets a gold sticker. Not the kind that makes school kids feel better about knowing how to make a triangle out of maths, but infuriating pain in the ass stickers. On both sides. Every. Single.One.
Problems with the stickers are multiple. First of all, the detailing you see on the stickers is replicated on the plastic with molded detail. This means that each decal happens to go over recessed sections. Not that it’s as bad as poor Rampage, they at least stay on here but it’s still just awkward By far the biggest problem though is the size – they fit EXACTLY. You are probably sat there with a furrowed brow wondering what’s wrong with that, and the problem is thatr there is zero margin for error. If you are even a fraction of a fraction off then the stickers overlap the tips of the wings and peel slightly every time you happen to touch them. Which ends up being loads in Predaking mode because of the size of the wings.
Jame Brown once posed the question: “how do you stop before it’s toooooo late” and whoever came up with these stickers defiantly crossed that line and blew up the bridge with a maniacal cackle.
Imagine Headstrong’s star sign is Taurus and you’ve basically got Torox/Tantrum . It’s broadly the same toy but with a different shell. That’s the good thing about Hasbro lately, no settling for a straight repaint and an apologetic head swap. Instead they reuse the engineering and remold most of the parts which is a positive approach that I can completely get behind. Every piece has been re-sculpted with G1 love to ensure Torox looks distinct from Headstrong and really that is the least Hasbro can do for a Titan class toy. Like Headstrong, his animal head has a mouth that doesn’t open, which is doubly baffling in this case as it’s sculpted to look like it should open and even includes a pin that suggests it was the original intention but was scrapped for some reason late in the design process. Hasbro have opted to change the name probably for copyright related reasons, but it’s an odd choice when both Headstrong and Rampage have the “Decepticon” prefix in an attempt to get around that issue. Maybe Hasbro’s lawyers ran out of extra litigation lives.
Sharing the same engineering as Headstrong means they boast the same transformation, same refusal to hide the face in beast mode, points of articulation and also the unsightly combiner thigh hanging off the back that is only there to irritate all of those people who only display their toys from the back. Just like beast mode, every piece has been retooled and beyond the shape there is no similarity in detail anywhere on Torox. He’s his own puffy faced bot. Hasbro’s sticker sadist must have only gotten round to Torox right at the end, whilst on a massive comedown which is the only booze fueled explanation that I can come up with for why there are so few stickers to slap on his candy corn coloured frame. It’s a good thing though, don’t think I am complaining!
Razorclaw. He’s the leader of the group. Transformed from the norm by the Nucleon goop. Into a robo-lion. Usually you expect the main torso bot of a combiner to be drastically bigger than his pals, but not having the bear the full burden of being Predaking torso means Razorclaw is the same size as his team mates – which is another clever homage to the G1 Predacon toys. Packed full of call backs and visual cues to his original toy including frustrating articulation, at least the mouth opens unlike poor Torox and Headstrong. That opening mouth is attached to a wonderfully sculpted lion head that takes the vintage toy and crafts those details into something more modern. It’s a happy medium. Most of the Predacon paint budget must have been spent on Razorclaw’s opulent lion mane, with lovely gold paint outlined in black on top of the red plastic. It looks gorgeous and is applied with a lovely finish to boot.
Most of the PotP Predacons alt modes are blocks with legs, but Razorclaw even more like something that belongs in the Lego Brickheads line than most. It’s charming in its own way, and this aesthetic definitely drives more at being a fun toy that wants to be played with than a piece to be locked inside an LED lit glass prison. You can make him a bit more expressive by popping the legs out slightly but restrictions are in place. A tail similar to his G1 counterparts would have been nice though, stop being cheap Hasbro.
Elements of Razorclaw’s animation model and vintage toy fuse together into a fearsome Predacon leader imbued with the magical power to make you crave orange ice pops. Look at how sumptuous that yellow is and tell me you aren’t suddenly looking out the window for an ice cream van. Articulation is so so, par for the course with this set, but due to his body housing the combiner mode head he lacks any kind of waist swivel. You could say it is noticeable if you are keeping a tally, as each of the other Predacons does benefit from a waist swivel but it’s not something that actively hampers the figure. All of the Preds have great head sculpts and Razorclaw continues that trend. I say it a lot but Hasbro are going through a golden age for head sculpts at the moment.
For combined mode, the lack of accessories means they all find a place to attach to Predaking. Razorclaw and Rampage’s guns form the combined modes arm cannon and each hand pops out from underneath the corresponding foot. A combining sword would have nicely tied it all together but alas, it’s time to turn the third party signal on and shine it into the sky.
