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By Thomas Wheeler

A while back I reviewed the MASTER CHIEF figure from Joyride Studios, the central character in Microsoft's hit video game for the XBox system, HALO. This game remains highly popular, and has given rise to a number of spinoff products, including a series of paperback novels as well as this growing toy line. It is rather unusual for a video-game-based toy line to have this sort of endurance. One friend of mine commented that the toy line had taken on a life of its own. He may be right.

Since that time, the figure has been released in several more color variations, all of which can be selected in the game. And more are on the way. And some corrections have been made to the figure.

The biggest problem was with the articulation and assembly. The first Master Chief figure I picked up was not only misassembled somewhat, it had preposterously loose articulation. I'm not precisely sure what corrections Joyride has made, but these problems have gradually been corrected.

I acquired a replacement "green" Master Chief figure. The shoulder pegs were larger, as they needed to be, and the torso was correctly assembled. Some aspects were still a little loose, but not intolerably so.

Interestingly, a friend of mine who purchased a Red Master Chief had the problem that the articulation was so TIGHT that when he moved an arm it snapped right off. He was able to get a second one, and although the arm didn't break off, he says it is still very tight and he's almost afraid to move it.

Since the original green figure and its sequel, the figure has been produced with a predominantly red color scheme, blue, and a mail-order exclusive all in clear, called "Active Camo Master Chief". This one proved somewhat difficult to acquire, but I did so.

The clear one has some serious articulation problems, especially in the ankles, but I am inclined to chalk this up to the type of plastic used. It was also still smeared with a lubricant that most toymakers use in order to more easily pop the completed plastic parts out of their molds. Think of it as the toy world's equivalent of "Pam" cooking spray. It's not often I have to give an action figure a bath, but in this case...

Apart from that, the transparent Master Chief figure is very cool. I do know that they've completely sold out now, but can occasionally be found on-line. Good luck.

The red and blue Master Chiefs are more recent releases. Red has almost sold out and was apparently a popular color choice. Blue turned up in early March and I saw it in fair abundance at stores like Suncoast, Gamestop, and Software Etc.

It's a good figure. Obviously all the Master Chiefs use the same molds. Blue, the most recently released, has the tightest articulation yet. I e-mailed Joyride Studios to ask them if they'd made further corrections, but was told that they had not. They suggested that perhaps there was something in the nature of the blue plastic that somehow allowed for tighter articulation. Or maybe I just got lucky with this one for a change.

The figure is excellent, even if you don't own the game, which I don't, as I do not have an XBox and my computer would not be able to handle the memory needs of the PC version of the game. The overall design of Master Chief looks like what you'd expect a future soldier to look like, somehow. As for an explanation into Master Chief and the HALO concept, I quote the following from the back of the package card:

"Born for battle, bred for war, humanity's last hope for survival in the face of the deadly Covenant onslaught is the warrior known only as "The Master Chief."

"A product of the secret SPARTAN-II project, the Master Chief is the ultimate soldier, trained from an early age in weapons, tactics, and command. He is augmented with a neural interface that connects him to his MJOLNIR MARK V Assault Armor - power armor that costs as much as a small starship - giving him superhuman strength, stamina, and AI capabilities.

"The Chief is a master of all weapons, human and Covenant, and an adept pilot of all vehicles, from Warthogs to Banshees."

And he's also the charater you play in the game, obviously. Occasional articulation problems aside, the figure is very sturdily made and superbly well detailed. And even though some of the articulation can be a bit loose, it's also very extensive. Head, shoudlers, swivel-upper-arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, swivel knees, and ankles. About the only detriment in articulation is that the legs move forward and backward but not outward very far, but the design of the armor suit would've made this very difficult to accomplish and still keep the look of the character intact. It's a very solid 8-inch piece of plastic action figure that looks good in any of its color schemes, and the gold-chrome visor on his helmet is a nice added touch.

There are two more color versions soon to be available. A white one, expected in May, and a black one in August. The white one looks like a Master Chief crossed with a Clone Trooper. I didn't say that was a bad thing. He looks very cool, actually. After that, the video game HALO 2 is expected, and with it, new action figures. I'd guess Master Chief is getting the Mjolnir Mark VI armor. The designs I've seen still look like Master Chief, just a little more advanced. Not intolerably so, like a certain main character from Kingdom Hearts I could mention...

There are other action figures and items in Joyride's HALO collection, but I'm sticking with the Master Chief, and certainly recommend him to any fan of the game, or anyone who likes well-made futuristic soldier action figures. You can see some of the other HALO merchandise at