Tuesday 19 January 2016

REVIEW: Maketoys MTRM-03 Hellfire

I'll admit that I'm still a relatively new Maketoys convert. Whilst others have faithfully followed the company for years and over dozens of releases, I only hopped on board with the recent advent of their RE:Master series, featuring figures clearly designed to sit alongside TakaraTomy's own Masterpiece line. Still, despite not having much in the way of history, I can honestly say that I've quickly fallen for their releases so far. I found the first in this line, Cupola, to be nothing short of an absolute joy, so much so that he ended up as my favourite third party figure of 2015 (which, of course, you will know if you've read my review of 2015!). I have also been a big fan of the other releases so far, including Visualizers and both their versions of a G1 Hound in the form of Gundog. So, I was naturally very excited to be given the opportunity to say a few words about Hellfire, their homage to a G1 Inferno.

I should mention that this excitement also comes from several other factors. First, he transforms into a fire engine. This might sound obvious enough, but despite having never had any romantic childhood ambition to be a firefighter myself, there's always been something that I've found rather fascinating about their choice of vehicles, and particularly models and toys thereof. Secondly, I love the original G1 toy of this character. For whatever reason (perhaps the love of fire engines!), he was a particular childhood favourite, and my 1980s copy still exists in hand to this day, and in relatively good condition where others have met a worse fate.

So, yes, I was pretty thrilled when Maketoys initially teased Hellfire, although we have of course seen two other Inferno homages unveiled by rival companies since, with X-Transbots releasing renders of their own Dante (great name!) soon after, and Mastermind Creations also throwing their hat in the ring with Backdraft, part of their Ocular Max spin-off series. With three Inferno offerings on the horizon, how then does Hellfire fare as the first out of the gate? Thanks to Kapow Toys, let's find out.

I should stress right away that the figure I have in hand is a production sample, and so should be very representative of what fans can expect on release, though of course there may be one or two differences. I was lucky enough to get a look at the packaging however, and good thing too as it's really rather lovely.

Surprisingly, this is bigger than Cupola's box!

I particularly like Maketoys' boxes, especially how they seem to homage the official line's own packaging with the choice of design and colours, and their lack of windows showcasing the figure itself in favour of a dynamic photograph. Inside it's also quite familiar, with a plastic tray containing the figure itself and of, course, the accessories, though there are only a couple to speak of. Hellfire comes packaged with a black handgun, highly reminiscent of the G1 toy's, and a silver missile that can be placed on a peg on his wrist in place of his hand in order to replicate the appearance of both 'toon and toy.

Both of these weapons are perhaps somewhat expected, though that's no bad thing. I suppose part of me would like to see Maketoys attempt a few additional or more unusual accessories with their non-Masterpiece figures, outside of the typical guns and weapons. Part of the joy of the official line for me is the inclusion of little homages to the G1 cartoon, such as the mini-Blaster that comes with MP-25 Tracks, or MP-21 Wheeljack's anti-hypnosis device (even if it was an exclusive), and it would be great to see something like that here. However, I'm not complaining!

The final release will also come with some alternate faces (more on that later) though they were not included with the sample I had to review. I did get a set of instructions (which is always nice), and they are well laid out, clear and very easy to follow.

Now, before I begin properly, I should confess that most of my robot mode photos have the white 'wings' on either side of his head positioned the wrong way round. In truth they should be swapped so that the rounded part is on the inside facing upwards. I don't think many would notice, and I certainly didn't when the figure came packaged to me in this way (hence the photos!) but it became apparent during transformation.

Straight out of the box the first thing I will say about Hellfire is that he is big and chunky, but in a good way! I was quickly struck by his seemingly impressive size, though a later examination proves that he's arguably smaller than he appears (more on that later, too!). He also possesses a noticeable heft, the weight of him in hand letting you know that there's clearly some use of diecast afoot. Fortunately, it seems to be well applied, too, being reserved for sensible areas such as the feet, giving him a good balance.

