The ever-famous pioneer of the Alternators line, Smokescreen ushered in a new age of Transformers toys with surprising alt-mode accuracy before the Bay movies took to the silver screen. Transforming into a Subaru Impreza WRC, this is a highly detailed figure, and actually resembles our modern-day Masterpiece Autobot Cars in a lot of aspects.
Smokescreen in robot mode actually sports a lot of his vehicle mode kibble and parts in traditional areas, such as the “wing” doors on the back and the hood of the car forming his chest. In that respect it’s not terribly original, but the figure’s charm comes from its rather complex transformation into a wholly accurate 1:24 model-esque car.
One of his more interesting features is the head sculpt – not gonna lie, it’s kind of off-putting. He just looks so…mad. I have to give credit for the paint apps on it though – I’m liking how clean the eyes and gold head crest look.
The figure comes with the one accessory – a tiny little blaster that actually folds into his car engine (more on that later). In all respects it’s very well molded and has some excellent detail. The handle has a tiny circle peg that allows it to be secured into the hands.
He has a pretty good grip on the weapon; it’s not prone to falling out or anything. Smokescreen has a fairly good range of movement (nothing too fancy; you can generally see what he’s capable of in the photos) but with just the one little pistol, there’s only so much fun you can have with it.
One tiny complaint I have with the design is the cumbersome and not-so-very versatile legs; since they’re made up of pretty much the entire rear end of the car, they’re rather…cumbersome.
And after a rather complex transformation sequence, we have what looks to the ordinary passerby like an ordinary 1:24 2003 Subaru Impreza WRC (albeit with some seam lines here and there).
The amount of decals and markings on this figure as a whole is probably one of its most endearing aspects. I’m digging the decals on the windows and bumpers and such – everything to make the thing faithful to its real-world counterpart. What’s also impressive is that these markings seem to be very well applied – they don’t scratch off too easily, actually making light play a feasible option for picky collectors.
Not gonna lie, this is a very detailed and impressive vehicle mode. I’m honestly quite impressed Hasbro and Takara were able to achieve this level of engineering back in 2003, while our modern Masterpieces being released in 2013 aren’t far off (yes, they are more advanced, but not necessarily by a decade gap in technology).
As shown above, all four doors of the car mode open, and the interior of the front cabin is actually there – dashboard, steering wheel, seats – everything.
You get a slight trunk-lift; not much. The seam line that runs down the entire back-end of the car is a slight eyesore, but it can be overlooked. Tires are also all rubber.
Hood opens up to reveal the gun folded into the engine that I mentioned above. The same peg that helps it attach to the hands pegs into the engine bed under the hood, making for a secure fit.
Another really interesting feature/gimmick on the car is the use of a magnetic axle underneath to help parallel turning of the front wheels. In practice, it’s not particularly effective (there’s not really enough room to have the wheels move much) but the concept is there.
The two wheels have a plastic piece with a magnet inside them, and move together via a black rod with magnets at the end that slides sideways under the body. A pretty cool feature, but unfortunately slightly gets in the way of transformation sometimes.
Apparently the Alternators line was designed with 1:24 car model kits in mind. They’re precisely that scale, and clearly designed to fit in with your average non-transforming plastic car collection. Too bad the Masterpiece line is a little smaller in scale, otherwise he would’ve fit right in too.
And because I’ve been juxtaposing this figure with the modern Masterpiece line this entire review, here’s a comparison shot with Masterpiece Prowl. Their body make-up is remarkably similar, no? As I mentioned in the beginning, Smokescreen has a very traditional body make like many Autobot biped forms. Prowl is clearly much cleaner in hiding his vehicle kibble and sports a more compact look, but they’re not too far off from each other.
So at the end of the day, I gotta say – for a dated figure (2003) this, along with the entirety of the Alternators line, is still a pretty worthwhile collection to keep around, even in light of the more advanced Masterpieces being released. The scale and detail of the figure should also be a good hook for those who build and collect model cars.