REVIEW: Square Enix HALO 4 Play Arts Kai
Spartan Series Shines With Cool Kai Look...
HALO 4 Play Arts Kai are available at Square Enix's newly launched North America Online Store.
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When Bungie relinquished the reins to HALO, many longtime fans feared the worst. 343 Industries, however, quickly put those worries to rest with HALO 4, one of the most visually stunning and "human" games in the series. The same could be said for Square Enix. Collectors were initially concerned that an overseas toy company associated with making action figures based on Japanese games could deliver the goods on a triple-A Western title. After getting my hands on their HALO: Reach Play Arts Kai assortment (read our reviews HERE and HERE), I'd say Square Enix excelled at their endeavor - producing some of the finest HALO figures ever produced. With their new HALO 4 Play Arts Kai series, Square Enix raises the bar even higher.
Split into two waves, HALO 4 Play Arts Kai consists of four 9-inch tall figures. Series 1 stars the franchise's fearless hero Master Chief along with a blue multiplayer Spartan Warrior. The just released Series 2 includes the Spartan Ops character Sarah Palmer and a Spartan Soldier donning red multiplayer armor. Depending on where you buy these, each figure ranges in price from as low as $59.99 to upwards of $69.99. HALO 4 Play Arts Kai are available for purchase now directly from Square Enix, or through many fine retailers, such as BigBadToyStore.com, ToyWiz.com and AlterEgoComics.com.
Where the Spartan action figures from HALO: Reach featured a more down-and-dirty, drab military look, HALO 4 Play Arts Kai shines with a polished, high-tech futuristic aesthetic. This is immediately evident on their armor, the HALO 4 Spartans sporting an almost metallic sheen. I'm a fan of both looks, but I must say that the HALO 4 figures really pop on display with their high gloss paint jobs. The Spartan Warrior screams this the most with his blue and silver color scheme. You almost have to do a double take to assure yourself this figure isn't made of die-cast metal. Cool metallic paint applications aside, it's Square Enix's deftly applied micro insignia that truly elevate these figures to a new level of realism. Spartan military logos adorn strategic locations on each figure, from their chest plates and vambraces, to their ankles, knees and thighs. Sarah Palmer's emblems strike me as the most attractive here, the use of vibrant orange logos contrasting nicely with her gunmetal steel armor.
Equally awesome is each Spartan's unique armor sculpt. Master Chief dons Mjolnir Gen 2 Mark VI Powered Assault Armor, a tweaked version of his now iconic green duds. The most noticeable change is the newly designed shoulder pads that teardrop down on each arm. Other slick details include his refined helmet with highly reflective gold visor and the veteran splash of battle damage across his chest plate. My favorite of the bunch is the Spartan Warrior. While an early multiplayer unlock (SR-8), his ultra-slick helmet design remains one of my top choices in Team Deathmatch. Sarah Palmer brings a Scout class variant to the battlefield, her sleek tapered headgear another favorite helmet design of mine. I also like her more robust retangular shoulder armor plates, a more meaty military look that I find the other Spartans (and HALO 4 armor designs in general) lacking. Lastly we come to the Spartan Soldier. A SR-15 multiplayer unlock, the Soldier's odd skull-like helmet design doesn't rank high on my list, but I do appreciate his chunkier armor frame. Spartan armor is all a matter of personal preference, something the game - and Square Enix - provide fans with plenty of options. While the four different armor colors would make it difficult to do, it would have been a neat to allow collectors to swap armor parts with other figures in the series. Perhaps a custom build-a-spartan figure could be arranged for a future release? One can always dream.