The other thing to notice straight away here is how striking he is to the eye. There's no getting around it - that's a lot of red! Fortunately, it's also a very pleasing shade, and the plastic and paint used here is really rather lovely, and very shiny. It means that Hellfire looks incredibly attractive in hand, and not just on first impressions. I find myself regularly turning to look at him, and can't help but say that I'm quite enamoured with how glossy he is. Beautiful.

It helps that there's some very attractive detail going on here too. It's a lovingly finished figure, partially because of the smaller touches that have been included in the design such as the attractive silver bumper & headlights, or the colourful paint apps on the hips, but also because there are whole sections without too much detail, most notably the cab section that of course forms his torso in this mode. Where so many figures suffer from an excess of detailing to the point of feeling overdone, Hellfire retains a pleasing simplicity in a lot of his overall look, and it really works well. It's also aided by a good match between bare red plastic and painted clear plastic sections, only really noticeable if you go looking for them.

Can you see the difference between the red plastic and red paint?

Attractive silver detailing

Well-applied paint apps

Nice detailing, but not overdone

The ladder can be removed, but it's not the cleanest back view if so

It's not just the lovely details and finishing touches that help Hellfire to be a treat for the eyes though. He also cuts an impressive silhouette and is really quite striking even from a distance. Inferno as a character always had a rather bizarre robot form, with the signature hood made up of the rear ladder section of his vehicle form, and the notably oversized feet. Personally, I'd say Maketoys have done a great job at translating these proportions to a pleasing robot mode form here, though I can see that some might consider him rather chunky from certain angles in hand. His cab torso is bigger than might be expected, for example, and the pictures I have posted on-line have already had a few comments from Chinese fans which, at least according to Google translate, tell me that they think the figure suffers from 'edema', a condition of swelling of the feet! Still, regardless of what anyone else might think, to me it really works, and there's no mistaking those proportions as being anything other than highly representative of Inferno!

Who said I have big feet?

Yep, that's Inferno all right

It's perhaps also worth mentioning that the ladder is very easy to remove from this mode should you so wish, giving those looking for more of a cartoon-accurate look a definite option. Then of course there's the ability to fold away one of his hands and replace it with the silver missile, not to mention the black hand gun, all of which gives you some great and varying display options.

What's the onomatopoetic word for that sounds that Transformers hands make when the slide into the wrist, I wonder?

Can also be split in two and stored away in vehicle mode

"I'm always ready for action!"

His dynamic figure is aided by some wonderful articulation and tight joints, with everything feeling really nice and sturdy here. He also boasts an impressive range of motion, including: a ball-jointed head capable of looking up, down and all around; two points of articulation at the shoulders, with nice, tight ratchets, double-jointed elbows and wrist swivel; hands which feature just one point of articulation, with the fingers being moulded into a single moving piece; ratcheted hips that are very moveable, coupled with very good knee swivel and ball-jointed but very sturdy ankles. All of this adds up to an surprisingly articulated robot that, along with good balance and tight joints, means that you should have no trouble pulling off some great poses!

So far, so good. However, there is one point about this release that has already proven rather controversial, and I feel I must comment on it here too, and that's the head. Now, I don't dislike the head at all. Far from it, actually. The problem is that we tend to expect a healthy dose of cartoon accuracy with our Masterpiece-styled releases these days, and the choice of design for head and face here are seemingly a bit of a departure from that, appearing to be more of a G1 toy homage than some might have expected.

Now, to be fair, Inferno did have two distinct designs of his head in the animation. In his first appearance as well as many subsequent times, he sported a head that was much more akin to his G1 toy design, with a single middle crest and yellow 'vents' on either side. Perhaps this is what Maketoys were going for, and the head on Hellfire could be considered animation accurate after all? It's certainly not a million miles away.

From The Insecticon Syndrome - more similar to the G1 toy and perhaps the inspiration for Hellfire?

From Auto Beserk - perhaps how most people think of him in the animation?

