The first AWE Striker was released in 1985, thirty full years ago, and heaven knows we’ve seen plenty of re-releases since. Since its first inception back in the hay day of G.I. Joe, it’s been released over half a dozen times under the same AWE Striker banner, not to mention in the Stargate line, the ECO Warriors line (both in the vintage days and as a recent Convention attendee exclusive), as well as for the G.I. Joe: Retaliation movie line. Fans of the AWE Striker have certainly had their opportunity to appreciate its greatness.
So, with tooling libraries running low, what options does someone like Hasbro have to continue releasing vehicles, especially one that has been at retail more often than not in the past three decades?
Simple… add some limited new tooling and give that vehicle some extra mileage.
At its core, the FOE Striker is essentially just a desert themed AWE Striker, done up in a light gray/tan. It even has a majority of the same decals as its had throughout the years. But this time around, Hasbro designers tooled up a few new pieces, including a rear stand, a front cage, gas cans, supports, and also a nice pseudo-fabric tarp. These few simple added pieces go a great deal towards reinventing the AWE Striker into a terrific new updated vehicle.
Along with the new parts, the same minigun that was released many times with the VAMP now gets a new articulated arm that plugs into the dune buggy’s roof. The rear stand adds some footpegs and a way to store the supports, while the front cage gives the driver some nice protection, holds the other side of the supports, and also provides two mounting points for machine guns (Chuckles and Night Fox both come with one, naturally). These small additions almost completely reinvent this vehicle and convert it from a tired rehash to an exciting new fast attack vehicle. But Hasbro even went a bit further. With some nice design nuances, they made the rear platform removable as well as the two supports and designed a tarp to be detached from their mounts and create a terrific little forward observation station. Just a small little twist to the vehicle, but it makes a world of difference.
Everything about the AWE Striker becomes exciting and new with these small key additions to the dune buggy, providing a lot more flexibility and a much cooler looking overall vehicle. The changes aren’t major, but they make a major difference.
Along with the FOE Striker, we get a somewhat desert themed version of Chuckles. His floral t-shirt are variations of brown, with a cool shirt pattern very closely matching how the character looked in certain images from the IDW Publishing COBRA comic book series. According to Mark Weber, G.I. Joe brand manager, Chuckles’ new head sculpt was also designed with the same idea in mind. As a character who was so crucial to that comic series, this is a pretty neat homage.
The overall Chuckles build is pretty good, though I would have much preferred the arms from the Night Force Convention version. These arms have somewhat restricted elbows and a lack of the multi-faceted wrist joints, but aesthetically they still look all right. Considering Chuckles comes with a great automatic machine gun it would have been nice if he could hold it better, but that’s unfortunately not the case.
He’s got the PoC Snake Eyes legs, which are great and work nicely for a combat oriented Chuckles, especially because it gives him a nice silenced pistol for him to use. The floral pattern on his shirt is interesting, a somewhat different take on his Hawaiian shirt pattern, in a more desert themed color pallet.
If I have any complaints about the paint work, it’s an issue that has become somewhat familiar in the 50th Anniversary line. Chuckles’ eyes really have some paint issues, with pupils that are a too tiny and look a bit squirrely. It’s a problem that has plagued some of the other 50th Anniversary figures, and unfortunately it looks to still be an issue.
As mentioned, Chuckles comes with the familiar pistol with silencer and ankle combat knife. He also has a machine gun, shoulder hoster, and heavy machine gun, which can also plug into one of the mounts on the FOE Striker. He’s got a pretty great assortment of gear that allows him to go full on combat mode, or take things about quicker and quieter.
Ever since the COBRA series from IDW Publishing, Chuckles has gotten a big spotlight inside and outside the G.I. Joe community. Paying homage to how he appeared in that series makes a lot of sense, and Hasbro pulled it off fairly well. I would have loved some better arms and a bit more care to the paint work on the eyes, but beyond that, it’s a good figure.
