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REVIEW: TARGET EXCLUSIVE HALO MARK V SPARTAN
By Thomas Wheeler

It's funny, but for the longest time, Target didn't seem to want to carry the massively popular HALO action figure line from McFarlane Toys, based on the also hugely popular series of HALO video games. Walmart had them, Toys "R" Us had them, Kmart had them, even stores that don't normally specialize in toys had them -- Spencer Gifts, Hot Topic, GameStop, Border's -- and many of these outlets also had exclusives.

But -- not Target. Not until recently (as of this writing), anyway. Finally, someone persuaded Target that it might be a good idea to start carrying an action figure line that was pretty well blowing out of every retailer that did carry it, that had a wide range of exclusives, some of which weren't even available in the United States, and had also presented some interesting exclusives at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Halo seems to mostly turn up at those larger stores designated "Super Target". Much like "Walmart Supercenters", these are Target stores that also have an extensive grocery section. However, you won't find the Halo figures in that area. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I personally have no problem whatsoever trying to get as much of my shopping done in one place as possible, and if that means putting meat, bread, fruit, cereal, action figures, and maybe a couple of Hot Wheels cars all in the same grocery cart, so be it. Fine with me.

And it seems that when Target finally decided to start carrying Halo, they decided to go with it all the way -- with an exclusive! Not so long ago, the idea of a Halo figure package having that long, round-ended, red and white "Only at (Target bullseye logo)" sticker on it would've been thought of as impossible. But -- here it is!

The figure in question is a relatively new addition to the ranks of the Spartan-type action figures, even if the Spartan designation itself isn't especially new within the world of Halo. Target's exclusive Halo figure is a MARK V SPARTAN. This is notable due to the fact that most Spartans these days tend to be variants on the MARK VI. I wouldn't worry about it too much, though. You put this much high-tech armor on a highly-trained soldier, he's still going to be able to take names and kick @$$ even if he's not wearing the most advanced suit out there.

I was able to track down a decent amount of information on the MARK V SPARTAN armor, with a little help from the Web Site known as "Halopedia".

The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor/Mark V was the fifth version of the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor. The suit was issued to SPARTAN-II Commandos and members of Noble Team on November 24th, 2551 and was in service until October, 2552, when it was replaced by the Mark VI.

First produced in 2542, the Mark V was built to advance the MJOLNIR system and improve its effectiveness in combat against the Covenant. The Mark V MJOLNIR powered assault system contained hundreds of minor technical improvements over the Mark IV, as well as two major breakthroughs. The first being a major overhaul of the suits crystalline layer. Woven by molecular tools into a superdense optical computer memory, and sandwiched between the external armor and the internal padding is the reactive metal liquid crystal layer. This revolutionary crystalline layer forms a network, capable of supporting the kinds of artificial intelligence usually reserved for warships, a piggyback system. At the same time it is still amorphous, yet amplifies force, doubling lifting capability and increasing reaction time by a factor of five. Unfortunately the system is so reactive that normal human beings cannot use the suit without injuring themselves.

The synthesis of an artificial intelligence with the human brain is not possible without an upgrade to the user's standard Neural Interface. This specialized version of the neural lace is issued to all SPARTAN-IIs before they can interface with the Mark V. Like the standard Neural Interface the specialized neural lace translates electrochemical signals to digital code and routes them through an interface connection at the rear of the skull. Through this interface, the user's thoughts command the armor's movement and weapons; and input from the on board sensors comes directly to the user's mind. In addition an A.I personality and processing matrices can be carried by the armor and delivered to the suit via the specialized neural lace and on board storage in a crystal data chip no larger than a personal credit card. Without the armor, a SPARTAN's reaction time is charted at twenty milliseconds; with the Mark V, and a A.I installed, the time translating thought into motion is rendered almost instantaneous.

The second major breakthrough is the addition of a self-recharging energy shield system, reversed engineered from Jackal Point Defense Gauntlets, which repel objects and energy bursts plus any other hazardous elemental energies. While impacts on the shield place a substantial drain on the system's power supply, the system's energy regenerates once the user is no longer under fire. However, the adaptation of the shield covering the entire body weakens the magnetic field, making the Mark V's shield system vulnerable to ballistic fire.

The suit also possesses other upgraded features that enhance its wearer's abilities. It has numerous magnetic holsters for the attachment of additional weapons, equipment and ammunition packs; an upgraded Heads-Up-Display (HUD) linked to sensors that project shield strength, an improved motion detecting system in addition to providing other numerous readouts, including allies health and shield status.

In its final phase the MJOLNIR battlesuit weighs half a ton, or 1000 Lbs and when in use, is a fully neural-linked system. With an on board A.I using the human mind for parallel processing, the SPARTAN-II/MJOLNIR combination is designed to be the most devastating intelligence tool ever created.

