"Generations" Titans Return Hot Rod with Firedrive Toy Review

in 2016, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Deluxe, Generation One, Generations, Titan Master, Titans Return

Generations
Titans Return

Hot Rod General Information:
Release Date: December 2016
Price Point: $16.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Firedrive Titan Master figure, Blasters x 2

Official images and text below in italics are from Amazon.com:
The Autobots unite with Tian Master partners to power up for battle. When Autobot Hot Rod unites with Firedrive he gains an electrostatic fireblast that disables the systems of enemy targets he hits.

Very early on in the life of the Transformers line the toy line began to move away from the sole gimmick of transformation. Once figures like Combiners were introduced it became clear Transformers could be more than just a robot that changed from one form to another. In 1987 Hasbro and Takara took a bold step into a new play pattern by introducing Headmasters. Headmasters were Transformers whose heads detached and became smaller figures that could then pilot or ride the Transformers in beast and vehicle forms (or in a couple cases, their battle station or city forms!). Now almost twenty years after they were originally introduced the Headmaster gimmick has returned in a new form: Titan Masters!

Titan Masters focuses on the return of small robots to Cybertron that can unlock incredible power, and it is up to the Transformers to merge with them and harness those abilities and strengths. In some ways the story resembles "Armada" which had a similar conceit for the Mini-Cons. In true "Generations" fashion, Titans Return gives us characters from the Headmasters era in new forms that pay homage to the originals.

Packaging:
The Titans Return packaging uses the design of the last few years and updates it. The figure is packaged in robot mode with its weapons to the side. An insert shows you the alt mode along with the names of the Titan Master and character along with the "Titans Return" logo. The side of the insert gives you a look at the character's artwork. Most of the backing card is plastered with a close up of the character's package art. While entire bodies were drawn for this line, the packaging zooms in to the chest and head to focus on the Titan Master gimmick, wth the head hovering a bit over the body as if it is about to connect. The side has the now familiar "Generations" logo with an Autobot symbol on it and the vertical "Transformers" logo under it.

The back of the packaging shows off the stock photography for the photo but more importantly, it shows off a diagram explaining the way the Titan Master play system works. The heads of the Titan Masters can be swapped from figure to figure, and the diagram helps illustrate this across size classes. These also act as cosells. In the case of Hot Rod the cosells are Autobot Ptero, Autobot Breakaway, Optimus Prime and Six Shot.

Titans Return figures come with a collector card, similar to last year's "Combiner Wars" series. However these cards are shaped differently, with corners cut out on two sides. The front features the character's artwork, giving you a better look at the full body. The back features something fans have wanted since last year: tech specs! These are not traditional specs with a full motto and so on, but instead there are four qualities reflected here (via icons). The four icons are: A robot flexing arms (strength), a character running (speed), a brain (intelligence) and a missile (firepower). These are laid out on the X axis of a bar chart with lines going across from a scale of one through twenty. Traditional tech specs only go from one to ten, but these tech specs take into account the Titan Master being combined with the Transformer. This extends the line into the zone past the number ten. I'm really glad these were added in as I think it was a missed opportunity not to do so last year. I also appreciate the bright and colorful icons and lines used on the back of the cards.

Hot Rod is a character that fans have always had an affection for, even though some blame him for Optimus Prime's downfall in "Transformers: The Movie". Still, the sleek design of the character and his bright colors look very cool on your display shelf thus making the design one that has been redone and homaged many times across the "Transformers" toy line. In the "Energon" series there was a Rodimus character. Not too long after that the character was reborn in the "Classics" series. In the second "Universe" series he was released as a Legends Class figure. The short-lived "Cloud" series had a Voyager Class Hot Rodimus figure. More recently he was a Legends Class figure in "Combiner Wars". This is by no means a complete list. There are ton of other Hot Rod/Rodimus inspired figures but this short list gives you an idea of how enduring the character truly is.

Accessories:
Hot Rod includes two blaster weapons. Each is basically a mirror image of the other. Both feature a rectangular base with a thick barrel in front. Both weapons feature a 5mm peg. When you combine the two weapons by clipping them together, they form a dual barreled weapon with a seat for a Titan Master on top. The 5mm pegs wind up sticking out to the sides. He attaches to Hot Rod using tabs located on the bottom. Both weapons are cast in silver plastic.

Firedrive

In the Generation One Headmasters era Hot Rod became what was known as a Targetmaster. Instead of having their heads pop off and transform into humanoids, the Targetmasters had weapons that transformed. Hot Rod's partner was named Firebolt. However in the "Titans Return" line the Headmaster gimmick rules all, so Firebolt (now named Firedrive due to trademark reasons) has become a Titan Master, forming Hot Rod's head.

