Review: Transformers Universe/ROTF Bruticus Maximus

With Combiner Wars on the horizon for the 2015 Transformers line, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look back at what should be considered Hasbro’s first take at G1-style combiners, the Maximus trio from Transformers Energon… but I don’t actually have any of them. What I do have, however, is the redeco of Energon’s Bruticus Maximus into G1 Bruticus, released in either the Revenge of the Fallen line or the Universe line, depending on where you live. I consider this set to be a Classics Bruticus, since these guys look silly on a movie shelf. How do the molds stand up ten years later? Let’s find out.

Onslaught

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Vehicle Mode

Onslaught is the only Combaticon to get his own unique mold, as he naturally forms the torso of Bruticus. While the rest of the group opted for more G1-accurate colors, Onslaught ditches the traditional navy blue/military green in favor of some very bland but very military grey, grey, and grey. I know a lot of people really like military Transformers to be all military grey, but it makes for a very boring-looking toy, especially when the toy is a made-up military vehicle. Colors aside, the vehicle itself is kind of cool, if a bit unbalanced with a huge front end and small missile-launcher-carrying back end. Also, his head is just kind of there if you look at the truck from either side. You can’t really see his face or anything, but it’s undeniably his head. It’s… kind of a weak altmode, all things considered.

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Transformation

First off, my Onslaught’s joints are incredibly tight, making transformation a bit of a struggle. That said, this is an Energon toy, so the conversion is not too much of a challenge. It’s a shame he ends up with the entire front of the truck on his back, but there are reasons for that. Everything has tabs to secure everything into place in all of his modes, though, so Onslaught gets points for that.

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Robot Mode

Energon Barricade didn’t really look like Onslaught at all, and Universe Onslaught… doesn’t really look like Onslaught at all. Putting all character semblance aside, I actually really like this robot design. He looks like a generic soldier ‘bot, but in a good way. The bits of metallic purple add a little bit of color, but for the most part he is just a big grey dude. He looks really cool, so long as you don’t think of him as the G1 character (which is really the theme for this entire set).

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Articulation-wise, he’s all tight swivels and ratchets: neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, thighs, and knees. Nothing fancy, but fairly standard for its time. The lack of ball joints makes for a very solid torso mold, which is some good engineering foresight. He’s also fairly big for a Deluxe, even for Deluxes in the Energon line– he stands a good head taller than Starscream.

Brawl/Blast Off

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Vehicle Mode

Due to budget limitations, the three Energon combiners could only be comprised of three new molds each, resulting in two sets of two identical limbs. It wasn’t too bad for the Energon characters (since they weren’t really characters, anyway), but for this Bruticus it makes for a bit of a problem. Brawl turns out fine, as he’s supposed to be a green tank, but Blast Off is a traditionally a space shuttle, so being a tank is quite the departure. His name doesn’t even make sense anymore. Regardless, the two guys make for pretty neat little tanks, though the Energon weapons make them look a bit silly. Also, Blast Off has “B” and “O” (his name, get it?) tampo’d on his front, which is funny.

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Transformation

Brawl and Blast Off are scout-class toys, which makes for a pretty simple transformation. Part of me wishes the tank treads had been better incorporated into the robot mode, but I like the final product enough to forgive it.

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Robot Mode

The Blight/Kickback mold is one of my favorite robot designs of the Energon line. Something about the tank tread cape, the arm-mounted cannons, the silly ear-guns, and the big flat feet really do it for me. As far as colors go, Brawl maintains his standard colors of green, while Blast Off utilizes his chocolate-brown and deep purple to great effect. I really think Blast Off looks the best of the two, even if he doesn’t look like Blast Off. He could totally be someone else, though. Quake, maybe? He just looks too cool to ignore.

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Being Energon scout figures, Brawl and Blast Off are mostly ball-jointed: shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. Their heads, waists, and ankles are on swivels. You can choose to keep their cannons rotated up as in tank mode or pointed forward for blasting. The Energon weapon can make a big orange gun-thing, but it looks about as silly as every other Energon weapon ever made.

