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REVIEW:
HALO 2 BROWN, TAN, AND CYAN SPARTANS
By Thomas Wheeler



I'll admit I've never played the video game HALO 2. I would need an XBox or an XBox 360 for that, and I own neither. I'd also probably need substantially better video game skills than I possess, and not even buying one of these game units can do much about that.

But I do know a cool sci-fi design when I see one, and the Master Chief/ Spartan design of armored soldier for the HALO concept, overhauled somewhat but not unrecognizably for HALO 2, certainly qualifies.

And, I certainly appreciate a decently-made action figure, and the HALO 2 SPARTAN figures from JoyRide Studios certainly qualify for that. That's why I've made it a practice to round up each differently-colored version of the Spartan from each assortment, and as many of the special editions as possible.

I should emphasize that the HALO 2 action figure line is not limited to Spartans. They do a wide range of other troopers and aliens, but these are generally nowhere near as articulated as the Spartans, and some of them are pretty repugnant, too. Since I don't follow the game all that closely, and since my finances are limited, I've made the decision to keep my Halo collection to the basic Master Chief and Spartan figures.

The background information for the Spartans is all pretty much the same, and reads as follows, from the package back: Spartans technically are part of the Spartan-II project. They are genetically, biologically, and technically enhanced fighting units, standing seven feet tall and weighing half a ton in their armor. Their reflexes are unmatched, with strength and endurance quite unlike any other human, and their tenacity is molded by a lifetime of conscripted military training. Spartans are proficient in all current ballistic weapons and tactics, incursion, and modes of unarmed combat, and have extensive experience with Covenant military tech.

The figures stand almost precisely 8 inches in height, and come with a variety of weapons. Unfortunately, the figures are not that easy to find. Setting aside the fact that some of them are exclusives to some rather obscure locations, they're not distributed to most conventional outlets. Only Toys "R" Us, of all the major retailers, carries Halo figures, and even then very sporadically. You won't find them at Wal-Mart or Target. If you're very lucky, you might find them at Suncoast or Hot Topic, but even they're not terribly consistent. Your best bet, unfortunately, is getting them online. I'm never entirely comfortable with this with regard to any toy line, since it means buying "sight unseen" and there's always the chance you could wind up with a defective toy, and a real pain in the keister doing anything about it.

I recently obtained three new Spartans from an online store. And that reason is the first of the Spartans I want to review:

BROWN SPARTAN

Talk about a figure that almost didn't make it. This version of the Spartan was originally intended to be an exclusive released through Musicland outlets, which would have included Suncoast, Sam Goody, and Media Play stores. But it never turned up. It was supposed to be out around Thanksgiving of last year, but it never showed. I started attributing this to the fact that the parent company had been having some financial problems, but I still expected it to show up at some point, but it never did.

Fortunately, a friend of mine clued me into the fact that for reasons never entirely explained, the Musicland company had declined the Brown Spartan. Fortunately, an online store, which had previously carried the exclusive Pink Spartan, was willing to take on the supply of Brown Spartans and sell them through their Web Site. Their prices are reasonable. Shipping notwithstanding, which wasn't that bad, this figure didn't really cost me any more than it would have in the stores, had it ever shown up there.

The photographs I saw online were a little deceptive in their color. They made this figure look more like a medium tan than an actual brown, but I'm pleased to say that this Spartan definitely qualifies as brown.

These Spartans are superbly well articulated, with ball-jointed heads, and articulation at the shoulders, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. It's also a sturdy figure. There's no real need to worry about breaking an articulation point.

These are the product of a fairly small company, so sometimes an occasional glitch can happen. A Purple Spartan I obtained a while back has rather loose leg articulation at the hip. But for the most part, this sort of thing is the exception rather than the rule. These figures do have the unfortunate habit of having very loose wrist articulation, but to a degree, I think this is the result of the figure being strapped into its package holding a weapon. It probably puts a strain on the articulation joint.

The Brown Spartan is described as coming with a Plasma Rifle, SMG, and Magnum. One of these weapons is a very alien-looking piece of equipment. This is not unusual for these figures to come with this sort of weaponry. I suppose if you're out on the battlefield, you're going to use whatever you can get your hands on, and if that's something weird like this, as long as you can pull the trigger, so be it.

All Spartans have an insignia on their shoulder and back, indicating which division they're a part of, I suppose. A lot of the Spartans these days have several "variants" to choose from, but I'm not about to get that crazy about them. I'm not sure they did multiple versions of the Brown Spartan, but in any case, the one I have has a certain amount of tan trim on his uniform, and his insignia is a white sun with a yellow center. Quite nice, actually.

TAN SPARTAN

Here's another one whose color in online pictures was a little deceptive. Maybe I need to adjust my monitor, although frankly, the photograph on the actual package card is a lot paler-looking than my figure is, so maybe there was a last minute adjustment to the color. He looked like an extremely pale tan, almost like whitish beach sand. Not implausible, perhaps. I suppose even Spartans need a vacation once in a while. Still, walking around a beach in full armor...! But in fact, the figure is more of a standard tan, almost a goldish-tan. Not bad at all for a desert environment.

The Tan Spartan was one of the general-release figures, part of Series 6 of the Halo 2 toys. These did turn up at my local Toys "R" Us, but too late to do me any good. I missed him. I went in there one day and all that was left of the assortment was a "Red Elite", a really ugly alien critter (though not as bad as some), and I knew I'd missed the Tan Spartan. And then I got word that Series 7 was starting to turn up, and I realized that I'd really missed the Tan Spartan, so I ordered him right along with the Brown Spartan.