Now I'm probably in the camp that always imagines him looking like the second picture above, to be honest, and that is also how his standard animation model appears. As I say, I do like the head on Hellfire as is, though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't have much preferred a design more similar to how I imagine him. It would at least have been a good option to provide an alternative head, such as KFC saw fit to do with their release of Transistor, and I can't help feel that this would have kept all fans happy. I know that ultimately this is one point about this figure that will simply put a lot of fans off, sadly. Still, I've no doubt that collectors who prefer a distinct skew towards a G1 toy look will be very happy here, and it's certainly a decent looking head in itself, in my opinion.

Of course, the production figure will also come with the aforementioned alternate faces, though judging by the on-line reaction to these so far, I'm not sure they will do much to win over those fans who already don't like the standard face. I will add that as much as I like the default option, I didn't miss the alternative options when they weren't included with the sample I received, personally speaking!

The official Maketoys photos showing the alternate faces that will come packaged with this figure on release

So, we have a cracking robot mode which does an excellent job at referencing the intended character, though with a somewhat divisive design for the noggin. All sounds good for the most part, but of course the real test is how Hellfire compares with figures from the Masterpiece line and other third party supplements. Perhaps the best place to start is taking a look at him next to his ol' buddy, MP-14 Red Alert. I have to say that there's a couple of combinations of specific characters that are always going to be a delight to see realised in figure form (another recent one being MP-12 Sideswipe and Sunsurge, Badcube's homage to Sunstreaker), and glimpsing Inferno and Red together is absolutely one of these. They just work together really well. Joy.

"Pitch in, Inferno, or do you want me to do it all by myself?!"

Otherwise, Hellfire works similarly well when placed alongside the rest of the usual suspects, and I personally had a particular thrill from seeing some of the superstars of the 1985 line-up all dutifully stood next to one another. Whilst I know many fans have a soft spot for season 1 of the original cartoon, the second season always holds more nostalgic significance for me personally, so this was a great moment.

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

With some of the season 2 Autobot cars, including MP-25, MP-14, and MP-19

1985 represent! Also seen here with KFC Transistor and FansToys Tesla

"Inferno! Help me, Inferno!"

Hellfire makes for a hell of a robot then, but let's crack on and see how he fares in that all-too-exciting fire engine mode.

I wasn't truly sure what to expect from Hellfire's transformation, especially after Maketoys' figures have varied from the surprisingly complex (Cupola and Visualizers) to the 'sort-of-expected but still with a slight twist' shenanigans of Gundog. Well, I can honestly say that this figure is refreshingly simple. In fact, it really does transform almost exactly how you will expect it to if you've ever handled the G1 toy.

That's not a bad thing, of course. I'm a big fan of intricate and even fiddly transformations (yep, I enjoy Sunsurge!) but there is always something to be said for those conversions that can be done simply and effectively without too much brain power being required or indeed beads of sweat rolling down your forehead. Ultimately, Hellfire is satisfying and detailed enough to be fun, but not so much that it will put anybody off.

It's not without some surprises however, and I was interested to see how the head separates from the rear ladder section in a clear divide to the G1 original, for example. There's also some very clever engineering at play to allow everything to line up and tab in securely and just so. It's a trait that I admire of Maketoys' designs, and Hellfire does not disappoint in this regard. The resulting vehicle mode is secure and pleasingly solid.

Overall, it's a transformation that I enjoy quite a bit, and one that I intend to repeat with my own copy of the figure on many occasions.

What a beauty! I mentioned that I was a fan of fire engines, and Hellfire certainly is a joy to beholdin this mode. The glossy red makes it really very eye-catching and a lot of the smaller details really shine through here too. I'd actually say that bar the slight suspension of disbelief that's required when looking at the positioning of the robot mode arms, this does a good job at being a decent model fire engine, regardless of also being a robot in disguise, with its charming rubber wheels, attractive paint apps, and intricate moulded detailing all helping to seal the deal.

Like the robot mode, this gives off a remarkably familiar feel of the G1 toy, and it has to be remarked that they're really quite similar in many regards, outside of a few well-placed panels to cover up some of the seams and robot mode bits. As I say, it's not perfect, but it is really good, and looks pretty impeccable from just about any angle, for the most part.

