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By Thomas Wheeler

Some characters look good in white. You'd expect an astronaut action figure to wear white. Clone Troopers look good in white. Most heroic Gundams have a predominance of white on them. Even Megatron, one of the biggest villains in the toy world, is mostly sort of an off-white.

Then there's the latest version of the HALO Master Chief figure, from the mega-popular XBox video game, by way of Joyride Studios. Previous versions of this figure have included a rather traditional army green, a red figure, a blue figure, and a special mail-order clear version. The newest incarnation has armor panels that are sort of an off-white. So, how's he look?

Darned impressive. If George Lucas had hired a few thousand of these guys to play the Clone Troopers, the Separatists would've surrendered on the spot.

I'll admit, I've never played the HALO video game. I do not own an XBox, I doubt my computer could handle the PC version, and I'm terrible at video games anyway. But I've never heard anything but very positive things about the game, and certainly there's no denying the popularity of the concept. Video game, action figures, a series of paperback novels. I'm sincerely surprised there hasn't been a movie. And the sequel game comes out this fall.

But, I know a cool-looking design when I see one, and there's something about the Master Chief's high-tech armor suit that manages to be both fantastic and plausible at the same time. It looks mean, it looks ready for a fight, it looks like it can stand up in a fight -- and it also manages to look like something the United States Armed Forces would develop if they had the budget for it.

There's something a little more futuristic about the off-white version of it compared to the other colors. Granted, the Star Wars comparison is inevitable. When one thinks of an armored soldier dressed in white with black trim, you're going to start thinking of Stormtroopers, Clone Troopers, Biker Scouts, whatever. Fortunately, that gleaming gold-chrome visor immediately sets the Master Chief apart from anything LucasFilm ever came up with.

I also know a good action figure when I see one, and the Master Chief certainly qualifies. After getting some early kinks out that resulted in rather loose parts on both the green and red Master Chiefs, and I'm not buying Joyride's denials in a response to an e-mail inquiry I made to them that they didn't do anything, the blue and now the white Master Chief have very tightly articulated parts. Might almost be too tight. I recommend some level of caution in initial movement.

However, once you've got the stiffness out of his joints, you'll find that you have a truly superbly-made action figure in the Master Chief. He stands about 8 inches in height, is very sturdily built, excellently articulated, not at all pre-posed, and he looks darn cool and can assume any number of action poses.

The newly-released white version comes with a futuristic rifle, but also a very cool and highly-detailed flamethrower, which I am told is an exclusive to the PC version of the game. At the risk of making yet another Star Wars comparison, this contraption looks like somebody stripped down a miniature Speeder Bike. It also looks like an entirely plausible device that could torch just about anything that got in its way. The detail is superb, even including a number of decorative and instructive labels, the latter of which are moderately legible, although the type size can probably be measures in microns rather than points.

This is the second to the last of the original Master Chiefs, and the last one expected, a black one, may be an online exclusive. After that, we get the HALO 2 Master Chief, who fortunately does not look that drastically different from the original. The design is an upgrade -- not, thankfully, a total reworking. The makers of HALO know they have a good design that there's no reason to mess with extensively.

As for the new white Master Chief figure, if you're any sort of HALO fan, or even just someone who appreciates a well-made action figure, then I most definitely recommend a visit to your local GameStop, Suncoast, or Software Etc, and ask them for the HALO White Master Chief! You will enjoy him!