Feral Rex (Reformatted Series) by Mastermind Creations: Combined Mode and Final Thoughts

So, it’s been a whole year and now my Feral Cons are finally complete. It’s time to get these guys combined and see just how impressive Feral Rex (aka Not-Predaking) actually turned out. Transforming these guys into their component parts holds no real surprises. The arms and legs are more or less the beast modes with the legs folded in, and some other tweaks and bobs, and the torso is Leo Dux with his legs and shoulders acting as connecting points. It’s very Voltron-y in it’s flavor and as a result the combiner transformations feel pretty natural if you’re already used to bringing each of the figures from their robot to beast modes and back. Like his G1 inspiration, Feral Rex features some parts-forming. The backpack weapons that came with Bovis and Fortis are used for the hands and feet and the shield used for Leo becomes the groin. And obviously, Talon’s wings are removed to be placed on the back. It’s no more time consuming then you might expect transforming five different figures to be and it certainly goes quicker for me than forming Fansproject’s Causality figures into Not-Menasor. And the results… well, the results are pretty tough to argue with…

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Magnificent is the word that comes instantly to mind. From a design standpoint Feral Rex certainly satisfies the updated G1 Predaking aesthetic that I was looking for. Rex hits all those points that make the original toy design so damned iconic. You get the same dual cannon toes in each of his feet, Talon’s wings coming off the back making him look like a giant angel of death, and you can’t beat those bull and rhino head kneecaps. Leo Dux’s lion head is worn prominently on the chest and the groin armor has the same gold plated bling that all giant robots wish they had on their crotches. Of course the main difference in Rex’s aesthetic is that all of these iconic points are applied to fully realized proportions and that’s the most amazing thing about Feral Rex. It doesn’t feel like anything was compromised to deliver a truly awesome looking figure.

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The head sculpt is fairly simple but still excellent. I love the detail put into his “helmet” and I do believe there’s an LED in that noggin to light up his visor, but I’m not going to mess with installing batteries at this point. It’s a nice bonus feature that I may make use of at some point. I should also note that the cannons that rise up from Rex’s back can be angled forward to give him some extra firepower. You do have to remove Talon’s wings to do it, but you can snap them right back on once the cannons are in firing mode.

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Of course, one of the key failings with a lot of combiners is their overall fragility. A combined mode can look great, but if it falls apart when you touch it… well, that’s no fun. But Feral Rex is damned solid. The connection ports lock quite well so there’s virtually no chance of limbs accidentally disconnecting when you’re playing with him and happily they aren’t too scary-tight to pull apart either. What’s more there aren’t a lot of bits to fall off, which was one of my primary gripes with TFC’s Uranos combiner. The only exception is the wrap around crotch piece. I have a habit of grabbing the figure from the center of gravity and that usually means putting at least one of my fingers on Feral Rex’s robot diaper, which will indeed make it pop loose. Pick him up from under the arms, and you’ve got no worries.

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Feral Rex features a good amount of articulation for a gestalt mode. You can get a wide stance out of him and he has nice strong ratcheting hinges in the knees that hold his massive weight with little difficulty. The feet are ball jointed to keep them flat most of the time and the way the connection ports are designed he has a good amount of lode bearing strength in those ankles. His arms do run into some problems where the sculpts interrupt the articulation, but nothing too bad. His shoulders rotate quite well and he has a bit of lateral movement there too. His elbows are hinged and there are swivels, and his fingers are individually ball jointed. He can rotate at the waist and his head is naturally ball jointed too. Standing Feral Rex is quite easy, although he is ever so slightly back heavy. Nonetheless, a little tweaking gets him standing just fine in a variety of poses and while I will be displaying my Feral Cons in their individual bot modes, I wouldn’t be apprehensive about standing him in combined mode as I don’t think he’d be prone to shelf diving. With that having been said, where a $500 toy is concerned, I’d still probably invest in a support stand of some sort.