It's hard to look at this guy and not make siren noises, I admit...

The ladder section is really well done here too. Whilst it's a shame that the base of the ladder section cannot rotate, I still think the ladder is excellent overall, and the moulded details are really very good. It extends twice over to have a very impressive reach, and adds quite a bit of play value.

Yep, that's a long ladder!

It's also worth noting that this mode works excellently with some other figures, and most notably MP-10's Spike, in my opinion. Just look at them together!

"Be careful, Spike!" "Shut up, Chip!"

Fireman Spike to the rescue!

There's some nice little touches in this mode too, including storage for both weapons. The silver missile splits into two (not an easy task, mind you!) and stores away on the inside of the vehicle mode itself during transformation, and the gun can be mounted on top, just underneath the ladder. All welcome details.

He does also have moulded seats inside the cab, although perhaps that's less successful in terms of scale...

So, a great looking vehicle mode, and no mistake, but how does it fare next to those of similar figures? Personally, I think it works well, and as with the robot form this mode looks nothing shy of superb riding next to Red Alert. The prominent reds and whites just complement each other so well!

Like a dream come true

I think these guys will spend a lot of time in this form, in my house!

I also think he really adds something a bit different in a line up of other Autobot vehicles, being quite a bit bigger than an Autobot car but obviously somewhat smaller than the likes of Optimus. For me, this works well, although of course those fans who would prefer a sense of vehicle mode scale are going to once again feel a little disappointed. However, as with the official Masterpiece line, it's robot mode scale that has been prioritised here (though arguably Hellfire is actually not undersized, rather it's the cars that are too big, but that's a debate for another time!).

Works for me...

...and looks great in action!

Is he really too small?

1985, roll out!

Truthfully, I can't say enough nice things about this mode, and I've actually find myself leaving Hellfire transformed like this for a lot of the time that I have spent with this sample. When I do eventually pick up this figure for myself, I can see that he and Red might be on patrol quite a bit!

So, there you have Maketoys Hellfire. Perfect? No, but it's still a undeniably top notch figure that is really sturdy, solid, colourful, fun and very attractive to look at. The robot mode head might be a turn off for some, the vehicle mode scale for others, but overall I think this guy is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a Masterpiece-styled Inferno, especially as the first out of the gate and with the excellent quality that many of us expect from a Maketoys release.

Yes, there are other options on the horizon for this character, but one thing is for certain - Hellfire is no placeholder, and anyone choosing Maketoys' release as their answer to the so-called "Inferno wars" is unlikely to be disappointed.

For me personally, he does a cracking job of reminding me of a good old friend from another era, and for that reason if no other, he has a place in my collection.

What's HOT?
Hellfire is a fun, great looking and well built, sturdy figure. Both modes are pretty great and there's plenty of play value to be had. A worthy Masterpiece-styled Inferno.

What's NOT?
The head sculpt is fine, but not to everyone's tastes, and it would be nice to have an alternative for both his cartoon looks. Also, the wings are kind of irritating.

Riding alongside a much loved old friend...


  1. Great work, Sixo. I wasn't even looking at Hellfire before, but now I'm really interested.

    1. Thanks, podleian! That's really kind. He is a great figure, no doubt. Really solid effort by Maketoys.

  2. thanks for your review. Your pics are fantastic! Nice write up, a proper review, preferable to the clumsy, hamfisted videos on youtube.

    1. Thank you very much! I do try to be as comprehensive as possible. There's more on the way soon!

  3. Great review as always. Does he have any diecast parts and how is the heft?

    1. Thanks very much. He does have diecast, most notably in the feet. He's pretty hefty, I would say!

  4. Hi I'm new here. I have a question make someone can help me with. How many inches is inferno. I want to get unique toys version of blur and he's 21 1/2 inches and looks great with carry. Out of all the infernos coming out maketoys looks the best IMO. How would he scale?

    1. Hello! Thanks for reading. I did a quick measurement and Hellfire is about 8.5 inches in total in height, but that's to the top of the ladder section in robot mode. To the top of his head he's just under 8 inches. Hope that helps!