Debuting on March 29, 2012, G.I. Joe Retaliation represents a grittier and more realistic take on our beloved G.I. Joe franchise. While Cobra will be wielding more and more fantastic weapons, the Joes find themselves more grounded in reality than ever before. Gone are the Accelerator Suits and the Howlers and in their place are standard weapons and El Caminos. (Yes, you read that last part right.) However, that’s not to say that G.I. Joe team isn’t using some cutting edge tech of its own. Making its debut in this particular film is a vehicle dubbed the “Tread Ripper”—a small mini-tank that looks like it is the little brother of an early Cobra HISS tank. This swift little number hearkens back to the days of the Armadillo mini-tank—but is based on a real world vehicle! Dubbed the “Ripsaw” and built by Howe & Howe Tech, this feisty little tank will make a splash when it hits the big screen. However, it is worth adding to your G.I. Joe collection? Read on and find out one Joe fan’s opinion!
The design team at Hasbro has proven itself to be remarkably adept at reusing parts and molds to create a seemingly endless variety of new figures and vehicles in recent years. For example—if the Tread Ripper’s chassis looks familiar that’s because it was previously used as the Pursuit of Cobra HISS Scout vehicle! Part of the incredibly elusive wave 3 Alpha assortment this tank never really got a proper mass retail release. As such, I’m linking over to friend of JBL GeneralsJoes.com for their review. (I was never able to find one…) It would seem that the Ripsaw was very much on Hasbro’s mind even before Retaliation began filming—as the Howe & Howe Tech vehicle is clearly the inspiration for this tiny HISS tank. Seeing an opportunity, Hasbro took that same vehicle, removed the turret, and developed a new roll cage to fit over the previously-exposed pilot’s compartment. The end result is a vehicle that is just different enough from the HISS Scout that it doesn’t feel like a budget-saving cop-out.
I’ll say this right now—fans looking for a vehicle that is 100% accurate to what has been shown on screen should probably look elsewhere. As depicted in the film, the Tread Ripper is a significant vehicle and is much larger in scale than the alpha class vehicle released by Hasbro. Prior to purchase, take a look at an Armadillo mini-tank. If you think of the Ripsaw as a faster update to that classic piece, then you won’t be disappointed. Whereas the cinematic Tread Ripper takes on the new Cobra HISS tanks with ease, this plastic version would find itself in more of a “David & Goliath” scenario. This tank is tiny—and really is better classed as a small Alpha vehicle than a larger Bravo scale. Its small size also makes it a bit restrictive as the Battle Kata Roadblock figure finds himself unable to fit into the pilot’s seat due to the width of his large gimmick holsters. Other than that, the size isn’t a detriment but I find myself really classifying this vehicle as fitting into the lowest of the vehicle price points.
In terms of firepower, the Tread Ripper is more than adequately armed to take on most of Cobra’s medium-sized arsenal. A giant chain gun is mounted center behind the back of the pilot’s compartment while a large projectile-firing cannon is located to the left. There is a small platform on the back with a tiny foot peg, allowing for one passenger to ride… uh… hold on for dear life while the Tread Ripper flies into action. Whereas the Armadillo always seemed to be a slower and more stable mini-tank the Tread Ripper looks as though it could tear up the landscape with relative ease. The real world inspiration for this vehicle was initially an unmanned ground vehicle that moved in such a way that would loosen the stomachs of even the most hardened troopers. However, the folks at Howe & Howe Tech have introduced manned versions that have been compared to a Baja dune buggy! So, the arsenal of the Tread Ripper works for what it is—a fast-moving forward attack unit. It is important to note that while the chain gun retails a full range of motion, the missile launcher can bump into the auto-gun when rotating side-to-side. Also, both of the weapons mounts need to be rotated to the side in order to open the pilot’s roll cage.
Okay, this is the downer part of the review—the pilot. For the G.I. Joe Retaliation line, Hasbro tried a new tactic. Faced with rising production costs overseas, the company was faced with a choice—either remove the vehicle driver entirely or include a figure with reduced articulation. The folks in Pawtucket chose the latter tactic and so this version of Clutch is introduced into the G.I. Joe brand. The sculpting on the figure is pretty fantastic—with some nice detailing in the design that evokes images of modern Navy SEALS and Delta operators. In fact, the head sculpt alone would be enough to make this figure a winner in the eyes of most Joe fans. It’s the articulation, however, that ultimate torpedoes this version of Clutch and sends him sinking to the bottom of a spare parts bin. With a whopping 5 points of articulation, Clutch is on par with the Star Wars figures that I abandoned as a child for more well articulated G.I. Joe line back in 1982. Now, I can see some of the logic behind this decision even if I don’t really like the results. Packaging the Tread Ripper without a driver diminishes the initial play value of the product right out of the box unless an additional figure is purchased. If the pilot of the vehicle is to spend most of his time in the cockpit of the vehicle, then why does he need the extra articulation in the first place? I can’t fault the logic but in many ways I’d rather that Hasbro opted not to include the Clutch figure and merely dropped the price point a few dollars. As he’s sculpted, he doesn’t stand well at all w/o the aid of a figure stand and therefore will see VERY little use in my collection.
One last detail needs to be pointed out and that is the design of the included decals. The Tread Ripper is apparently co-sponsored by the Arashikage clan as their familiar hexagram is found all over the tiny tank. (There’s even one just inside the pilot’s compartment.) There’s also kanji characters found on most of the decals underneath the label “G.I. Joe”. I’ve not idea if this is meant to be a translation of the team’s designation or a series of nonsensical characters used for flavor text. Either ways, it’s a bit odd. However, it’s worth calling attention to the sticker that goes on the back of the missile launcher. Just look at the image below and appreciate the fact that someone in Rhode Island has a real sense of humor.
So, at the end of the day is the Tread Ripper worth your hard-earned dollars in this current economy? I’d have to say “yes” but with some reservations. First off, I found myself surprised by just how much I like this tiny little battle tank. It’s got some nice detail and play value for something so small. The quality of the plastic, like much of the Retaliation line, is noticeably softer than that of previous Generation 3 G.I. Joe vehicles and so it feels much lighter than you’d expect. The driver is a bit of a disappointment if he’s removed from the vehicle’s cockpit and so can detract somewhat from the overall value when compared to other 25 th reissues. Where I find myself really hesitating is on the price point. Yes, I realize that prices have gone up dramatically all across the economy in the past few years and that is especially obvious in the toy industry. A few years ago we were paying $5.00 for a 25 th Anniversary figure and now G.I. Joe Retaliation figures are $9.99 most places. I snagged the Tread Ripper for around $15.00 and that feels a bit high. Had this piece been priced closer to $9.99 it would have been regarded as a steal! The higher price point is the one factor that really gives me some pause when recommending it. So, my advice is to wait for any kind of sale on Retaliation items and then snag this little mini-tank right away. It’s a pretty sweet modern update to the slot once filled by the Armadillo.
End result: A fun little tank that’s priced a bit high. Hold off for a sale and then add it to your collection.