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While Rex is perfectly capable of just stomping on his enemies, picking them up and throwing them, or blasting them to bits with his shoulder cannons, he would be lacking without his extra weapons and that’s why he can combine all of the Feral Cons weapons into a giant sword and gun. Let’s start with the gun…

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It’s fairly simple to put together and it uses all the guns from the individual figures with Tigris’ being the core of the weapon. Putting it together is easy, but taking it apart can be tough because Fortis’ two guns fit together really tight. When you’re done you get a nice beefy looking cannon that mounts onto Feral Rex’s left arm and it looks pretty damn imposing. I really like the idea of Rex having a gun that still frees up both his hands, because…

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He’s also got that big damn sword! I threw in Legends Class Swerve to convey a sense of scale on this thing. By pooling together all the knives plus Leo Dux’s mace and swords you can build Feral Rex’s ridiculously massive sword. This is a vicious looking design expressing sheer art expressed in the form of giant robot cutlery. And despite it being formed from lots of knives, it holds together with no problems. With the help of some tabs and Rex’s hinged fingers he can hold it securely in either hand and holy crap does he look amazing when he’s wielding it. Between the length of the sword and Feral Rex’s bulk, shooting pictures of him with his weapon really strained the capacity of my staging and lighting area, which wasn’t built with a figure this big in mind.

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As massive as Rex’s sword is, his joints are up to the challenge. He can wield it in just about any pose I put him in without the arm dropping. I know I ragged on poor Tigris for being scrawny and the runt of the litter, but damn if he isn’t one tough little sonvabitch. His arm mode takes the full weight of that sword without even breaking an energon sweat. I take back everything I said about you, Tigris! You da man!!!

Final Thoughts:

It’s funny to look back to a point when I was struggling to get up the nerve and invest in a Third Party Transformer. Never did I imagine I’d reach a point where I was happily plunking down $100 for a Voyager sized figure, let alone $500 for a combiner team. But that’s a testament to what a fine job some of these 3P companies are producing these days and with the entire Feral Con team now on my shelf, I’m confident in placing Mastermind Creations at the top of the 3P pyramid. Sure, they may be sharing that spot with Fansproject right now, but that certainly puts them in good company. The Ferals represent everything I could have asked for in a set of Masterpiece Predacons. The individual figures are fantastic and the combined mode is stunning and inspired. It literally feels like nothing was sacrificed or compromised in delivering a great team of figures and a magnificent combined mode.

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The Feral Cons have represented a quality and well thought out product from the very beginning. Besides looking great and sporting high quality plastic, MMC designed these guys with some wonderful touches. The way the weapons interact with the figures has been fantastic and I love finding new places to stick them on and store them. These toys may be expensive collector pieces, but they are also so much fun to play with. Their transformations aren’t overly complex and never do I feel like converting them is a chore, even when I was combining them for this feature and then changing them into beast modes, and then back into robot modes. There’s nothing about manipulating them that feels scary or intimidating. They’re just plain fun.

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But if I were to pick out a favorite thing about this series it would be how unified the design has been throughout. It must be hard enough designing a single transformer, it must be even tougher making a set of combiners work, but when you can do it and actually make all the figures look like a cohesive team as these fellas do… that’s just so damn impressive to me. This set of figures represents careful planning from the start and some really deft and clever engineering.

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The last thing that I wanted to mention was how awesome MMC is as a company and the fact that they listen to their fans. From the very beginning of this series, they kept a constant eye on the way the collectors received their product. The Ferals have had some minor QC opportunities and by monitoring message boards and collecting specific consumer feedback, they addressed all these issues with each subsequent release. Some people were finding that the gears on Bovis’ elbow joints were getting flattened and so they supplied replacement parts with Fortis… and so on. Even the Completion Kit that came with Tigris was an amazing bonus as it addressed something that I doubt any fans were complaining about (filling in the hollow arm cavities), and supplied some optional parts to improve your toys and tossed in bonus weapons too. It was the last figure in the line. They already had you for $500+ dollars, but they still threw in that lovely little bonus.