As the driver of the Pursuit of Cobra AWE Striker, it makes sense for the least well-known G.I. Joe Navy SEAL to make a re-appearance here in the 50th Anniversary line. Night Fox was one of my favorite new characters in the Pursuit of Cobra era, and I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure how important an update is, but I can see why they did it.
This version of Night Fox appears to use a similar build from the waist up, with what looks to be the Rise of Cobra Duke’s arms and a Beachhead head sculpt. Where Hasbro deviates here, though, is using the Wave 1 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Roadblock legs, which interestingly makes Night Fox a lot taller than his previous iteration. While it was mostly due to the parts combination, and not necessarily intrinsic to his character, Night Fox’s height nonetheless was an aspect of the original character and it seems weird to now see him so much taller. I suspect Hasbro made a conscious decision to try and avoid the short stature of the first figure, but I think I actually prefer the look of the PoC original.
Along with the height discrepency, Roadblock’s legs also have some articulation issues. These particular legs don’t have double jointed knees or ankle joints, which is kind of a shame.
Instead of going full on desert, Night Fox uses mostly selections of gray, with a base gray uniform and lighter tiger stripe camouflage throughout the upper body. The lighter camouflage stripes are pretty reminiscent of the FOE Striker colors, but overall he definitely looks a lot more gray than tan. Aside from the camouflage the gray color is somewhat monochromatic and bland.
Night Fox is unique in the fact that he’s only available in this ComicCon version of the Desert Duel set, but the overall execution doesn’t seem as high end as a ComicCon exclusive figure might seem to be. I love the character, but overall think I prefer the Pursuit of Cobra version.
Night Fox comes with a wide array of cool accessories, from his automatic grenade launcher to the great web gear that originally came with Retaliation Snake Eyes. The same neck scarf that he came with originally, as well as the helmet and flip-down night vision goggles. He also has the large square ammo pack, Ma Deuce with ammo belt. Like Chuckles’ heavy machine gun, the Ma Deuce fits into the front mount on the FOE Strike and compliments the other heavy machine gun well.
Night Fox is a neat character and a serviceable update. Hasbro can put themselves in a Catch 22 because they want to provide an air of exclusivity when it comes to ComicCon exclusives, but if they do anything too critical, it can result in fandom backlash. I think Night Fox was a good addition with his connections to the AWE/FOE Striker, but the figure itself is a bit one-colored. I would have really enjoyed seeing some additional color applications here and there and the end result be less gray.
In spite of some of my issues with Night Fox and Chuckles, I find myself really loving the G.I. Joe side of this set. Heck, I enjoy the Cobra side of this set as well.
Far and away the most impressive aspect of the Desert Duel set is the FOE Striker, which takes the essence of G.I. Joe’s venerable dune buggy and adds a wealth of fantastic new elements to the vehicle really providing some additional mileage to the old classic. I love all of the additional tooling and ramped up capabilities, providing a nice amount of flexibility to the G.I. Joe vehicle underneath. Add to that the IDW accurate Chuckles, a ton of great gear, and you have a “Battle in a Box” that is exceptionally entertaining and fun.
ComicCon G.I. Joe FOE Striker w/ Chuckles & Night Fox
Vehicle Paint Deco
Vehicle Play Features
Chuckles Paint Deco
Night Fox Character
Night Fox Sculpt
Night Fox Articulation
Night Fox Paint Deco
Night Fox Accessories
After 30+ years of countless AWE Striker re-releases, one wonders what new elements can possibly be added in order to make the vehicle desirable again. Hasbro answers that question in spades with this new Forward Observation Encampment version of the popular G.I. Joe dune buggy. Simply by adding a few newly tooled elements to the base vehicle, they’ve taken a potentially tired older vehicle and brought a whole new life to it. Chuckles is a great driver figure, too, with some intriguing aesthetic choices, and Night Fox, one of my favorite new characters from the Pursuit of Cobra angle joins him in the gunner seat.