John-117 was the first Spartan to test the MJOLNIR Mark V with a Smart AI implemented within the armor during a "live-fire" combat scenario. His test was to ring a bell after going through an obstacle course. This course involved 10 ODSTs, a minefield with Lotus Anti-Tank Mines, three automated 30mm chainguns, a forest of wooden poles, and an unexpected Skyhawk Aircraft utilizing four 50mm cannons and Scorpion Anti-Tank Missiles. This test showed that AIs could improve the armor's reaction times.

John-117 is better known to HALO fans as the major playable character in most of the HALO video games, "Master Chief". The armor's notable characteristics are as follows:

Helmet: The MJOLNIR Helmet is one of the most vital aspects to the MJOLNIR system. It is made of Titanium and contains key features like a Heads Up Display that links to the brain and hands, and can identify equipment and display information about it when it is picked up by the wearer. Another feature is the direct neural interface system which connects to a SPARTAN-IIs neural implants. Two core processor chips are implanted into the subjects skull in the rear of the head. This is essentially comparable to an on board computer using parts of the human brain for processing, when the connector at the rear of the subjects head and receptors in the brain link to the helmets on board sensors it creates the neural link needed to move the MJOLNIR suit. The helmet also contains other equipment to protect and aid the user in hostile conditions. This includes: filters to remove toxins from the atmosphere, a supply to provide air to the wearer during EVA, thermal and motion sensors, communications, solar-powered lighting, and imaging and video gear. The helmet also contains the A.I housing, where a ship-borne A.I chip is inserted, located on the back of the helmet.

Titanium Alloy Outer Shell: The outer shell of the MJOLNIR armor is comprised of a fairly thick titanium alloy. This plating covers the chest, arms, hip, legs, calf's, feet and hands. This alloy is very resilient, can take significant punishment, and is nearly impervious to small arms fire. While enough shots from armor piercing rounds will breach the outer shell, the suit can take a few glancing blows from them without compromising the armor. The outer shell of all the MJOLNIR suits is covered with a refractive coating to help disperse the heat experienced from Covenant energy weapons. However one or two direct hits from any Plasma weapon will compromise the armor plating.

Titanium Nanocomposite Bodysuit: Sandwiched between the external armor and the internal padding is a thick black armored bodysuit. This suit has numerous functions, small but vital to the safety and survival of the wearer. The bodysuit is made of a titanium-based material, making it very strong and yet very flexible. It also serves as another layer of protection against ballistics attacks and is coated with a heat resistant material to disperse heat from Plasma weapons.

Hydrostatic Gel: Underneath the armored bodysuit is a gel-filled layer, this gel layer regulates the temperature of the suit and can reactively change its density to conform to the wearer's shape, the temperature inside the suit is controlled by the moisture absorbing cloth suit underneath the hydrostatic layer. The hydrostatic gel layer can also be pressurized to various levels to potentially save the wearers life should the wearer be subjected to high G forces or a high velocity impact; however, over pressurizing this layer can cause nitrogen embolisms.

Reactive Metal Liquid Crystal Layer: Liquid crystal forms the inner structure of the suit. This reactive metal increases the strength, reaction time, mobility, speed, and all around physical performance of the SPARTAN-II. The suit's artificial intelligence is supported by this layer of crystal, knitted together at a molecular level and fitted in between the outer plates and the inner padding. This type of computer memory is usually outfitted on a warship and as such this layer accounts for over eighty percent of the MJOLNIR armor's cost of construction and materials.

Magnetic Weapon Holder Strips: Available on the Mk. IV, Mk. V, and Mk. VI, the magnetic strips are very small yet powerful magnets placed on the legs, waist, and back of the suit and is used to hold any equipment with a magnetic property. The suit also contains a magnet system within its boots that allows its wearer to stay attached to a metal surface in Zero G environments and can be toggled on or off by the wearer.

Shields: First used on the Mk. V, and later refined on the Mk. VI, the energy shield device is reverse engineered from Covenant technology. Beginning in 2532, forty scientists and technicians would spend the next 20 years attempting to make some use of the technology. For decades the attempts at cracking their technology had met with failure after failure; some had given up and others in the scientific community believed the energy shield technology could never be cracked. However at some point before 2552 a breakthrough was made and for the first time the UNSC had successfully cracked and improved upon the technology.

Pressure Seal: The Pressure Seal is a vital component to the MJOLNIR system; it keeps the system airtight underwater or in space. The seal is very strong, only breaking under extreme pressure, such as in a high velocity impact or when the Hydrostatic Gel has been over pressurized.

Biofoam Injector Port: The biofoam injectors on the Mark V is a port where a direct supply of biofoam or other medicines, must be administered from a standard military first aid kit when the wearer is injured, as the suit does not hold or generate its own supply inside the suit.

Fusion Reactor: The fusion reactor is the most essential part of the MJOLNIR system, as it provides power to all equipment used by the armor, the reactor is built into the suit and allows for nearly unlimited movement. The fusion reactor in all versions of the MJOLNIR armor are half the size of a normal fusion pack that conventional marines carry around.

