With 2006 came a change in the line, getting away from the routine of Revenge of the Sith and getting back to the classic figures that have been a staple of the line since day one. Hasbro also made some other changes, not all have been for the better either, as we’ve seen price increases across the board in 2006 and it’s been a big disappointment to see many figures weren’t getting the articulation we’d seen through most of 2005’s line-up. Then Hasbro pulls out of their hat a home run figure by resculping the AT-AT Driver and showing fans that they still know how to make a great poseable action figure when they want to truly deliver a high quality chunk of plastic.
While 2006 hasn’t been stellar from my point of view, the resculpts we have gotten were pretty necessary ones… up till now. That’s not to say I felt that we couldn’t use an AT-AT Driver do-over by any means, I just didn’t have it high on my list. Hasbro really does deliver with him though, and the figure is easily one of my top choices for this year so far, but the year is still early. Check out the full review to catch everything Hasbro did right with this figure and how I wish this was the level of quality we got throughout the line.
-Sculpt: Much like the TIE Pilot resculpt we received in 2004’s Saga Line, the AT-AT Driver goes to show you how the great sculpt you already had wasn’t quite as great as you thought. Not to take away from the POTF2 AT-AT Driver by any means though, but the new sculpt is just simply better in every way. The good news though is that while the TIE Pilot resculpt eclipsed its POTF2 predecessor, the AT-AT Driver resculpt is better but the old AT-AT Drivers will look quite well and fit in together. To me this is even better since it means I won’t have that nagging feeling in my collecting mind that they just don’t blend well like the TIE Pilots are. Kudos to Hasbro then for showing they had it then, and have still found ways to improve today.
The costume seems accurate in every detail there is (and there’s a lot, it’s one of the more elaborate Imperial uniforms I think). The grey jumpsuit has fine texturing throughout it giving it a much more lifelike look under close scrutiny. There are also a lot of details like baggy pockets and plenty of creases and folds sculpted into the costume making it look like real moving fabric with a person inside.
The armor, boots, and gloves are all equally detailed with plenty of intricacies to examine. The left gauntlet includes a small silver device stuck to it, possibly a communication item of some sort, while the body armor features a wealth of mechanical details on the back that have meanings I am completely unaware of. The AT-AT Driver’s little “moon boots” feature a tread sculpted around the sole of the footwear that stands out nicely as well, and it should also be noted that the leg straps on the costume are separately sculpted items that are glued to the torso and wrap around the figure at the knees. The same technique was used on the Gold Leader figure from 2004, and it looks great on this figure as well.
The big test for the sculpt then is the helmet… How’s it stack up? Well, I’m reading complaints around the net that it’s inaccurate to some degree, and when compared to the Gentle Giant Bust-Up of the same character it shows the inaccuracies, but for my tastes (and since I’m not an armor buff to know what little thing isn’t right), it looks good to me for my hard earned dollar. Is it? That remains to be seen for me, but even if there are some slight discrepancies I’m not really going to nit pick them. The helmet has a wealth of sculpting details to it I love like the curved, raised lenses, and the little techie bits around the eyepieces. I love the ridges of the “mouth” area and the little pins in the same area. Also the helmet has separately sculpted hoses that attach to a separately sculpted chest control box. The box itself is worth marveling at, as the POTF2 figure had merely a decal to show the details while the Saga ’06 figure sports sculpted on buttons, raised and recessed lines, and just detail galore. Overall a very nice job by Hasbro and the most prime example of how this figure is superior to its POTF2 counterpart in sheer subtle detail quality.
-Paint Aps/Deco: The AT-AT Driver may look bland from a distance but up close there’s a number of nice little paint aps to admire and help you justify a $7 reaming from the retailers. With price increases, believe you me I start really taking notice of the little things in this line! And the AT-AT Driver didn’t disappoint me at all.
The main concentration of paint details are on the helmet almost entirely. There are of course the two striking red Imperial logos on either side of the front plate. The center ridge of the helmet is painted with a black triangle that tapers back and there are little grey specks on the paint that I don’t think are mistakes. At least to say, I have two AT-AT Drivers and they both have these grey speck things along the center ridge, so I just assume they’re not mistakes. The helmet’s eye lenses are a gloss black which makes them shine and it stands out on the duller finish of the helmet’s deco. The nose ridge is black with a red center paint detail, and of course there are silver and red paint details on the “mouth”, little black line details on the “cheeks”, and a number of other small blue-grey details and other little intricacies. They’re all small, tiny little paint aps but they all make for a complex whole.