I’ve never really been a big fan of the Snowcat, mostly because as an arctic vehicle, it was somewhat pigeon holed into a certain specialty. Even living in New England most of my life, I preferred my G.I. Joe adventures to be in the jungles or other land-based environments, aside from specific environmental concerns. For that reason, even though I loved Frostbite, I never gravitated towards the Snowcat a whole lot. Since its original release, the vehicle has been re-released many times, as a Tiger Force vehicle, as a Street Fighter vehicle, as updated arctic vehicles, and even as a refreshed G.I. Joe HAVOC, but this is the first time it’s been repurposed on the other side of the conflict. I find myself surprised to say it really works.
The shape and sculpt of the Snowcat certainly looks as if it could be a semi futuristic Cobra themed vehicle, with the halftrack build and ski-based torpedos. Unlike the vintage Snowcat, this newly tooled version (which on its own has been re-released a few times in the past several years) has a contained spring-loaded rocket launcher rather than the rockets sliding in and barely being held in by a narrow slot. I actually found the spring-loaded functionality to be a huge improvement and a ton of fun. Sliding the switch along the rocket launcher, you can either selectively launch one or two rockets, or blast all four of them out in a vicious barrage. Pretty neat idea.
One thing I really enjoy about this vehicle is the color scheme. The shade of blue is nice and rich, calling back to Cobra’s origins, but still being really vibrant, and offset nicely by the equally vibrant red and silver. I’m not sure what the key to good pantone color choices is, but whatever Hasbro designers used, it worked in this case as the colors balance really nicely and look bright and striking. I’m a bit unsure about the canopy and its lack of transparency (except where the windshield wiper sweeps, which is a bit more see-through than the rest). With the original Snowcat the “frosted glass” look worked really well, but in this case, the red is almost too opaque and one wonders how the driver can even really see his surroundings.
Curiously, some Basilisks made it out of China in a pre-production format, and it looked like at least some of those had some deco based wear or desert sand on the vehicle armor. I thought it was a great look, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like that technique was passed along to the final vehicle. Of course, it’s possible the retail release will have that wear and tear, I’m not sure. This interesting look appeared in press photos as well, and I was a bit surprised to not see it on the final product.
I would consider the Snowcat a pretty definitive G.I. Joe vehicle, yet this Basilisk repaint works remarkably well, and adds quite a bit of fun to the Cobra armory. I enjoy the rocket-launching functionality, and for some reason the vehicle appeals more to me as a basic Infantry support vehicle than it did in its arctic capacity.
COBRA ELITE HORSEMAN
I’ve been buying into the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero universe for over three decades now, and as such, I always welcome new ideas and new concepts. That was one thing I really enjoyed about the Pursuit of Cobra. They managed to produce some great updates to the vintage characters, but also brought some new characters to the table as well. One of those new characters was the Cobra Crimson Horseman. The design was really appealing to me back in the day, and the thought of a tank driver also being a highly trained foot soldier was pretty cool.
I never would have considered the fact that Hasbro would deem the Crimson Horsemen worthy of revisiting, but they did as a driver for the Basilisk, and he works nicely. The choice of blue as the color of an “Elite” branch is interesting, because in every other Cobra rank structure, the red colors are the “elite”. That being said, the blue on the Elite Horseman is the same vibrant, appealing shade of the Basilisk itself, which ties the figure in nicely and just manages to look really great. The blue is complimented nicely by black and silver throughout the figure (I’ll admit at least some hints of red would have really made the figure pop) and the overall structure of the figure is good. Using the Pursuit of Cobra Firefly figure as a base with the Arctic Snake Eyes vest gives us a slim base figure with good articulation, though the range of motion isn’t perfect. I do wish he could hold his weapon a bit better two-handed, but the somewhat restricted elbows and bulky armored vest both limit that ability.
Along with his base paint scheme, like the regular Crimson Horseman, the Elite version has painted “wear and tear” on the armor. The results are… well, a bit mixed. For whatever reason the effect on the Crimson Horseman looks pretty effective and subtle. This blue repaint ends up looking like some sort of strange tribal markings more than armor scuffs and scrapes, but that’s a minor complaint.