Force-Multiplying Circuits: Located throughout the armor, these systems boost the force applied by the user. They make hand-to-hand combat easier, but also make the armor difficult to adjust to; a slight motion can be translated into a potentially harmful one if not conducted correctly. For this reason it is only possible for Spartans to use this armor, as their strengthened bodies are able to withstand the increased power and speed of movement, which, in un-augmented human bodies, results in broken bones or death due to spasms caused by the pain of broken bones.

Reactive Circuits: Reactive Circuits are systems directly linked into the Spartan Neural Interface. They amplify the wearer's reaction time by connecting directly to the thoughts of the wearer, making it much easier to control and allowing for the soldier to be both more efficient and have a higher survival rate in combat.

Power Supply Control Unit: The Power Supply Control Unit controls the power supply of the armor.

The Mark V armor first appeared in the game HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED.

So, how's the figure? Very impressive, really. And I think that whomever -- whether it was McFarlane Toys or Target -- that chose the color scheme for the Target exclusive figure, chose very well. The figure is wearing mostly white armor -- in and of itself a relative rarity within the Halo action figure world (although it's been used a little more recently), but also gave the figure some extensive red trim. This not only matches Target's own color scheme, but sets this particular Spartan apart from most of the others, which tend to be very distinctly ONE color of armor, with maybe a stripe or two of a secondary color, mostly denoting the Mark VI logo. There's a lot more red on this white armor than that.

The body used for the Mark V Spartan is the same body used for all Spartan figures, which in this case may not be entirely accurate. However, it's nevertheless an impressive overall design, so I can't really find fault with it. What we have here is no Clone Trooper, despite the color scheme in this instance. The armor is far more intricate and detailed, looks generally more rugged, and this is certainly reflected in the action figure.

The really evident armor is white, with a black, somewhat armored undersuit. Sculpted detail on the entire figure is excellent, and the paintwork is generally neat, although it is possible here and there to discern where some detail has likely been painted by hand rather than through a proper stencil. The white areas of the armor have black lines in them, giving the armor -- well, not quite a weathered look, but not quite right off the assembly line, either. Normally, I detest this practice. On the Halo figures, it works better than on some other lines, although as one might expect, it's particularly evident on the white.

The helmet is a distinctive design, and this is what really sets the figure apart as belonging to the Mark V series. Although at first glance, the helmet looks very much like Master Chief's -- and in a sense is -- it is categorically NOT a match for the Mark VI Spartan. One look at the modern Master Chief figure or any other Spartan wearing the same standard Mark VI helmet is proof of that. Both the Mark V and the Mark VI had an almost cap-like brim over the gold visor. But the Mark V has a somewhat bulkier look to is. It definitely looks like a less-advanced iteration of the Mark VI. It's still cool, though. The paintwork on the helmet is excellent, especially the gold visor, something that I have seen messed up from time to time on other Spartans, and given how bright a gold it is, any slip-ups here tend to be pretty glaring.

The red trim on the Mark V Spartan really sets him apart. As I said earlier, additional color trim on most Spartan figures tends to consist of a band around the arm or leg with the Roman numeral "VI" in it, denoting the Mark VI armor. Obviously, that wouldn't be appropriate here. So, the Mark V got a little more decorative. The top of the helmet, the shoulder pieces, the hops, and the knees are all red. Additionally, a portion of the backplate is red, and there is a red diagonal stripe painted on one side of the chestplate. All of these armor color details have been nicely painted. The stripe is especially precise.

The Mark V Spartan boasts "26 moving parts" on his package, and there's no question that the figure is well-articulated. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows (with a swivel), wrists, mid torso and waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees (with a swivel), ankles (with a swivel), and the fronts of the feet. The figure is sturdy and well assembled. However, I do recommend caution with the wrists. These are fairly narrow and can be a little fragile, especially if you get a figure whose wrists are a little stuck. Extreme care should be used in loosening these areas. I am fortunate in that my Mark V Spartan had no stuck parts, not any that were excessively loose, but it can happen.

Accessorywise, the Mark V Spartan comes with a very distinctive rifle-like firearm, the likes of which I've never seen before among the Halo figures. I assume it was made specifically for him. It looks like a nastier version of the rifles that were used in the movie "Aliens", for lack of a better term. It is superbly detailed, greenish-grey and black in color, and has the number "06" and the word "Galilean" imprinted on either side, along with a dark red stripe. I'm not entirely sure what this gun might be capable of, but I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.

So, what's my final word here? Well, first off, congratulations to Target for seeing the light and finally bringing Halo action figures into their stores. It's not often that a video game concept is able to rise above the electronic miasma that is the video game world these days, and reach beyond that original source into other realms, such as comic books, novels, action figures, and so forth. Halo has unquestionably done this. And for their first exclusive, Target certainly got a winner. The Mark V Spartan is a very cool figure that has not seen extensive use or variants (yet, anyway), and the color scheme is both distinctive and befitting its retailer.

Any Halo fan would be very pleased to add this cool figure to their Spartan collection. The TARGET Exclusive HALO MARK V SPARTAN definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!