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Series: Fans Project
Allegiance: Decepticon
Categories: Scout
Year: 2010

Robot Mode (Explorer): Explorer is, of course, meant to be Blast-Off and he looks the part. The designers of this figure used the original animated character as template and came up with a very, very close match. Explorer is a Scout-Class figure and a fully posable one at that. The only slight restriction is that the panels on his upper arms and those on his chest sometimes get in each other’s way, but that is easily compensated for. In terms of looks Explorer looks very cool and close to the original character.

Weapon-wise Explorer wields the fin of his shuttle mode as a blade, either folded in half as a kind of machete or fully extended as a big sword (though that is meant for Bruticus). Additionally he can use one of the four rifles that accompany the figure set. So all in all Explorer is a very nice little robot and I’d easily have bought him if he’d been sold normally as a Scout-Class figure, too.

Alternate Mode (Explorer): Explorer transforms into a space shuttle, or rather a kind of unmanned space drone (the space equivalent of ROTF Skystalker). The shuttle looks a lot bigger than the robot, seeing as Explorer uses the full length of his body and extends his arms over his head for the shuttle’s main hull. No weapons can attach here (would ruin the flight profile, I guess), but apart from a lack of details (and there wouldn’t be any on an unmanned drone) there is nothing wrong with this vehicle mode. Very nicely done.

Robot Mode (Munitioner): Munitioner pays homage to Combaticon Swindle. The head is a very nice sculpt, easily capturing the look of the original G1 character, right down to the cocky smile. Munitioner is a Scout-sized figure, fully posable, and just good-looking in general. His only slight drawback is his huge backpack, pretty much the entire rear section of his vehicle mode. Thanks to his big feet, though, he can easily compensate.

Munitioner uses the smaller gun from his vehicle mode as a hand weapon and can additionally use any of the four rifles that come with the set as second weapon. Sadly he can’t attach either weapon to his upper arm or shoulder (as the animated Swindle did in the G1 cartoon), but that’s just a minor point. Once again, a very nice Scout-sized figure that I’d probably have bought individually as well.

Alternate Mode (Munitioner): Where Swindle once transformed into a jeep, Munitioner becomes a Hummer, which I can easily live with. The blaster goes on top, arming the vehicle. The details aren’t that great, but how much can you put on a beige military-style hummer while still trying to remain realistic? So all in all not the most exciting vehicle mode ever, but solid. No complaints.

Add-On Parts: Explorer and Munitioner bring along a large number of extra parts for assembling Bruticus (see below), but those parts need to go somewhere when the team is not combined, so they’ve been tailor made to attach to the three molds of the original Bruticus Maximus team in both robot and vehicle mode.

The tank robot (Kickback in my case) gets both a rifle and a missile launcher (one of the combiner fists) in robot mode. The rifle is way cool, but the missile launcher is a bit awkward to handle, especially with the two guns Kickback has on his arms already. Still, not too bad. In vehicle mode Kickback gets rid of the launcher and instead has two rifles on top of his turret. A bit of an overkill, but not bad looking.

The helicopter robot (Blackout) also gets a rifle and a missile launcher in robot mode with the same results. Rifle cool, launcher awkward. In helicopter mode Blackout goes into serious overkill, though, adding the shoulder pieces of the combiner as missile launchers, as well as two rifles under the belly. Not bad-looking, but I doubt any helicopter could manage to even get off the ground with this much ordnance attached.

Finally the leader robot (Barricade) shares the fate of his Air Team successor in that he gets saddled with the most parts. In robot mode the two feet units of the combiner attach to his shoulders as huge missile launchers, the backpack with the two big cannons goes on one arm, while the big rifle folds in half and goes on his other arm. Not bad-looking at all, but with this much ordnance attached Barricade is pretty much restricted to standing there. He can’t move his shoulders because then the missile launchers would fall off and his arms are really just a little bit too short to wield those two huge weapons he’s been given. The missile launchers sculpted into the combiner feet look extremely cool, though.