The Elite Horseman doesn’t come with much for gear, unless you count the Basilisk itself. He has what looks to be a laser gun along with his vest, and the same backpack that came with Firefly, complete with four remote mines. It’s a fine assortment, though nothing particularly identifiable with the Elite Horseman’s specialty.
I had a pretty good idea that I’d like this figure considering how much I’d enjoyed Firefly and the Crimson Horsemen. The updated blue paint scheme is very nice and compliments the Basilisk well. Elite, indeed.
COBRA AIR TROOPER
The G.I. Joe “Desert Duel” set is an interesting one, as technically this version I’m reviewing is exclusive to San Diego ComicCon, though the majority of the set will be released to traditional retail via Toys “R” Us likely in the next few weeks. What separates this set with the retail version is the great deco box, the slipcase, as well as the addition of the Cobra Air Trooper, which doesn’t come in the retail release.
From a character choice perspective, I couldn’t be happier with the choice of an Air Trooper. As a huge fan of the G.I. Joe: Renegades, any time I get a figure even loosely affiliated with that terrific animated series, I get very happy. In my opinion, the more Hasbro revisits G.I. Joe: Renegades the better (how’s about a Roadblock, guys?!?! C’mon here!), although, I have to admit the execution for the Air Trooper leaves a lot to be desired.
All of the issues with this Air Trooper are carried forward from the previous version, and they mostly lie in the legs. This figure uses the 25th Anniversary Ace legs, but with the larger rectangular knee pads of the Cobra Para-Viper. Unfortunately, the top and bottom halves of the legs don’t fit real well together with the rectangular kneepads and not only can the Air Trooper not really straighten his legs, but he can barely stand. This is a pretty major issue to me, and a disappointment because the figure is pretty good beyond this drastic misstep. Hasbro went to great lengths to try and improve the overall look of the Air Trooper, coloring him in a lighter gray with some great hints of red and blue trim. The blue and red colors are good matches for the Basilisk, and manage to make the figure look more animated, as well, which is great for us Renegades fanatics.
Overall, this figure is better than the original, due to a much improved and more dynamic paint scheme, but the clunky leg construction is disappointing to say the least.
Air Trooper doesn’t come with much, just a machine gun, pistol, and his removable flight vest. They’re fine, but nothing special.
I’m not entirely sure why the Air Trooper was chosen as a ComicCon exclusive figure for a set that includes no air vehicles. He’s a nice looking figure aesthetically, but has the same construction issues as the original, which detracts from the improved paint scheme.
Looking at the Cobra side of this boxed set as a whole, I find myself surprised with how much I can embrace and enjoy the Snowcat repurposed as a Cobra Basilisk. The colors are very nice, and I like the Elite Horseman quite a bit. While the Air Trooper does impact the set negatively, I think there’s still a lot to enjoy here.
ComicCon Cobra Basilisk w/ Elite Horseman & Air Trooper
Vehicle Paint Deco
Vehicle Play Features
Elite Horseman Character
Elite Horseman Sculpt
Elite Horseman Articulation
Elite Horseman Paint Deco
Elite Horseman Accessories
Air Trooper Character
Air Trooper Sculpt
Air Trooper Articulation
Air Trooper Paint Deco
Air Trooper Accessories
We’ve certainly seen plenty of versions of the G.I. Joe Snowcat in recent years, to the point where you wonder what new elements can be added. I have to admit, though, this Cobra version is actually pretty neat. The stark contrast in blue and red ties into the Cobra aesthetic nicely, and is actually a really great looking color scheme. Back in the Pursuit of Cobra era, I dug the Crimson Horseman that came with the Cobra HISS, and the Elite version is a nice repaint. Air Trooper, unfortunately, retains the same structural faults as the original, but the color scheme is a lot more interesting. Some neat stuff to offer on the Cobra side of this ComicCon exclusive set.
Ubisoft has posted another trailer for their awesome looking upcoming Toy Soldiers video game, but this time the focus is on Cobra and Assassin’s Creed. We get some neat looks at more Cobra hardware like a Trubble Bubble, Rattler, HISS Tank, Stinger, and Battle Bunker!