Half of what makes a HALO Spartan is his armor. The other half is his kickass arsenal of weapons. While there are no grenades this go around, Square Enix does arm each figure with a primary weapon and a sidearm, along with a set of swappable hands to fire them. Master Chief packs his trusty MA5D Individual Combat Weapon System, better known as the Assault Rifle. Like his armor, the Assault Rifle is a HALO trademark that still retains it's iconic profile, despite a few modern tweaks. MC also sports a Covenant Plasma Pistol. The Spartan Warrior strides into combat with my personal fave, the UNSC BR85 Heavy-Barrel Service Rifle, or Battle Rifle for short. While the DMR is my weapon of choice in multiplayer, the Battle Rifle has a way cooler profile and was an excellent choice for an action figure weapon. The Spartan Warrior, as well as the remaining two figures in this line, also carries a Magnum Pistol. Sarah Palmer must be the marksman of the group as she carries a UNSC Railgun. It's a great design, but heck if I can ever get a kill with it in-game. Finally we have the Spartan Solider armed with the only other piece of alien tech: a Promethean Suppressor. I really dig the look of this gun and I'm glad Square Enix got it made. I only wish the line received more Promethean weapons, such as a Boltshot in place of a few Magnums (three figures with it is slightly overkill, especially with so many weapon designs to choose from).
Each weapon features an incredible sculpt and is cast in some nice dense plastic. Each weapon can also be stowed on the figure when not in use, something that has its pros and cons. Using a peg and hole system, each gun can firmly plug onto the figure in one of three spots: Both thighs are reserved for the sidearm while a hole on the figure's back allows you to mount the primary weapon. The downside is that the peg used to attach the weapons is permanently fixed to the weapon. This certainly makes plugging the weapon onto the figure a breeze, but having this long peg jutting out of the gun when being fired is, to be brutally honest, UGLY. I'm not sure why Square Enix ditched the option to have the peg be removable. Their HALO: Reach figures had that feature and it worked just fine. It's the one glaring fault I have with this otherwise stellar series of HALO 4 figures, a problem that could have easily been avoided.
Lastly we come to articulation, a subject I really shouldn't have to mention. Play Arts Kai practically defines amazing articulation. Ball and swivel joints abound on each figure and almost all of them are ratchet joints - meaning that no matter what pose you place the figure in, it's staying in that pose. Click, click, click. I LOVE that sound. Despite the ability to move a Play Arts Kai into countless display poses, the articulation in the series has had two minor things going against it. One, the ankle joints on some figures had a tendency to be slightly loose. Not by much, mind you, but enough to where a figure could lean over and fall. The second - despite allllll those points of articulation - there were still some poses you could not display the figure in. Two obvious examples include having the figure "fly" or doing a drop kick. You could bend the figure into the pose, but it was always frustrating that you couldn't display it that way. No more. First announced at Toy Fair, ALL Square Enix figures starting with HALO 4 will include a display base. Not only does this add great value to the figure's purchase, but now collectors can rest easy knowing that their figures will never fall over. They can also strike some killer poses. The display base, cast in a translucent plastic, requires some minor assembly. Snap the arm into the base, pop on the adjustable arm to the desired height, and attach the small or large waist clamp. The adjustable clamps assemble via a small nut and bolt, something Square Enix helps you along with by providing a small plastic ratchet tool. Pretty clever!
As previously mentioned, unsightly weapon pegs are the ONLY issue I have with Square Enix's HALO 4 Play Arts Kai action figures. A small issue in the grand scheme of things. I thought the HALO: Reach Kai were amazing when I got them back in 2011. The kind of amazing that you simply can't imagine things getting any better. And while they are still great figures, the HALO: Reach show their age when compared to the HALO 4 Kai. Not only are the new HALO 4 Kai slightly larger (about a half inch taller - a good thing in my book), but the figure sculpts are just so much sharper and defined. The addition of a display base is just a remarkable gesture on Square Enix's part. It show's that the company is listening to their fans. And at almost $70 a figure, the added display base softens the blow with added value. Bigger figures, better detail, same amazing articulation, bonus base... Play Arts Kai just keeps getting better and better. If you're an avid fan of HALO like I am, this latest series of Play Arts Kai will knock your socks off.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Square Enix