What was I thinking?
Even though Wave 5 was rife with repaints and nothing but repaints (well, except for City Strike Snake Eyes, though he received a second version within weeks), I initially passed on Desert-Viper for the same reasons that I mentioned in my review of the Toys "R" Us Snow Serpent. While the figure certainly seemed neat, it was an environmentally specific figure, and a repaint, two things that held little appeal.
But then I was shopping in Wal-Mart, which has famously dropped their Joe prices to $5.00...and shock of all shocks! My local Wal-Mart actually had some new figures, including the Desert-Viper. I picked him up and brought him home...and was immediately impressed. This figure was pretty damn cool.
Thinking back, I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean, I'm a big fan of the Elite-Viper, which is what this figure is a repaint of. Not only that, but I absolutely love the paint wipe technique that Hasbro has been steadily improving since first bringing them to bear in 2000. Sure this figure is essentially different shades of brown with some black thrown in for good measure, but damn if Hasbro didn't execute it nicely. It looks like a desert operative, caked with desert sand, and bad ass to boot.
I am absolutely in love with the Elite-Viper tooling...I love it in all of the ways that I hate the other Cobra troopers in this line. No problems with clunky knee joints. No issues with oversized gauntlets and restricted arm movements. He looks like a nasty covert ops trooper, yet still has a very nice Cobra feel. If they used this guy as the template to pull their troops from throughout the line, I'd probably be a lot happier than I am with all these wonky Neo-Vipers.
I'm honestly not entirely sure how to talk about the accessories. Hasbro throws a ton of gear in here, but it's pretty hit or miss. The webgear is pulled from the MARS Trooper, and actually works quite nicely. I dig the yellow stripes, which adds some great color without looking too garrish. The backpack is great, and the combination of the scarf and the goggles completely conceals the familiar Elite-Viper head sculpt. But then we get two... axes? And a sword? And Zartan's bizarre knife-rifle? I guess the weapons are all cool and everything, I just can't quite figure out how functional they all are, especially for a fairly specific desert operative. The cool thing about weapons, though, is you can pick and choose, and here, there are plenty to choose from, though I wish he did have a more standard rifle for his primary firearm.
All told, this figure really impressed me and surprised me, which it really shouldn't have. It's a great Rise of Cobra trooper, which are somewhat few and far between, but he'll fill in your Elite-Viper ranks quite nicely and adds some flash to the generic black and silver ranks of your modern Cobra troopers. Not sure I'd recommend jumping into this figure with both feet, considering the repaint nature, and the buckshot accessories, but finding him for $5.00 at Wal-Mart, it's absolutely a worthy purchase. I'm actually on the hunt for a couple more, which is really saying something when you're talking about desert troopers.