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I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to do a “Favorites and Most Disappointing” list for 2014. I hate doing those. But if I do, it’s hard to imagine me not combining a top slot for Feral Rex. Looking back, I can only say that this was money well spent and I’m happy to let these figures stand in my collection as my Masterpiece Predacons. If Takara wants to take a stab at it, I’ll be happy to take a look, but it’s hard to believe that they could improve on what Mastermind Creations has achieved here. And just as a parting note, I will be revisiting the Ferals one last time in a couple of months when MMC releases the unofficial sixth member of the team… Felisaber!

 

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Feral Rex (Reformatted Series): R-04 Leo Dux (Squadron Commander) by Mastermind Creations

I’ve got two complete third-party combiners under my belt (TFC’s Uranos and Fansproject’s M3) and I love them both. So, it really means something for me to say that Mastermind Creations has been turning out the absolute best contenders in this field with their Feralcons. Bovis and Fortis are absolutely superb and now it’s time to check out their commander, Leo Dux (aka Not-Razorclaw). I split up the last two Feralcons into two features each, but I’m going to get to all of Leo in one shot, so let’s dig right in.

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The packaging is the same style we’ve seen with the previous two releases. Pay no attention to the R-04 number, because MMC has mixed up the order on these figures and Leo is indeed only the third release in the series. The figure comes in a pretty standard box with an opening front flap and a window that shows off the figure in robot form. I’m on record as not being terribly impressed with the presentation here. It’s not bad, it’s certainly collector friendly, but I don’t think the renders they use for character art do the actual figure any justice at all. In the end, I think it just comes down to my personal taste. Considering that being underwhelmed by the box art is the worst thing I’ll have to say in this entire feature, that’s a pretty good thing.

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In addition to the figure, you get Leo’s gigantic twin swords and some extra parts used for a few different things. Of course, also included are the ubiquitous profile card and a combination instruction booklet and comic book all in color. And lastly there’s a baggie of button batteries to be installed in Feral Rex’s head for a light up visor. I’m going to go ahead and start with Leo Dux’s alt mode.

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Yes, he’s a giant robot lion and a mighty awesome one at that. The aesthetic here is right in line with the beast modes of Bovis and Fortis creating a definite continuity of style. The color palette is mostly black with some yellow and red and is mostly achieved through colored plastic with some gold paint to add some zing. ZING! While he may not quite rival the chunky brute force of Bovis and Fortis’ beast modes, Leo Dux is still a beefy and powerful looking cyber-beastie. The transformation doesn’t hold many surprises and I love the fact that he doesn’t look like a robot standing on all fours and imitating a lion, like a certain other third-party homage to Razorclaw. Sorry, TFC, I calls it likes I sees it. Leo is nicely proportioned and thanks to the articulation in his legs you can get some cool poses out of him, which include everything from sitting to pouncing and running. But mostly I just like to stand him majestically. And speaking of majestic that best describes this guy’s superb lion head. He’s an angry looking kitty with intimidating red eyes and an articulated mouth that shows plenty of teeth. The mane is comprised of a series of orange blades with some snazzy gold paint on the front.

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The extra parts that came in the box are combined to complete the lion mode. Two pieces join together to fill in the lion’s breast cavity. The other parts combine to form his tail. If I had to choose something to nitpick here, I guess it would be the tail. It looks fine, but with only two points of articulation it’s very angular and stiff. Then again, maybe that’s what a robotic lion’s tail is supposed to look like.

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Leo Dux’s lion mode is rocking two laser cannons on his back, which peek out just over his mane. These can also be deployed in an elevated position to give him a better range of firepower. Lastly, you can peg his massive swords into the sockets on his rear legs to give him some side blades. I didn’t think I would dig this as much as I do. It doesn’t make much sense, but it sure does look badass. I mean, he’s a freaking lion with giant blades coming out of him. YEAH! I also appreciate the fact that, like Bovis and Fortis, you can display Leo in lion mode without any leftover parts.

