I finally got my Gear of War set in today! Now I'm not going to take photos of things you've already seen, because there are already plenty of very nice, extensive galleries like this one, where you can gorge yourself on eyecandy if you haven't already spoiled your appetite already. But I will give you my personal feedback on what I've seen in person, and borrow a few of those images along the way. First off: The Packaging: The packaging is well thought-out, in that it is utilitarian enough for its purpose and can easily be tossed in the trash, but it also serves as a pretty pretty display box for those of you who like that sort of thing. Keeping a box of accessories unopened doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but if you're the type, you probably haven't opened your transformers either, so there you go. Did you notice the background is a wireframe blueprint image of the Autoscout? Opening the box, my first thoughts were: The Holocube sure is heavy. Boy, that ladder is littler than I thought it would be. Those rocket launchers are way bigger than I thought they'd be. That Autoscout kicks ass! The Holocube comes folded up behind the tray that holds the rest of the parts, along with the instruction sheet. The Holocube is made of surprisingly heavy plastic, and seems durable enough for what it is. It's a somewhat silly addition, since it's quite opaque, but it shows they're thinking. Maybe a slightly more transparent plastic would have been more suited to the task? The instruction sheet is designed to look reminiscent of the current style of Transformers instructions, and includes text in Chinese and somewhat stilted engrish. Nevertheless, the meaning comes through, and the effort is appreciated. It's printed on surprisingly thick paper, but there's a reason for that -- there's a copy of the boxart printed on the back! Yes, even the manual can serve double duty as a poster. Those TFclub guys -- always thinking. The tray inside is insulated enough that you shouldn't have any broken parts, and the accessory parts themselves are set in a tray with a firmly attached lid, so they won't be going anywhere. Additionally, the energon crystals are taped down so they don't go flying out where your cat can eat them, once you finally do get the lid off the tray. AutoScout: This little guy absolutely rocks. The production quality is top notch, there are no blemishes or mold errors to belie its amateur status -- This could never pass as Hasbro product because it's too good. HasTak hasn't made something with this much caution and care in years. Don't worry that the one in the photo below is a pre-production model, cherry-picked and custom painted to look way better than the one you'll receive -- this is the real deal. The paint apps are few, but they are expertly applied and add visual interest to break up what could otherwise be boring chunks of unpainted plastic. The plastic is dual shades of attractively pearlescent purple, with the same silver plastic used for the wheels, gun, and arm segments. The "Eye" is the same orange plastic as the energon, and the crystals themselves wedge snugly into the claw or into the cassette reel holes if you so desire. There doesn't seem to be any way to store even one of them inside the Autoscout, as the engineering is exceedingly compact. In some instances, the plastic itself acts as a decoration -- you'll be amazed at the level of detail on the Autoscout's surfaces. There are so many little touches, like the paint app that mimics an actual reel of cassette tape inside the autoscout, and the plastic sculpted "screw" that turns out to be lightpiping for the Autoscout's camera eye! The transforming engineering, as I mentioned, is compact and precise. There's no wobbling or fiddling, everything pegs firmly together and holds poses without issue. There's a lot of the 5mm peg and hole action going around here, so you can plug any 5mm peg weapon into the autoscout, including the GOW rocket launchers, or any of the G1 cassette weapons. This little guy was the part I most anticipated about this set, and they did not disappoint me. The iGear version may be closer to screen accurate, but it'll be hard pressed to beat this one in terms of detail and production quality. Rocket Launchers: These three weapons join the ranks of the BTS and G3 trailers in helping to further arm the Autobot forces (and the odd Decepticon, thanks to Swindle, most likely.) They are quite a bit larger than the stock weapons any of the figures come with already, and they definitely look like they mean business. Just in case you're too dim to figure out how to plug them together, they come out the box in different configurations: the "Mirage" configuration, the "Sideswipe" configuration, and one in three loose pieces. I think TFC must have a problem with chrome paint, as the gold paint on my Starscream Coronation set began crumbling before I even got it out of the packaging, and the Red and Black guns in my GOW set were already chipped and a little crumbley right out of the box. The actual silver chromed items don't seem to be affected, only the parts that have a "colored" chrome, or paint over chrome. Slipping the parts together a few times to rearrange into new configurations hasn't helped matters any, so it might be best to pick a configuration you like for the guns