There can certainly be no question that the HALO franchise is one of the most popular video game series of the modern day -- and I maintain that this is not a thing easily accomplished. The video game world today is as diverse and extensive, if not moreso, than television, movies, or perhaps even music. For anything to rise above that cacophony is nothing short of incredible. And yet, HALO has done so.
The third game in the series, HALO 3, emerged a while back. Halo 3 holds the record for the highest grossing opening day in entertainment history, bringing in $170 million in its first 24 hours, going on to gross $300 million in its first week. More than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. As of January 3, 2008, Halo 3 has sold 8.1 million copies, and was the best-selling video game of 2007 in the U.S.
The Halo 3 game features vehicles, weapons, and gameplay not present in previous titles of the series, as well as the addition of saved gameplay films, file sharing, and the Forge map editor; a utility which allows the player to perform modifications to levels.
Halo's story centers on the interstellar war between 26th century humanity, led by the United Nations Space Command, and a collection of alien races known as the Covenant. The player assumes the role of the Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced supersoldier, as he wages war in defense of humanity, assisted by human Marines as well as allied alien Elites led by the Arbiter.
Halo 3, like its predecessors, is set in the fictional Halo universe, taking place during the year 2553. According to the backstory, humans developed faster-than-light travel (using a Fujikawa-Shaw engine attached to a regular space shuttle) and colonized hundreds of planets before encountering the alien Covenant in 2525. The Covenant declared humanity an affront to their gods and began destroying human colonies by turning the planet's surface into glass. Despite efforts to keep the Covenant from finding Earth, a Covenant fleet discovered humanity's homeworld during Halo 2. By the beginning of Halo 3, the Covenant have arrived in full force on Earth, with most human resistance crushed.
The titular 'Halo' refers to massive ringworlds several hundred kilometers in diameter that are scattered across the galaxy. These rings were constructed thousands of years ago by an enigmatic race known as the Forerunners as a weapon of last resort against the parasitic alien species known as the Flood. When activated, the seven Halos would destroy all sentient life in the galaxy, thereby depriving the Flood of its food. The ringworlds were activated once in the distant past, and the Forerunners are believed to have perished.
Halo 3's protagonist is the Master Chief, a cyborg supersoldier who is one of the last surviving members of the SPARTAN Project, and one of humanity's greatest warriors.
But, if you're going to have a multi-player environment -- you're going to have to bend that rule a bit. Although there is technically only one Master Chief, who wears olive green armor, there's been no real shortage of Spartans over the course of the games, who wear virtually identical armor to Master Chief, just differently colored.
Interestingly enough, for the first assortment of Halo 3 figures, the main colors available of those other Spartans has been, patriotically enough, red, white, and blue. But you'll only find the Blue Spartan at Wal-Mart.
I confess, I almost missed him. I didn't really expect these figures to blast out of the stores as quickly as they did. These days, action figures just don't do that. Let's face it -- it isn't the 80's anymore. The days when the average toy store or even department store had several aisles dedicated to action figures, and the shelves were lined with heaping assortments of the likes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, MASK, and other cool stuff, are long in the past. As are the days when the new stuff shot out of the store as quickly as it came in.
These days, if a department store has one aisle devoted to action figures, it's considered well supplied, and even the new stuff tends to not be too hard to get, even if it's got a new movie backing it up. So really, when I first saw the Halo 3 figures on the shelves, including the Wal-Mart exclusive Blue Spartan, I more or less assumed I'd have a decent amount of time to get him.
Now, I'll be honest here. I've never played Halo -- any of the versions. In the first place, I don't own an XBox 360. In the second place, I'm pretty terrible at video games. On the rare occasions I have played video games, I've sent so many characters to their untimely deaths that I almost started to feel guilty about it. I mean, come on, the characters have the skills to win this thing -- I'm just no good at getting them to use them! I suspect if I tried Halo, I'd last about as long as it would take for some alien something or other to turn my armor into recycled soda cans.