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Transforming Leo Dux into his robot mode is quite straightforward and it feels just a bit easier than transforming Fortis and Bovis. In fact, the most fiddly thing about it for me was getting his lion mane packed up just right. As with his fellow Feralcons the plastic is incredibly high quality so there are no scary or precarious manipulations. When all is said and done, you’re left with an absolutely stunning figure. I literally love every little thing about this guy, from the way his lion head sits on his chest to the way the guns rise up from behind his back. And look at that head sculpt. It’s pure love. That is if love was a cold-blooded Decepticon. Leo is also a satisfyingly large figure, standing a good head and shoulders above Bovis and Fortis, and that’s not even counting his guns, which can also be angled forward into a firing position.

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Leo’s colors even out a lot more in robot mode than in his beast mode where black dominated. Here he uses a pleasing mix of mostly yellow, red, and black plastics to give him his striking deco. The shades match perfectly with Bovis and Fortis and he brings some nice matte gold paint to the table to make him distinctive. Because of all the colorful plastic, there isn’t an overabundance of paint operations, but what’s here is clean and tastefully done.

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As with Bovis and Fortis, Leo Dux makes use of all the parts in whatever mode he’s in. The tail and chest pieces all combine together to form a mace. I’ll admit, this is not the most exciting weapon, but there’s nothing wrong with it either and I give MMC points for trying. The two swords can be wielded in each hand or they can be combined together to form one big ass sword. Lastly, the back cannon can be removed and used as arm cannons if you so desire. And seeing as how Leo doesn’t come with any handguns, the option to mount the cannons on his arms is a very welcome feature.

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While I now have enough parts to build the legs and torso of Feral Rex, I’m going to keep with tradition and save that until I have a complete set. Besides, this feature has gone long enough today, so I’m going to wrap things up. Suffice it to say, I’ve been blown away by MMC’s Feralcons from Day One and here we are three figures in and this set seems to keep getting better. The quality, the engineering, and the fun of these figures all delight me to no end. I’ll go one further than that: Right now Leo, Bovis and Fortis are without a doubt three of my favorite figures in my Transformers collection and that’s saying a lot. I’m even more excited about the last two, Talon and Tigris, just because they’ll each represent unique molds and add a greater dynamic to the team.

Feral Rex (Reformatted Series): R-03 Bovis by Mastermind Creations, Part 2

Alright, I gassed on for quite a while yesterday about Bovis’ packaging and his glorious robot mode. And yet my words were inadequate. They should have sent a poet to pay tribute to this guy. Today I’ll try to embrace brevity and wrap things up with a look at Bovis’ alt mode. Time to take the bull by the horns!

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Transforming Bovis seems like it should be really straightforward. I mean, we’ve been seeing the same basic things in beast transformers for a long time now. The arms become the front legs, the robot legs become the hind legs, the animal head flips down over the robot head and bob’s your uncle. Yes, that’s still essentially what happens here, but there are just enough tweaks thrown in to allow for the superb articulation and, let’s be honest, to provide some engineering that justifies the cost and scope of the figure. I actually had to look at the instructions for this guy the first time, which is something I rarely ever have to do with my transforming robots, but once I saw what was going on, everything was easy-peasy. Nothing here is as clever as what’s going on in the hind quarters of Fansproject’s Quadruple-U, but it doesn’t have to be. What’s here is just solid engineering that works beautifully.

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Bovis’ bull mode is more compact than his robot mode, but every bit as powerful looking. As with his robot mode Bovis sports all sorts of cool little sculpted details including little vents and the mechanical joints on his little bull legs. I really dig the angular sculpt of the bull’s head, although the fact that you can see Bovis’ robot head when you open the mouth is both funny and a bit of a bummer at the same time. In fact, that’s probably the only gripe I have against the entire figure. Also, if you’re someone who’s likely to freak out over inconsistencies in bull anatomy, Bovis doesn’t have a tail.