The chest box is great too because it’s a mix of various colors implemented to paint the buttons. It’s quite colorful on the stark white-grey background of the figure itself, so that’s pretty great. Other paint details on the character are fairly minimal, like the silver comlink on his gauntlet is painted so it sticks out, but other than that it’s just some white here and there to have the armor the proper color. There is no paint wash or anything like you would find on other figures, but that’s ok because the AT-AT Driver should probably be pretty squeaky clean for Impy inspections after all.
-Articulation: The AT-AT Driver articulation count and style is a shining example of the direction Hasbro took a lot of the figures in during 2005, and a direction Hasbro has turned away from in 2006. While I love the AT-AT Driver’s articulation it’s also a prime reminder of everything the line is lacking overall in 2006 save for these couple figures. It’s a real double-edged sword to get what you want, but only with like one figure, and then have it remind you why that Han Solo in Carbonite resculpt just didn’t cut it as a “great” toy. Ya know what I’m saying here?
But all that aside, yes the AT-AT Driver is what I personally consider the “ideal standard” articulation compromise for this line… more or less. He lacks a waist joint, which is comical at best because the figure is actually sculpted to have separated upper and lower torso pieces but Hasbro didn’t articulate him at this point, I’m assuming because of the “leg straps” potentially breaking if you did twist the figure, I don’t know. The waist articulation I can deal without though even though it is a silly omission on Hasbro’s part, so we’ll just overlook it here since there might be some logic supporting the decision.
The AT-AT Driver features articulation at:
- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 angle-cut elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 2 ball/socket knee joints (Gotta love that knee articulation folks, it’s mucho important!)
- 1 ball/socket neck joint
So with a total articulation coming in at 11 points, and really it should have 12 (that’s my personal standard I believe Hasbro should be at, at this point in the modern line) points with the waist articulation, this is a fairly poseable figure. Is it “Super Articulated” like the VOTC Stormtrooper, or the SA Clone sculpts? No, but for the basic line I feel that true Super Articulation should be used sporadically and where it won’t hurt the figure’s looks, while the 12-points of articulation “standard” I’ve come to I feel should be used across the line.
The recent cut-back from Hasbro has been with primarily knee articulation, and the AT-AT Driver dodges that blaster fire by getting knee joints, and with them he becomes an action figure. Yeah Han Carbonite, Veers, Derlin, and others… I’m looking at you guys. You suck! You’re not fun toys to mess with; I have it even on the authority of children, so take that you plastic sacks.
Hmm, yeah that’s overboard but I amused myself with it. Seriously though, the AT-AT Driver, when compared to the recent Han in Carbonite, is a prime example of a GOOD action figure compared to a mediocre one (and that’s being generous). I’ll pose AT-AT Drivers in dioramas, when playing with the kids, any number of things, but Han will most likely go on a shelf and collect dust. Fact is, these are toys, kids like to play with toys, adults do too but they call it “posing” them, and at the end of the day articulation is what kids and adults alike generally enjoy when they collect toys… some don’t, others are indifferent, but I firmly believe most prefer a poseable figure. Given Hasbro can hide the articulation perfectly these days (if they want to) through using clever angle-cut joints that look like fabric folds or ball/socket joints that are recessed into the figure’s sculpt, then Hasbro really needs to deliver at least 12 articulation points for the majority of its figures and make their action figures actually resemble the title of “action” figures.
The AT-AT Driver shines as a poseable army builder, so I’m a happy camper with this one. I hope we get a ton more just like him throughout the rest of the line.
-Packaging: The Saga Collection packaging for each figure is an interesting mix of styles. You can definitely see some elements of the ROTS line mixed with elements of the OTC line, and that makes for a unique package on the shelves. I really enjoy the black cardback with silver lettering, and I hope it’s something Hasbro is willing to stick with for a long time to come.
I also highly enjoy the unique backgrounds for each figure. Pulling an element from the OTC line, the new Saga Collection packaging uses a film shot that pertains to each unique character, and really individualizes the figures. This is drool-worthy for the carded collector and it makes even the die-hard openers want a figure here and there to keep carded just because of how special the backgrounds are.
The bubble is a little closer to the ROTS line in its overall size and shape, but should lend itself more to staying mint for the carded guys. There’s also an insert depicting the specific character and the character’s name, packaged into the bottom of the package just as the Revenge of the Sith figures had. The insert features the bold blocky silver lettering of the Saga, and lets fans know that this is the universal collection of figures encompassing the entire Star Wars universe.
There’s a lot to like with this packaging so I hope it stays as the standard for a while. I would say that The Saga Collection and Original Trilogy Collection will go down as some of the most liked packaging by collectors for quite some time if Hasbro gives it a while, and this is coming from a guy that rips almost everything off its card at some point or another.
