G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Tread Ripper tank w/ Clutch

The history of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is filled with irony and good timing that allowed it to become the behemoth that it was in the 80's and gave the brand enough "street cred" to last over three decades, even if there has been mediocre response at retail over the past few years.

Part of this irony is the fact that the original Real American Hero line was pitched as a vehicle line, with the figures only being included as compliments for the vehicles. Fast forward thirty years later, and it's obvious the timeless characters are what has kept the series viable for this long, not necessarily the hardware. That couldn't be more evident than when you consider Hasbro's treatment of vehicles over the past 12 months. Vehicles for the G.I. Joe: Retaliation line have mostly been a mish-mash of barely movie accurate equipment using a lot of existing tooling. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but when you combine it with the fact that these vehicles now come with driver figures saddled with only five points of articulation, and it becomes even more evident that the vehicle portion of the G.I. Joe brand isn't their main focus. Retailer attitudes have changed considerably since the 80's regarding shelf space allotment, too, so you can hardly lay the blame solely at Hasbro's feet.

Whatever the reasons, the vehicles in the G.I. Joe: Retaliation line have been fairly underwhelming. I reviewed the Ghost Hawk II already, and while I actually didn't mind that vehicle so much, it still pales in comparison to some other offerings we've seen over the past few years. The HISS was another pretty decent vehicle, but items like another rehashed AWE Striker and yet another Water Moccasin (errr... Sting Raider?) left me wanting more.

The Tread Ripper...well, it almost gives us more.

The foundation of this vehicle at least tries to be movie accurate, obviously being based on the vehicle that Joe Colton lends to Roadblock. The cooperation between G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Howe and Howe Technology (designers of the "Ripsaw", the obvious precurser to this vehicle) has been well documented, and this is the result.

It's actually another point of irony when you consider the design of the HISS Tank from Hasbro in 1984 likely provided some inspiration for the Ripsaw, which in turn is inspiring the G.I. Joe version...

But I digress.

The Tread Ripper uses the same core as the HISS Scout, only with different treads (that no longer really roll) and a rollcage canopy. This rollcage canopy also has spots for two guns on it, which the Tread Ripper comes with, although they are simply the same two guns that came with the aforementioned HISS Tank. The vehicle is fairly small, but seems relatively accurate to the vehicle in the film. It rolls pretty well, and is easy to handle, with plenty of roll-around "fun factor" for the kids. The green rollcage matches the Ghost Hawk II (as well as the G.I. Joe Troopers) and as such blends well with the rest of the Retaliation offerings thus far. The Tread Ripper comes with a nice compliment of stickers, but I will admit I was pretty shocked when a good 80% of the stickers were for the guns, not even for the vehicle itself!

But any sticker allotment that includes this one is a good one by me:

Yeah, that's pretty awesome.

So, the colors are pretty good, the vehicle is fun to roll around, but there really isn't much "playability" to it. No moving treads, no moving cockpit, just a coffin on treads with a couple of weapons (one happens to be spring-loaded). This particular vehicle doesn't even have the benefit of a cool figure being included.

Well, that's not entirely fair. Clutch isn't totally unsalvagable, but I think if Hasbro had been able to find an economic way to give us a fully functional figure in these vehicles, they would be a lot easier to sell, especially to the collector crowd. As such, the restricted articulation actually seems to convince collectors not to buy them rather than just being something they can overlook. You don't want to torque off collectors, they can get downright bitter. ;)


Then we get to Clutch... I'm not one to typically go on a fanboy rant, but these 5 POA driver figures get me pretty darned close to that point. Throughout the years, G.I. Joe's tagline has always been "The Moveable Fighting Man". The essence of G.I. Joe over the past 30 years... hell, over the past FIFTY years has been about articulation. About how well these figures can move, what poses they can get into, and the play value that comes along with that.

I've said it time and time again, back in the 80's one of the main reasons I gravitated towards the G.I. Joe line was because those figures could move and pose in ways that Star Wars figures couldn't. That was a huge draw to me, and I would estimate to many other children at the time as well. I would argue that G.I. Joe would not have had the lasting success it had through the 80's if they had not pushed the envelope with figure design and articulation. So why, 30 years later, are we now catapulted backwards? And not even backwards to 1982...

I can understand Hasbro's rationalization. I know how costs have increased and they need to balance costs with figure production with the quality of their vehicles. That was something Derryl DePriest was very specific about. They were able to get vehicles larger because they reduced cost on figure production.

But you know what? I don't care. Producing figures like this can calling it G.I. Joe is a disservice to the concept and mindset of what made A Real American Hero great.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the figure actually has a very cool design. The sculpting, proportions, and detail work throughout Clutch is fantastic. But due to the limited articulation, the driver is completely and utterly useless. Yes, useless. I know Hasbro does product testing with kids, but I'll tell you right now, I'm a dad, and both of my kids immediately discarded this figure from the vehicle and found what they called a "real one" to play with instead.

That's not to say this figure is completely worthless. The head sculpt is pretty fantastic, and thankfully works with many other figure parts out there. Clutch can be pretty easily integrated back into your G.I. Joe: Retaliation uniform, it's just a shame that we couldn't get something better and more original packaged the first time around. After all, my kids don't know how to pop a head onto another body.

In closing, the vehicle isn't bad. It's nicely sized, has some great detail, and at least a little bit of playability to it. I do wish Hasbro had invested a bit more money making it more film accurate, and of course the driver is a huge disappointment, but if you're going to narrow down your vehicle purchases to only a couple, I do think this is one of the few that could deservedly make the cut.