In vehicle mode Barricade does a lot better. Both the cannon backpack and the two feet units attach to make his vehicle mode look a lot closer to that of G1 Onslaught (or RID Mega-Octane for that matter) than it does without the extra parts. The resulting vehicle still looks a bit overloaded, but everything fits together much nicer than in robot mode and Barricade can now easily transport Explorer’s shuttle mode, too.

Speaking of Explorer’s shuttle mode, Barricade now has a third mode as a launch base. The various parts are rearranged and now you can launch Explorer into space. This is a homage to the base mode the original Onslaught had, though sadly this new one can’t connect with Trypticon like the original could. Well, can’t have everything.

Combined Mode: Now we’re finally at the point most of you have been waiting for: The combiner. The Energon combiners were pretty cool in general, but all shared one big problem: No real hands or feet. And for the second time, Fansproject solves that problem and goes one step further even by vastly improving this bot’s resemblance to G1 Bruticus (or RID Ruination). Let’s take it from the top.

Bruticus has gotten a new head that resembles the original, antenna and all. The head sits on a ball joint and is thus fully posable. The original Bruticus also had two big guns on his back, so Fansproject adds a big backpack with two huge guns that can either point straight up or fold down over Bruticus’ shoulders. Now as some might know by now I’m a sucker of shoulder-mounted weapons, so these babies are pretty much a wet dream for me. I would have bought this set for those big shoulder guns alone. Additionally the four smaller rifles included in the set combine into two bigger rifles, which Bruticus can attach to the sides of the backpack when he’s not using them.

Two extra shoulder pieces are used to give Bruticus some more space for swinging his arms, which now sport fully-articulate hands. And I mean fully articulate, down to individual fingers with two joints each (apart from the thumb). Most articulate hands I’ve seen in any Transformer, official or third-party, yet. So after the shoulder cannons, these hands are the second part of my wet dream. Bruticus can hold his huge rifle, the unfolded sword from Explorer, or the aforementioned rifles in his hands without any problems.

A small waist plate gives Bruticus some added protection in that area. The plate can interfere with those knobs on Barricade’s thighs a bit, but it’s not a big thing. Definitely a big thing are the new feet Bruticus has been given. Not only do they add quite a bit to his height, they also give him a very stable platform to stand on. The Energon combiners are all very posable and not only does Bruticus here improve on that, now he can finally pose properly without falling over, thanks to those feet.

So to sum it all up: This improved Bruticus has managed something I thought impossible: He now shares first place with my all-time favorite combining robot: G1 Predaking. I won’t go so far as to call him better, but he’s just as good in my mind and easily beats out every other combining robot in existence.

Remarks: After improving the Aerialbots, Fansproject has taken on the second of the three Energon combiners, Bruticus. Instead of just bringing out add-on parts for the existing robots, though, they engineered two completely new robots as new limbs, thereby assembling the original Combaticon team, at least as far as alternate modes go. And the fun thing: They even worked that switch into the backstory of those new toys. The original Colossal Combat Combination (C3 aka Energon Bruticus Maximus), created in the wake of the successful Air Team Combiner (A3 aka Superion), was a failure and went insane, nearly destroying itself and losing two limbs (a helicopter and a tank) in the process. To salvage the project Explorer, the project’s chief engineer, used himself as a new third limb, as well as drafting young robot Munitioner as the fourth.

Now it takes some doing to assemble this set, of course. You need both Crossfire 2 figures, as well as a set of the original Energon combiner team (or their ROTF reissue). The ROTF figures have the G1 accurate paint job, of course, but the Energon figures were available individually, so if you just want to get the three figures you need for this one, you should search eBay for Barricade, Blackout and Kickback.

As for the final verdict: The Crossfire 2 set misses a perfect score only by a very slight margin. The reason is that the various extra parts are somewhat awkward when attached to the individual robots or vehicles. Now I’m not saying I have a better idea how this could have been done and I’m in awe of Fansproject for how smoothly they have integrated their add-on parts in general, once again cementing their standing as the very best third-party provider for the Transformers franchise. So while not one hundred percent perfect, this set comes so close that it barely makes a difference. All combiner fans owe it to themselves to get this one.

Rating: A
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