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Series: Generation 1
Allegiance: Autobot
Categories: Pretender
Function: Ground Troop Support
Year: 1988

The first one in is the first to win!
A fast-moving fighting machine. Always the first to arrive and the first to start shooting. Brash, impulsive. Acts like someone with his foot on the accelerator. Built-in thermal and geological sensors in helmet home in on enemy installations and fuel supplies. High-density outer armor emits laser beam force field that can withstand direct enemy bombardment. Equipped with state-of-the-art, radar-targeting electron assault rifle. Also armed with laser-guided, programmable pulse blaster that flies and functions by remote control. Rocket car has all-terrain capabilities and can reach speeds of Mach 1.

Prelude: Thirty-five years ago Hasbro introduced a new gimmick to the Transformers toyline: Pretenders! Humanoid shells that hid the transforming robot inside. Some consider this the predecessor to Beast Wars’ organic alternate modes, others consider it the first nail in the coffin for the original Transformers toyline. Either way, Pretenders were a huge thing in 1988 and one of them was Groundbreaker. Never heard of him? Don’t worry, you’re probably not the only one. We shall endeavor to enlighten you today. Let’s say go!

Many thanks to Jörg "the Carpenter" Zimmermann, who loaned my Groundbreaker for this review.

Robot Mode: In the first year of Pretenders, the figures always appeared in waves of three, each containing a warrior for the air, the sea and the land. One guess where Groundbreaker is located? Like his fellow wave 2 Pretenders Splashdown and Sky High, he also has an animal-theme to his Pretender armor, wearing the head of a huge feline on his chest, possibly a tiger or a lion, hard to say. The armored figure looks pretty good, but like all Pretenders he is mostly a statue, able to swivel his arms at the shoulders and that’s it.

Upon removing his helmet you can see the human face of his Pretender shell, which looks like it belongs to someone who should still be in school and not on a battlefield, but maybe that’s just me. Groundbreaker wields up to three weapons in this mode, a huge sci-fi rifle, a smaller black crossbow, and an even smaller grey gun that can be mounted on top of the crossbow. Together with his removable belt and helmet, that gives him a lot of extra parts to lose.

Opening his Pretender shell reveals the robot inside, a slim grey and black figure with proportions typical for the inner Pretender robots. Big head, slim body, almost no visible alternate mode parts. Now many of the Pretender robots at least had a good deal of articulation going for them (at least when compared to other Transformers of that time), but Groundbreaker is on the low end of the scale here, sadly. He can move his arms at the shoulders and his legs at the hip, that’s it. No elbows or knees, no turning head.

To improve his somewhat generic look, Groundbreaker can wear his black crossbow on the back as a kind of wing-rucksack, which looks pretty good. He can wield all of his weapons in this mode except the big grey rifle, that one only fits into the shell’s larger fists. So bottom line: a good-looking shell with a rather generic-looking robot inside. Not the worst Pretender robot, but far from the best, either.

Alternate Mode: Groundbreaker follows the same transformation as most of the first-year Pretenders, he basically just folds in half at the hip. The result is a so-called rocket car, supposedly a ground racer that can pierce the sound barrier. It doesn’t look that bad, especially with the crossbow and gun on top, but the moment you look at it from the back, you know it’s just a robot folded in half. So here, too, the same bottom line: not the worst Pretender vehicle mode, but far from the best, either.

Remarks: Groundbreaker, like all of the second wave of Autobot Pretenders, never really had much of a starring role anywhere. He has some cameo appearances in the Marvel and IDW comics to his name, but that’s pretty much it. Always figured the animal-themed armors of the wave 2 Autobot Pretenders would have made them perfect for a Power Rangers crossover, but sadly that has yet to materialize.

At the end of the day Groundbreaker is yet another Pretender, having mostly the same strength and weaknesses as most other figures that share the gimmick. A nice-looking shell, a rather generic inner robot, and a forgettable alternate mode. So bottom line: a nice treat for fans of the gimmick and obscure Transformers characters, but no more than that.

Rating: C

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