The Tan Spartan, unfortunately, shows one slight defect that it becoming too commonplace in the toy world. There's a noticeable mold crease in the front of the helmet. This is caused when the plastic that is used to made these toys is not heated up to a sufficient liquefying degree, and therefore when it is pressed into the mold, it doesn't go in quite as fully as it should.

Apart from this, the Tan Spartan is an excellent figure. And very nicely suited for the desert environment in which I myself reside, and there's not a lot of toys that this can be said about (consider the number of arctic troopers vs. the number of desert ones in G.I. Joe, for example).

The Tan Spartan is also very well equipped. He comes with a Shotgun, Rocket Launcher, and Plasma Pistol. One of these is one of my favorite weapons that has turned up before, just because it's such a huge (and well-detailed, as are all of the HALO weapons) piece of hardware, with the letters "SPNKr" stamped on the side. This can, if properly thought out, make for a pretty funny word when you consider the weapon.

I know there are multiple versions of the Tan Spartan out there, with regard to the trim color and insignia. I'm actually very pleased that the one I received has a measure of yellow trim, which I think is well in keeping with his desert colors. His insignia appears to be a wasp, which unfortunately is also in keeping with the desert environment. We've got some pretty big ones around here, and if you're not careful and vigilant, they'll build a nest in the underside of your porch roof.

CYAN SPARTAN

I'd just put the money together for the Brown and Tan Spartans, when Series 7 of the Halo 2 figures, which included the new Cyan Spartan. **Sigh**. Okay, I could scrape together a bit more money, and I figured it was worth it to catch up on all of my Spartans at once. So I ordered a Cyan Spartan from them, too.

"Cyan" is technically the shade of blue that most printers use. Sometimes you'll hear about "four color" printing. Or you'll notice that your printer cartridge has three colors of ink in it (not counting black). We conventionally call these Red, Blue, and Yellow. They're the three primary colors of the spectrum. Blend two of them equally, and you get the secondary colors - Orange, Green, and Purple. Throw White and Black into the mix and anything's possible.

But technically, "Red" and "Blue" aren't precisely the right names. They should be "Magenta" and "Cyan". Cyan is the Blue. It's a Blue that has absolutely no influence from red or yellow or anything else whatsoever. It's a pretty intense blue, too.

Now, certainly the Cyan Spartan is a very intense blue - especially when he shows up in a package with a couple of relatively subdued-colored figures like the Brown and Tan Spartans. But I don't think he's really a true Cyan. He looks more like a medium turquoise to me. But "Turquoise Spartan" doesn't really sound all that impressive, and there's already been a "Blue Spartan" a while back, which was a rather dark blue that looked almost like that particular Spartan was working for Cobra.

So, we'll go with Cyan. It's not a bad name, anyway. And the figure is still a very intense color. It's one of those colors that doesn't quite process well through digital photography. The color picture I took of this figure actually looked a little washed out compared to the actual figure. Interestingly, the picture looks more like an accurate Cyan than the figure does...!

It's definitely worth mentioning that I didn't notice any significant mold creases in the head of this figure. Maybe the color of plastic used is a factor in this. I can pretty much tell that the plastic is injected from the back of the head, so if there's a problem with the plastic, it is, unfortunately, going to be the front of the head the suffers. But I don't really see any problems here.

The Cyan Spartan comes equipped with a Beam Rifle, SMG, and Plasma and Frag Grenades. The two grenades look distinctly different. One looks pretty much like a conventional grenade. The other one looks a like a Pokémon ball with attitude.

But the really impressive weapon is the Beam Rifle. Looking distinctly alien in origin, it's a large, triangular-shaped device that is clearly new to the Halo weaponry arsenal. Very cool!

As with most Spartan assortments these days, there are multiple color and insignia variants. Again, I'm very pleased with the one I received, which has red trim, and an insignia that looks like a sword, pointed down, with two red wings on either side. The inverted sword almost looks like a Christian cross.

 
The HALO 2 line has far outdistanced the original HALO line as far as color variations are concerned. Along with the traditional military-green Master Chief, there have been Orange, White, Red, Blue, Pink, Purple, Steel, Brown, Tan, and Cyan Spartans, as well as a Clear one (or "Active Camouflage") that was a San Diego ComiCon exclusive that I doubt very much I could afford even if I could find one. There were also a couple of colors incorporated into a "Battle Damaged" series, exclusive to GameStop, that I didn't bother with. These included White, Teal (looks a lot like the Cyan), and Yellow (looks a lot like the Tan).

Series 8 will feature a reissue of the military-green Master Chief (for those who might've missed it in Series 1 -- and maybe they'll have tightened a few articulation points.) It also comes with a really ugly little alien thing - and some guns.

Another Web Store lists a Series 9, scheduled for an October release, but that's not the most reliable place for future information. Joyride Studios had nothing, and didn't provide any details as to who might be in the assortment. I've also heard rumors of a Series 10.

And I think we're getting fairly close to HALO 3 being released from Microsoft, which will likely mean another (hopefully mild) revision to the look of the Master Chief and the Spartans, and quite probably an all new action figure line from Joyride Studios.

In other words - sooner or later - here we go again...

Meanwhile, I certainly recommend the current Spartans from HALO 2, and the BROWN SPARTAN, TAN SPARTAN, and CYAN SPARTAN are all excellent additions to the collection!