Despite it’s size and status as a Titan Class toy, the combination into Predaking is amongst the quickest and most fluid of all the recent combiners. Simplicity may be at it’s heart but it still throws a couple of neat little tricks into the ring. Inspired by Devastator, Hasbro have opted to use two bots to form the central torso. No longer is Razorclaw the core body, instead Divebomb’s wings detach and an abdomen section flips out and plugs into Razorclaw’s brick like form, giving you Predaking’s torso. Torox and Headstrong transform into beast mode with the legs folded out of the way, and the huge black pieces attached to their backs move out to form Predaking’s massive thighs. Each slots snugly into the combiner crotch (yes, I did just type that) so there’s little danger of him being legless. Divebomb and Rampage convert to form Predaking’s hulking arms but in contrast to the legs, both have their own nuances, such as Divebomb’s arms folding in and being covered by panels that makes for a distinct and clean arm mode. This denial of symmetry works great in making the king look more like a bot made up of unique pieces. Attaching the arms to the torso involves sliding large, black slabs into the chest that snap securely into place. After that it is a simple case of plugging the hands and feet into the corresponding appendages, pegging the guns on the back of these, and you are done.
You now have yourself a Predaking.
Of all the combiners we’ve seen in the Generations era I’d have to say Predaking wins in the looks stakes. All of the colours run together in beautiful unison, and the way the combination is engineered, with the parts being spread out across the individual bots, makes for such a cohesive and solid design. Combiner Wars Devastator is still a hugely impressive figure but Predaking benefits from all of the individual parts not having to be a wall of one colour. There are several distinct colours that define the toy with none dominating the others. As much as I hate the stickers, they add some nice detail including, oddly, their Japanese ID numbers. Nothing that couldn’t have been done with paint though. Each bot has a designated appendage that it forms, there is no Scramble City system in play, and the layout is taken from the cartoon. Should this grind your gears then you can swap the arms over as the pieces still slot in just not quite as cleanly. However, the ports for the shoulder cannons will now face forward meaning you have to instead peg them further back into makeshift ports on Razorclaw’s feet. Swapping the legs is a bit of a trickier proposition because they can be flipped, but then the waist armour faces backwards, so if you are determined to go down this road it would probably require some light modding.
Predaking’s tiny abdomen might not be to everyone’s tastes, and it also gives him a hollow back, but in hand it looks fine and gives him an athletic physique as opposed to a robot Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.
Equipped with his arm cannon, Predaking shouldn’t have much trouble blasting a hole in the side of a mountain, if that is how he chooses to pursue his leisure activities. As previously mentioned, the cannon is formed from Razorclaw and Rampage’s guns which feels like a very low rent homage to Mastermind creations Feral Rex. On the one hand you could say it’s an ingenious plan to repurpose the combiner parts as weapons thereby ensuring that every single piece is accounted for within the gestalt. But on the other, it highlights the lack of weapons included. Normally you could bet your pension on Takara coming to the rescue with Predaking’s signature sword, but they seems to have put an “out to lunch” sign up at their office at the mo, as they prefer to import Hasbro’s toy decos. An obvious missing detail is the lack of Predaking’s knuckle spikes despite them being present on the packaging artwork. Each hand has a flat knuckle guard area which suggests the spikes were originally intended to be in place. The hands are not terrible but at this price and scale it would have been nice to not only have those spikes but a bit of articulation in the fingers.
Many of the lessons learnt from Titan Class Devastator have been applied to Predaking, not least in how solid a figure it becomes to play with. Joints are tighter, articulation is better and the plastic feels sturdier. Devs could be awkward to manipulate at times because of the legs flopping about, Scrappers scoop foot not wanting to stay pegged in and those odd, thin arms. It could feel at times like you were trying to pose a cereal box. In stark contrast Predaking is much more in the vein of the regular Combiner Wars/Power of the Primes combiners but the added size allows for much chunkier sounding ratchet joints. Most on mine are tight, making noises loud enough to set my wappy dog off barking and it’s only Divebomb’s floppy ab crunch (whose actual purpose is for this mode) that is looser than my morals after 8 beers too many. Quality control is generally pretty good, other than the wafty arm and stickers that peel like someone is stripping wallpaper. Articulation is also decent for a figure this size, it wont win any awards, but it handles more like a proper action figure to be posed and played with than many equivalent toys of this size.
Power of the Primes Predaking is a wonderful toy but you can’t ignore that there is a better toy lurking in there with just a handful of changes. That should not be taken as a criticism as this toys essence is built completely around being played with. Coming from the point of view of a supposed grown up it is easy to pick out where improvements would make it a more palatable option for collectors, or a few tweaks and additions (SWORD!) that really should have been added for the asking price. At the same time, you can’t ignore that this a robust bunch of toys that can be transformed back and forth quickly and is stacked with play value. Despite some of my irks with the articulation (or lack thereof) and those evil, evil stickers, this is a toy I have barely been able to put down because it’s so easy to move from team to combiner and back again without having to book a day off work. That is the key to this, it puts the transformation aspect right at the core and instead of fiddling with poses or just sticking them on a shelf to pose – there is a strong incentive to keep picking them up.
If you are looking for a high end definitive Predaking with all the bells and whistles of a Masterpiece figure then this ain’t your guy. It doesn’t really compete with Feral Rex but it’s a different option and that’s more preferable, and more affordable, than having umpteen shades of the same thing. Third Party upgrade kits are on their way that will add improvements but only to a point. Feral Rex is probably still going to be your best bet. However, if you are fan of the recent incarnations of Generations and want a combiner that not only looks great but is tons of fun to play with then Power of the Primes Predaking is a knockout.
Now the decks are cleared – can we please get the flippin’ Seacons!