-Accessories: So while I’m loving the sculpt, the paint, and of course the articulation the tremendous AT-AT Driver resculpt, I am a bit let down by what Hasbro packaged in with the figure. There’s not a whole lot in there to go “wow!” at, and make you feel like you got the something “extra” that was worth your hard earned fundage. The figure is pretty great quality though, but it’s sometimes a nice accessory that really helps ease the financial pain because it’s just something separate in the packaging you can enjoy.
The AT-AT Driver comes with the year’s (so far) standard pack-ins of a personalized stand with the Empire Strikes Back embossed on the top and his name painted in silver on the front. There is also, of course, the randomized miniature holographic figure in there as well and at this point I’m barely even keeping track of these little blue blobs. I couldn’t be less interested really. Also the AT-AT Driver comes packin’ heat as he has a Stormtrooper blaster.
The blaster is great and fits the character well even though he doesn’t use a gun on film at any time. It’s good for Hasbro too because it’s something they’ve already got lying around anyway. Unfortunately while I love the blaster I just feel like they could have given us something else if they’d been creative. I know some “control sticks” like came with the Clone Pilot in 2003 would have been cool, or the Episode 1 Anakin Pilot’s control sticks. Or, ideally, Hasbro could have offered us a neutrally posed miniature holograph (extra tiny) of Darth Vader since neither the AT-AT Driver came with this, nor did the General Veers AT-AT Commander figure.
The stand is nice enough, but that and the miniature holographic figures are really things that I view, from my business background kind of standpoint, as utility wasters. In business you want to maximize your utility, meaning more or less you want to be efficient… For my money, the $7+ we pay for Star Wars figures should be focused on the figure, not the other random stuff. Accessories are overall a minor thing especially and they go by the wayside in my perspective if it means they impede the quality of the action figure itself. I love getting cool stuff, but the mini holo’s and stands are extras to me, nothing that really belongs with the figure. I’d sooner have a figure that didn’t need a stand in the first place (though the stand is cool), and the holo’s just are boring, so I have to ponder what the cost of these accessories did to take away the things I want with my action figures like ***Drum Roll*** knee articulation!
I’m ok with the AT-AT Driver’s end result, but I’d have been ok with him ONLY having a blaster if I knew that was the variable that meant my Han (or other figures this year) got ball/socket knee articulation… See where I’m going with this?
The short of it is I don’t need gimmicky stuff packed in with the figure. If they want to pack more in the packaging, put in something that makes sense like “AT-AT Control Sticks”, or the targeting range finder thing… Mini Holos suck and stands are ok but shouldn’t be a necessity in my view.
-Price Hike: Star Wars figures have taken a jump in price at some retailers, and while we paid $5 - $6 for most of our ROTS figures throughout most of 2005, figures are up to $7 at most retailers with only Wal-Mart sticking to a $6 or less price point right now. Hopefully Hasbro and Retail will see the light that price increases in this day and age means that people may become more tight with their spending.
I know a price hike will affect my buying habits, and I’ll buy fewer extras of any figure I maybe wanted extras of. I’ll cut back on army building, custom fodder buying, and other areas that I otherwise maybe would have spent more freely. That $1 or $2 starts to add up over 60 or so figures though. Hopefully at least Target will adjust to compete with Wal-Mart in the near future, if nothing else, and we all maybe will have more to spend on more figures.
Well here we are... It’s February 2006 as I am writing this review, and I am just NOW writing my first pretty overall “happy” review of a figure where I think Hasbro knocked a figure out of the park. Does that ring true with you? Have you felt a similar level of disappointment in 2006, at least here and there, as I have?
But the AT-AT Driver resculpt turned out absolutely fabulous, and I really am enjoying that I don’t have this desire inside me to retire all my old AT-AT Drivers too. They blend in great together and that means good things for this army builder. And if I can find more AT-AT Drivers at Wal-Mart, who currently aren’t raking us over the coals on prices, I’ll be glad to bolster my Imperial forces with the manpower they so rightfully deserve.
Hasbro put a highly poseable army builder out and I’m a happy camper here. The figure’s a great sculpt and paintjob to boot, and the collector peasants did rejoice. Here is to hoping we see more quality like this as 2006 wears on, unfortunately though early pictures show one Clone Commando and a Weequay Jedi who may be in for a bit of a verbal beating.
Go get yourselves at least two of the AT-AT Driver while the quality purchasing is good… You’ll be glad you have these guys running your weapon of doom. Hell, pick up 10, that’s my goal number I’m hoping to attain for a somewhat fair price.