Better I should stick with the action figures. At least that's something I understand. And I certainly know a cool action figure when I see one. Now, I originally had in mind to try to round up a fairly complete collection of the Spartans. At this point in time, I don't think that's going to happen. Between general scarcity and the number and even greater scarcity of the various exclusives, it's just a little too much. But, I imagine I'll pick up the occasional Spartan or equivalent here and there, and I look forward to reviewing them as I do.
McFarlane has done a good job with these toys. They're solidly made, certainly extensively articulated, and at just about precisely 5" in height, they're a somewhat more agreeable size than Joyride's 9" figures, for those with limited display space who would like to pose a decent number of Spartans. Seeing as how this line has already been planned out through its third series, with a growing population of armored warriors including no shortage of new exclusives, that's probably a significant factor for those intending to snag every one they possibly can.
The Blue Spartan is pretty much identical to the Master Chief -- except obviously he's NOT Master Chief. The blue of his armor is a fairly dark blue, with the only distinctive colors beyond that and the black "undersuit" being the gold visor on the helmet, and yellow stripes on the upper right arm and upper right leg, with the Roman numeral "VI" in them, for "Mark VI Armor", which is the designation of armor these Spartans wear.
Interestingly, the back of the package actually shows a RED Spartan. Not too surprising since this blue one is a Wal-Mart exclusive, but it also states, "Swap Helmets with other Spartans", and shows not only the Mark VI Spartan, but also the CQB and EVA versions. The CQB helmet is shown to be Blue. Whether ALL Blue Spartans were Wal-Mart exclusives I really don't know. This first series has vanished so quickly there was literally no opportunity for me to check. The other two colors shown are White and Red.
Let's discuss articulation. It's really excellent on this figure. The package boasts "18 points of articulation", but that's almost a misnomer when you consider the range of motion that these areas of articulation have. The Blue Spartan is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and foot-fronts. However, all of these areas have a considerable range of motion, most of which is quite well concealed by the figure design. In this, the Spartans remind me a lot of Hasbro's Star Wars Clone Troopers. The very design of the character as portrayed in its original source material allows the toymakers to incorporate a considerable level of articulation without it being as evident as it might be on a figure with a different look. The design allows the articulation to be well-worked in and almost concealed.
I will say that I would not move this figure harshly or forcefully, especially on some of his finer points like his wrists. This really isn't an action figure that you want to hand to a six-year-old and let him tear through the playground or backyard with it. It looks and feels sturdy, but there are likely some fragile points on him, starting with the wrists, and possibly a few other areas.
The Blue Spartan is somewhat weathered in appearance, a practice I don't usually approve of, but given the level of battle these guys see, it's not really inappropriate, and given the heaping levels of weathering and dirtying McFarlane Toys has put on some of their previous toys from other concepts, it's positively subdued in comparison here, and really doesn't do much more than highlight the armor panels. And certainly the overall paint detailing is excellent and precise. Some of the smallest areas, little slots in the armor, have been given a bit of color, mostly light blue. A lot of other toy companies probably wouldn't even have bothered.
The Blue Spartan comes with a fancy, futuristic, but not at all implausible-looking Assault Rifle, as well as several grenades, including a few that are so small that I recommend the immediate implementation of a Ziploc bag to keep them preserved.
So, what's my final word on this figure? Very impressive. The Blue Spartan is well-designed, well-made, well-articulated, and darn cool looking. I doubt very much at this point you're going to find one actually at Wal-Mart., even taking into consideration at least one shipment of straight cases of JUST Blue Spartans. It's been several weeks since my nearest Wal-Mart's toy department even had shelf-tags for Halo figures, and a basic check at three other Wal-Marts recently revealed the same situation. You'd never know they even carried the line. Still, there's always the secondary market.
McFarlane Toys has done an overall excellent job with this Halo 3 line,
and certainly it's proven to be massively popular, and I would expect
it to continue to be over successive assortments. Meanwhile, assuming
you can find one, the HALO 3 BLUE SPARTAN definitely has my recommendation!