and then leave them that way. There's been a lot of gnashing and deep discussion about who gets which gun and in which colors. Personally, my plan is thus: Black gun with Chrome missile to Mirage, since he doesn't really have any firepower, Chrome gun with the Red missile to Red Alert (the poor paranoid sap can use all the steel comfort he can get), Red gun with the Black Missile to Fracture, Sideswipe, or possibly Cliffjumper. Note that you CAN still use the guns perfectly well without any sort of missile or anything -- the result being a freaking hand cannon. "Say hello to my little friend. No, really, he's pretty small." Each "gun" has a small paint app on the side -- on the red and chrome, it's a dark grey app, but on the black one it's a silver app. Again, impressive attention to detail. They didn't have to paint those bits, and they certainly didn't have to change the paint color for the black one alone, but they did. Also, each gun's handle has a small pivot, allowing for roughly 30º of upward tilt, and features a stepped peg, so it can be securely plugged into a Sideswipe shoulder hole, or any 5mm fist hole. The thickness of the chrome paint may make the fit a little snug, but they work with most of the figures I've tried with them. Everything holds together securely (at times a little too securely) Though they are spring-loaded, don't get your hopes up -- the thick double application of paint prevents the red and black missiles from launching very well, if at all. The guns, while well detailed and a welcome addition to any arsenal, are unfortunately the weakest aspect of the set quality-control-wise. They're not terrible; I still love them, their engineering and sculpt are excellent, it's just the paint issues where they run into trouble. Had they been molded out of solid pearlescent colors like the Autoscout I have no doubt they'd be perfect. But they they wouldn't have had the henkei chrome, so it's a double edged sword. And on the topic of henkei chrome, we have... The Ladder: Arguably either the main selling point or the biggest turn-off for most people, the ladder is nevertheless a well-meaning, if not particularly well-thought out addition to the Inferno mold. It's versatile, and the production quality itself is spectacular, but there are a lot of design problems here that no one could apparently solve, so TFC left them unanswered. Firstly, yes. Inferno is a pump truck. A squat little tanker with a fire suppression cannon on top, designed to tender water to the larger ladder trucks. He's not intended to be a ladder truck, despite claims and scant photographic evidence that pumpers CAN sometimes, if rarely, carry short ladders. But since this discussion is in relation to a firetruck that turns into a giant robot, the whole argument about realism is a bit silly. I'm just here to talk about the addition, and any problems I have with it unrelated to its basis in reality. Kay? Kay. I have both Henkei and Classics inferno, but since all the photos online seem to feature the ladder on Henkei, I figured I'd let his crimson twin model it for me. The red writing on the ladder is a little too bright for the drab Classics color scheme, but it's such a small paint app it's not too noticeable. It would have been nice if it had used the same font as the tampos on the truck, but that's also a minor quibble. The chrome gun glove bit (they call it a "squirt") doesn't really look too out of place on Classics Inferno, because neither version of the mold flashes a lot of bling in vehicle mode. The robot mode is where it looks a little more out of place, but still, it's not a dealbreaker. Granted, this chrome rationalization applies to using these accessories with any of the classics figures, since this set was obviously designed to be used with the chrome-happy Henkei releases. The "squirt" is one of those vague points in the instructions, that they don't really explain. In theory it just slides onto the fist...simple enough, right? But it's designed in a very odd fashion. It seems like it can only go on over the back of the fist, so the open area of the glove is showing the thumb and curled fingers of the fist. You never get a particularly snug fit thanks to the rotating plates on the outside forearm, and you can't put it on the other arm's hand very well at all due to the protrusion on the forearm for the baseplate. No matter what you do, there's gonna be a bit of hand showing. It's a neat idea, but I still would have preferred an option that involved unscrewing the arm halves and replacing the actual fist with an appropriately scaled G1 throwback, rather than a pointy chromed mitten. One of the problems I have with the ladder itself is the base. It's the same metallic grey as the AutoScout parts -- a silver that is not present anywhere else on Inferno in either mode. If you had to, you could point to the silver paint apps on the figure, but they're a much brighter silver than the ladder's base. It just looks out of place, and would have been much better off molded in black, but TFC probably only had a certain number of colors to work with. Another problem I have with it is the fact that you have to tear the old cannon off the peg. These pegs, despite what you might think, are not designed to let go. Their purpose is to hold whatever it is they're attached to, ON. And