The articulation in bull mode decent enough, but this is not a super articulated bull. The legs all have a nice radius of movement where they meet the body. They can rotate as well as tilt laterally. There’s a tiny bit of movement in the second joint down and then the hooves are ball jointed. The head can move quite a bit at the neck, the horns can swivel, and as already mentioned, the jaw can open.

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While he looks menacing enough by himself, you haven’t truly witnessed the awesome power of Bovis until you attach the massive cannon backpack to him and transformed him into a true Battle Bull. It clips on to his back, and it requires quite a bit of force until you hear that satisfying snap. It’s a testament to the quality of the plastic used here that I didn’t even feel nervous while doing it. While I tend to prefer Bovis in robot mode without the backpack, I can’t help but love it on his alt mode because it makes him look all the more formidable.

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Of course, if you want to keep piling on the ordinance, all of Bovis’ weapons can attach to his bull mode, via ports on his legs, for SUPER MAXIMUM 110% BOVINE DETRUCTION!!! Yup, when you see this guy fully loaded and coming at you, you might as well get a shovel and start digging your own grave.

I’m not sure if you can tell, but I adore this figure. To sum up Bovis as succinctly as possible: He is exactly what I would want out of the official Masterpiece treatment of Tantrum, which Has-Tak would never give us anyway. In design, engineering, coloring, and quality, he’s exactly that good. Now, at $109, some may argue that with the recent Masterpiece Autobots as a guide, Bovis runs about $20-30 higher than he would if he were an official Takara release. True enough, but I would submit to you when you toss in the weapons and the large backpack/combiner piece, Bovis is using up a lot more plastic, and that’s where the value goes. I can’t vouch for the rest of the Feral Rex team yet, but if they’re anything like Bovis, this is going to be an amazing set of figures.

Feral Rex (Reformatted Series): R-03 Bovis (Supply Specialist) by Mastermind Creations, Part 1

It’s funny to think that last year I was too skittish to order any third-party Transformers because I was so afraid of paying a lot for knock-off quality garbage. Well, the third-party transforming robots industry has come a long way, and I’ve been sampling most of the heavy hitters with a great deal of joy and success. With Fansproject, Mech Ideas, and TFC all under my belt, I started eyeing up the likes of Mastermind Creations and their glorious looking Feral Rex (aka Not-Predaking). As with TFC’s Uranos line, I was drawn to these guys mostly by their superb looking individual robot modes. On the other hand, having never owned Predaking as a kid, I’m much more excited over the combined mode this time around. The first release in this series is The Supply Specialist, Bovis, who looks enough like a certain G1 Predacon to make Hasbro have a Tantrum. See what I did there? Okdokey… let’s look at the box and robot mode today and tomorrow we’ll check out his alt mode.

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Damn, this box is heavy. It’s like a solid brick with some serious heft to it. It’s nice to know that before I even get the bubble wrap off, the weight is helping to justify the cost. The box is big, but not quite as big as the box used for TFC’s Blackbird. You get a grid like pattern on the front, which is slightly evocative of the old G1 packages and a CG model of the figure, which really doesn’t do it justice at all. One side of the box has the name of the figure printed in foil lettering, so the boxes can be lined up on the shelf. The front of the box is a flap that is held down by a magnet (classy!), which opens up to reveal a window displaying the figure in robot mode along with his accessories.

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Bovis comes on a plastic tray with a cover piece. His combiner part-slash-cannon-slash-backpack is beside him along with his arsenal of weapons. Behind the tray you get a baggie with a very nice sized instruction booklet-slash-comic book (ok, I’ll stop with the slashes) and a full color profile card. The presentation of the box is a nice effort and it’s executed with high quality cardboard and printing, but the artwork all comes up short in presenting the awesome figure that lies within.