Head Mode:
The challenge of creating a Titan Master head for Hot Rod is revolves around the traditional design for the head. Generally speaking Hot Rod's head has a curved, oval shaped helmet section and a humanoid face. However, the Titan Master head design inherently involves creating a cube shaped head. Fortunately the designers created the "face plates" that make up half of the head. In this case Hot Rod's face plate has the curved helmet, the crest on top and a face that looks similar to the one the G1 action figure had (and some iterations of the character in comic books and animation). Now, if you're looking at the head from the front only a bit of the "square part" sticks out on the sides, but of course if you turn the head it's another story. For me it works, but I can see how those who were opposed to Hot Rod even being a Titan Master would find this unacceptable. It really comes down to your personal sense of aesthetics.

The back of the head is cast in silver plastic. The "face plate" is red. The face is painted grey and his eyes are blue. This is consistent with how Hot Rod has been traditionally shown in cartoons and comic books.

Transformation to Robot Mode:
To transform the figure you hold onto the back and swing it down, revealing the Titan Master's limbs and body. The head of the Titan Master may need to be turned around to face the right direction. In Hot Rod's case, it's best to make sure Firedrive's face is facing the opposite direction as Hot Rod's face when connecting it to Hot Rod's body. If you do it the other day it is a bit loose.

Robot Mode:
Firedrive's robot mode is based, in part, on the G1 Firebolt's design. The most distinctive parts that are inspired by G1 Firebolt are the head, chest and legs:

  • Head: The head has a round helmet section and the face has wide visor eyes.
  • Chest: The chest has trapezoid shaped designs on the sides and a flat section in the center. The overall shape of the chest angles inward towards the middle.
  • Legs: The lower legs have beveled, rectangular shapes on them, similar to G1 Firebolt.

All of Firedrive's parts are cast in silver plastic, but there is zero deco on him. Now, this is par for the course with "Titans Return" Titan Master figures. However those figures usually have two distinct plastic colors making up the figure so at least there is some contrast. With all the parts here being silver I wish the designers would have put some blue on the eyes or maybe some black on the chest so he doesn't look so unfinished.

All five joints on this figure are nice and tight. The head, arms and legs move, but since the lower legs are fused together as one piece the hip and knee joints cause the legs to move together.

Robot Mode:
For many years the "Classics" Rodimus figure has been the standard for many fans when it comes to a modern, Deluxe Class representation of the character. However I think with this iteration of the character we have a strong contender for another! When the designers created the "Classics" Hot Rod figure back in the day they clearly were working hard to have it homage the character's animated appearance. However true to the methodology of the time the figure was rather chunky and thick. That's not necesarily a bad thing. This allowed the figure to have some fun features such as a saw in its arm and it had a good heft to it for a Deluxe Class figure. However this new iteration of Hot Rod takes things a step further by using the animation model as reference and "thinning out" the character to make him look more like his animation model form G1.

Hot Rod has many of the key design elements of the G1 model including:

  • The back of the figure has the vehicle mode spoiler on it which angles upward, adding a nice visual flourish.
  • The shoulders rise up high on the sides, coming up a bit over the head.
  • Each forearm has a distinctive tube shaped curve on top and the exhaust pipes on the sides double as his primary weapons.
  • The torso section is formed by the front of the vehicle mode, giving it a sleek look that angles downward towards the waist area.
  • The waist area has an outline in the center with a small arrow on it. This calls back to a sticker design on G1 Hot Rod.

As much as the designers used G1 Hot Rod's animation model as inspiration, there are some details that are different form that model. One is the chest, where his vehicle mode engine sticks out in the middle. I noticed the designers shaped it to look a bit like the "collar" that is normally in that area. Also, instead of having the entire front of the vehicle forming the torso, a bit folds away to show an "abdominal" area. Also his knee armor is formed from vehicle mode vents and there are what appear to be boosters on his lower legs. None of these details subtract in any way from the look of the figure. In fact they enhance the figure by giving it nice, small details that make it more visually interesting.

From an aesthetic point of view, some fans have expressed concern that the arms are a bit big when compared to the rest of the figure. Someone I saw even called them "gorilla arms". I think that is an exaggeration, but the point is well taken. The arms are a smidge oversized due to the need to have them form most of the vehicle mode's sides.

Hot Rod is cast in red, orange, silver and black plastic. Most of the figure is red, with smaller parts like the hands and thighs cast in orange. Other parts including the blasters/exhaust pipes on his arms and his feet are silver. Paint colors on the figure include grey, silver, orange and yellow. The grey is used for the shoulders and his face. Silver is found on the chest and lower legs. The mid-body has some dark grey on it. The chest has orange on most of it with yellow flames on top. On top of that is a tampographed Autobot symbol. The finishing touch is yellow paint on the spoiler. Overall Hot Rod looks fantastic. For the most part the only way they could really add more deco would be a bit on the forearms and maybe replicating stickers on his legs from the G1 figure. That's about it.