if you happen to break, warp, or stretch it so that it cannot perform that function, then you're SOL. You won't be attaching ladders, guns, or ANYTHING to that little peg again. This seems like a poor engineering decision, especially if they expect you to pop it off every time you transform the figure. I can already feel the connector on mine weakening after just a few times taking the ladder off. In their defense, the hole on the Ladder's baseplate isn't as tight or tapered as the one on the gun's baseplate, so it should theoretically exert LESS stress on the peg than repeatedly removing the original...but there is a catch-22, in that the ratcheting system on the ladder is so tight that you pretty much have to hold the base down when you adjust the angle, or the whole base plate will pop right off of the abused little peg. No, this is FAR from an ideal solution in any regard, and it makes me wonder why they didn't engineer a removable ladder to mount on the existing gun platform. After all, it can be unscrewed in half and features a nice hinge joint already attached (in theory, permanently) to the figure. But it's not as if they weren't thinking at all. The base has two holes in it, where you can attach 5mm guns on either side. And up at the end of the ladder itself, there are a pair of suspicious 5mm pegs that are unfortunately too big for a minicon. Just when you thought you had a use for all those firebots. Another problem with this is that you're removing the original water cannon and replacing it with a ladder. If you're putting this accessory on a Henkei figure, you're effectively trading one chromed part for another, which puts the figure at no real advantage, and wastes a perfectly good chrome app. See, I have this complex where I don't like parts left over, or a pile of weapons that don't integrate into the vehicle mode somehow, or even partsformers. It's a compulsive need to use every last part of the buffalo, and it occasionally leads to some interesting discoveries. It would have been great if TFC had included a single part "gun handle" to plug into the now orphaned cannon. As it stands, a bit of 5mm styrene can serve this purpose as a standin handgrip... And if you've been paying attention, you'll remember that there are 5mm pegs at the end of the ladder, which can lead to a neat addition like this: And if you're willing to take the baseplate off the original gun, there's even more shenanigans you can pull off. And it gets even crazier if you have two of them. The only reason I don't have the chrome squirter and both guns on there is because I didn't think of it at the time, but it's entirely possible. And a little crazy. Since both Hasbro and TFC are so fond of these 5mm pegs and sockets, it's no problem to slide that same bit of 5mm styrene into the rack at the end of the ladder and give that old gun somewhere to go. It's tilted here, but trust me when I say it will stay snugly at any angle. And if it doesn't? Wrap a piece of scotch tape around the center of the styrene tube. The peg on the side of the chromed squirter can plug into one of those 2 5mm holes on the ladder base for storage, and you've got a weird new take on TFC's original idea, with all weapons used, and nothing laying to the side. On the Henkei, that's a LOT of chrome on one truck. Still, repeatedly taking the ladder off to reattach it further down Inferno's arm (or clip to his back) adds needless wear and tear to the mushroom rivet peg, and it looks silly draped off his arm in any regard. In short, the ladder is an unnecessary addition to a vehicle mode that doesn't even really need it, and it only hinders the robot mode, when it doesn't damage the figure directly. A noble idea that simply fails in the execution. A lot of thought obviously went into this, so it's a little disappointing to see where TFC gave up on some of the difficult decisions. So there you have it, my review of the TFC-004 Gears of War set. My final verdict? It's a brilliant piece of amateur engineering, and an impressive effort from TFC, for sure, but unless the ladder absolutely screams Must Have, you can probably live without it. The Autoscout is spectacular, but iGear is releasing their own screen-accurate version soon, for far less than the combined cost of this set, and with the added bonus of Kremzeek and energon cubes. The build-a-guns are interesting and novel, but their paint quality leaves a little to be desired, plus the chrome doesn't really mesh with the Classics -- a set of these guns in flat silver, white, black and red would have been a better choice. If by chance you were planning on getting the G3 trailer, it will include some of the same sort of weapons anyways. Besides, I'm sure that someone will end up recasting all these 3rd party weapons sooner or later. The holo-cube is essentially a throwaway gag, as you probably want to be able to SEE your Mirage figure, especially if you bought this set to give him a weapon. The ladder is ultimately a matter of personal preference, and the only part that can't be replicated through other sources. So unless you REALLY want the ladder, or you just gotta have that chrome, you're not missing out on much. But if you have the Henkei figures and want to go that extra mile, you won't be disappointed in the quality, engineering, and detail TFC put into this set.