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I don’t usually say a lot about the ephemera that the companies toss in with these figures, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. In the case of Bovis, the profile card is quite similar to what TFC and Fansproject have done in the past. The instruction booklet is actually useful, which is more than I can say for some of the other third-party robots I’ve picked up. I also like the fact that if you flip the book over the back half has a comic book that I actually found pretty enjoyable and a very nice bonus. Ok, enough with the preamble, let’s break tradition and start off with Bovis in his robot mode…

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Fansproject’s excellent Causality figures proffered the idea of “less can be more” with their smaller size and great designs. Well, MMC says, “screw that, more is more”and proves it by delivering one seriously hefty figure. I was probably grinning ear to ear when I took Bovis out of the tray and for the first time got a sense of just what an impressive figure he is. Part of that heft has to do with his size, as he easily stacks up to a modern day Voyager, and part of it has to do with him being a chunky powerhouse of a robot. The fact that the plastic is very sturdy, and of the highest quality, certainly adds to the figure’s heft as well. Either way, I absolutely love the way this dude looks and feels right out of the package. He screams quality and assures that it was money well spent.

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Bovis features that awesome boxy G1 design, but with plenty of panel lines and sculpted detail to give that extra oomf you would expect in an animated or comic book makeover. There’s a lot of particulars in the design to love, but if I had to pick one favorite thing it would be the way the silver mesh on his chest turned out. The contouring of his torso looks great and there’s even a convenient indent in the shape of a Decepticon insignia, should you happen to have a spare one lying around. The head sculpt is also fantastic, even if it does lean a bit more toward the organic comic style than the actual cybernetic look of vintage G1. It just exudes personality and works quite well for me. The yellow paint could have been a little thicker, as some of the red plastic can still be seen, and I know some collectors have reported their figure showing some paint rub on the chin while in the package. I don’t have anything like that here, but I guess it’s something to look out for. While on the subject of coloring, Bovis gets by mosty with colored plastic and some minor paint apps here and there. The coloring is pure Predacon goodness, and the use of the orange is far more welcome than the colors used on some of the earlier test shots.

The proportions on the figure are excellent for what he is. He’s got giant, powerful legs and beefy shoulders. The way the bull’s head crowns the robot mode helps to balance everything out and I’ve always loved the way Tantrum’s horns are framed on the sides of his head. This figure replicates that perfectly. I’m also quite happy with the way the beast mode’s legs all pack in securely. Bovis is a robot that wears his kibble with style and there’s nothing left to flop around or get in the way of having fun with him.

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Bovis features a great range of serviceable articulation. The arms rotate at the shouders and have some lateral movement as well. The elbows are double hinged, and swivel at the bicep, and the wrists swivel as well. The legs rotate at the hips with ratcheting joints and also feature lateral movement. There are swivels in the thighs and the knees are hinged with ratcheting joints. The feet are attached to a hinged arm with ball joints. Bovis’ head rotates and he can also swivel at the waist.

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Bovis looks like he’s perfectly capable of pounding Autobots into the dirt with brute force, but he still comes with a nice little arsenal of weapons and a bevy of ways to use them. You get a pair of pistols and a pair of knives. The pistols are nice pieces, but not overly special. The knives on the other hand… they’re fabulous. I’m not usually a big fan of having my robots wielding edged weapons, but the designs here are just too awesome to overlook. Bovis can hold the weapons in his hands, but they can also attach to his forearms or his lower legs.

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Bovis also comes with one foot and hand for his the combined mode of Feral Rex. The hand folds up nicely into the foot and the entire assembly can be used as a backpack for both Bovis’ robot and bull mode. So, if you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t like extra combiner parts lying around, or you want to make Bovis even bulkier, he can wear the foot and hand piece as a backpack and he looks damn fine doing it. Yes, it does make him a tad back heavy, but he can still stand just fine with a modicum of futzing. Bovis can also wield the backpack like a giant cannon. The foot alone gives us a wonderful sneak peak at what’s to come. It’s larger than your average Autobot Deluxe car, suggesting that Feral Rex is going to be a beast of a gestalt mode. But we’ll save all that for when the team is complete.

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Ok, I’ve gone pretty long just gushing about Bovis’ robot mode, but it’s kind of hard to contain myself. I’m seriously in love with this figure, and we haven’t even seen his alt mode yet. I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about his transformation and we’ll see how he looks in his beast mode!