There are fourteen points of articulation on this figure. This includes three on each arm and leg. He also has waist articulation. Be warned, some fans have found issues with the hip joints being loose making the legs flop around pretty easily (not as bad as Skullsmasher however). That said, my copy of the figure does not have this issue, but I may have just lucked out.

Hot Rod's hands have 5mm ports allowing him to hold his weapons either combined or separately. I like the symmetry here as the original G1 Hot Rod figure also came with two weapons. There are also 5mm ports on the sides of the upper arms which serves as a kind of weapon storage in this form.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Detach Firedrive and convert him into robot mode.
  2. Detach the blasters and set them aside for now.
  3. Straighten out the arms and legs.
  4. Swing the fists into the forearms.
  5. Rotate the lower body around.
  6. On the back of the lower legs swing the panels with the exhaust pipes out.
  7. Swing the robot feet back.
  8. Swing the chest panel up, then swing out the front of the vehicle.
  9. Rotate the section with the spoiler around, then straighten it out.
  10. Swing the arms in.
  11. Swing the lower legs up and push them together to form the rear of the vehicle.
  12. Push the section with the spoiler down.

Vehicle Mode:
Traditionally Hot Rod's vehicle mode in toy form has wound up being a bit thicker than it was in the animated series. In the 1986 film and TV show his vehicle form was very thin and wide, with touches of both a classic and futuristic vehicle mashed into one. However for the most part many of the Hot Rod based toys have been relatively thick. This presented a challenge to the designers but it is one they met with aplomb. This version of Hot Rod has both a thin and wide vehicle form that includes a lot of the details from the animation model. These include:

  • The general shape is a thin vehicle with a cockpit section in the middle, an engine embedded in the hood, exhaust pipes on the sides and a wide, "V" shaped spoiler in the back.
  • The headlights are sculpted in an "L" shape.
  • The front end of the vehicle angles upward and then drops back down before leveling off in the middle. Previous Hot Rod figures generally have a fairly straight line, or an angle up, then a straight, horizontal line. This design is a lot truer to the animation model from G1.
  • Exhaust pipes run along the sides towards the back.

The figure also has details on the back that are not seen in the cartoon. This includes a central "booster" in the middle of the vehicle's rear section which is flanked by vents. While these details did not appear in "Transformers: The Movie", the booster did appear on the "Classics" Rodimus figure where the booster turned into his missile launcher in robot mode. I love all these callbacks to Hot Rod's G1 design. Overall the vehicle mode sculpt is spectacular.

This mode mostly shows off red plastic. The wheels are black and the exhaust pipes on the sides are silver. The window to the cabin section is translucent blue. Orange paint with the yellow flames carry over from the robot mode to the hood here. Orange is also used for the headlights. The spoiler's yellow is in fully view here and some red is used on the perimeter of the translucent blue plastic. In terms of color the deep red color and the orange/yellow combination against it suggest that the G1 action figure was the primary inspiration for this color scheme. Indeed, only a couple deco points are "missing" if it were to be a full G1 toy homage. This includes small flame details on the sides (which would have been a bit tough given the vehicle's shape) and some silver on the sides of the wheels. The only thing I find distracting is the lack of deco on the wheels, but that is partially due to me being so used to wheels being painted fairly consistently until the last few years. Overall I like th elook of the deco and there are not a lot of changes I would make to it.

Like most "Titans Return" figures Hot Rod has some fun play value in vehicle mode as well as robot mode. On the top of the figure near the spoiler are small pegs for a Titan Master figure to stand on. His cabin section swings open (similar to his animation model) to allow a Titan Master to sit inside. You can attach his weapons to him in two ways. They can either fit into the 5mm ports on the sides or they can be combined and attached to the engine. Not only does the vehicle mode look great, but it's fun to play with too!

Final Thoughts:
Hot Rod is one of my favorite figures in the line so far. He looks amazing in both modes, his colors are bold and visually dynamic and he's fun to play with to boot! Now, I wish I could give him an enthusiastic "highly recommended" but I can't ignore the loose hip joints that my friends showed me on his copy of the figure and he could use a bit more deco. He may not be perfect, but I think he is more than worthy of being part of your Autobot army.

Pros:

  • Excellent sculpt.
  • Rich color scheme.
  • Represents the G1 animation model very well.
  • Fun play value.

Cons:

  • Some copies of the figure have loose hip joints.
  • Some deco points look unfinished (ex: the wheels).