Vortex/Swindle

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Vehicle Mode

Like the previous two, one of these vehicles should be a what it is, and one of them should not. Vortex is the lucky one here, retaining his blue-grey colors and helicopter altmode, while Swindle is forced to take to the skies with a desert-colored paintjob that eschews any of his traditional purple (but props for having dollar signs tampo’d onto his sides). It’s a fairly standard generic military helicopter, and even though there are clearly arms and legs just kind of stuck onto it, I like them. The Energon weapons look even sillier here than on the tanks.

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Transformation

Standard fare, more or less the same level as the tanks. Hard to say much about these kinds of transformations…

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Robot Mode

While I really like the tanks’ robot modes, I’m really not into the helicopters. They’re just… average. Nothing really makes them stand out, there’s nothing unique or really interesting about them, they’re just generic helicopter bots. If anything, the way the cockpit sticks out really far makes them look a bit fat, which is I guess kind of funny. Vortex at least has some very nice paint apps and looks quite good, while Swindle really suffers from a lack of purple. Articulation is the exact same as the tanks, though the waist joint is somewhat limited.

Bruticus Maximus

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Combined Mode

When you put all the Combaticons together, the result you get is… surprisingly not bad. Each limb can serve as an arm or a leg, but I tend to prefer using the tanks as legs and the helicopters as arms, mostly because it looks a lot better this way. Bruticus’s proportions actually look fairly nice in this configuration, with big, bulky legs and relatively smaller arms that end in hands that at least kind of look like they could be hands. The tanks’ Energon weapons also provide the most solidity as feet, which helps a lot.

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For being made of a Deluxe and four Scouts, Bruticus manages to stand pretty tall; twice the height of your average Deluxe, and right about the size of your average Leader-class figure (he’s about a head taller than Leader Jetfire). As far as looking like Bruticus goes, BrutMax falls a bit short, mostly in that his head is wholly original (which was a design trait shared by the other two combiners). It looks more like the love child of Clench and Dark Laser than Bruticus. I can’t bring myself to hold it against the toy, though, as it wasn’t designed to be Bruticus, just a Bruticus-inspired combiner robot.

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Bruticus is not very articulate in his standard configurations, with only a neck swivel, a waist swivel, universal hips, and rotating/swiveling combiner joints in his shoulders and knees. If he only had elbows he’d be able to pull off some pretty decent poses, and if you use the tanks as arms, you can dismantle them a bit to make some fairly rudimentary elbows, but the only real bend you can manage is inward. Despite his limitations, you can put him into cool poses (you can even kind of pull off the Iron Man pose… sort of), but he really does look his best just standing still.

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Overall

As G1 updates, the Universe/ROTF Combaticons really fall flat. Only two of them bear any visible resemblance to their G1 counterparts, and even Bruticus himself looks very little like his namesake. If you remove all ties to G1, though, you get what was already a pretty neat team of military guys from Energon, but this time in more grounded, militaristic color schemes. As a squad, the five look very good together, and the combined mode is really nothing to scoff at, either. None of their individual robot modes suffer much from being combiner components (more so from being Energon toys) and still manage to stand up to modern toys, especially their Fall of Cybertron counterparts.

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The big elephant in the room of sorts for these guys is the FansProject Colossus upgrade kit, which supplies a brand new Blast Off and Swindle, as well as a load of extra parts to turn this set into a proper, very impressive G1 Bruticus. It was that FP set that sent the aftermarket price of the Universe/ROTF five-pack skyrocketing to well over $100. As third-party combiners have become much more commonplace and have mostly surpassed the need to upgrade existing sets, the FP Colossus set has fallen from popular demand, as has the Bruticus set. Most who get this set are getting it for the upgrade set, but I honestly think this incarnation of the Combaticon combiner can stand up quite well on its own. It helps if you think of it as a sort of “prototype Bruticus” with different characters as components. If you’ve never experienced the Energon combiners, I’d say pick some version of this set up. At the very least, looking at this next to FOC Bruticus and one of the upcoming Combiner Wars combiners will undoubtedly make for an interesting evolution of modern combiner attempts.

Where to Buy

I actually found mine at a McKay used books store for $30. Obviously not everyone will stumble on such a find, so eBay or the TFW2005 Junkion Marketplace are probably your best bets, unless you want to scour flea markets or convention dealer rooms. The set is still very pricey, but if you can find it for around $50, it’s a good value, even for the Energon version. Don’t pay anywhere near $100, though.

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