Sunday, 2 February 2014

Perfect Effect PE-DX03 Warden Review

Back in the 80's, Hasbro released a Transformers toy that I could not get my hands on for love nor money. It joined a list that included such mythical figures as Dinobot Swoop, as a toy I knew existed - but had no physical evidence due to it not appearing on UK toy Shelves. This toy was special, as it was the largest Transformer ever created and remained so until Generations Metroplex was released last year, so whats that? A 25 year run or something?
Yes, that toy was Fortress Maximus. Along with Swoop, its still a toy I have never owned - though I have seen it with my own eyes. The prices it commands today are far outside my budget, and this was also the case with the recent reissue, where I just cannot afford to spend £300 or so on a toy.
Much as I would love to, sadly that dream will only be realised by a Lottery win.

For many months, this 3rd party figure drifted under my radar. If by drifting under the radar, I actually mean I saw it and just was not interested at all. But then a funny thing happened, and in the last couple of days of 2013, some new pictures started to crop up online, that made it smash my radar like an 80's Axel Rose in a hotel room.

The end result? I think you can guess where this is going, but with 5 minutes to go before midnight, on New Years Eve, whilst very drunk, I put in a pre-order for Warden and with Kapow Toys. The early bird pricing was just too much to resist, especially whilst being compelled by the demon in the bottle...

Warden is Perfect Effects take on Fortress Maximus, or more specifically the version of Fortress Maximus that appears in IDW's popular line of Transformers comics. If you have read the comics, you know he is in charge of the Autobots top security prison - hence the name "Warden"

Clever, Perfect Effect, clever.

I am not actually sure where to start, the box advertises the figure as being "7 in 1!", so there is a lot to cover.

Better put the kettle on....there's a lot to get through.

Hit the button below, to read the full review, and see all of the photo's, after the jump

Core Robot

I will start with the core robot, or Headmaster to 99% of people who grew up with Transformers. If you didn't, well here is a brief history lesson.
The Headmasters was a subline of figures, that Hasbro created in the late 80's, which involved smaller robots that turned into the heads of large robots that turned into vehicles/animals/bases.
Yes, even bases.

Originally Fortress Maximus was a base, who turned into a giant robot. This robot came with another, normal sized robot called Cerebros who transformed into Fortress Maximus. But even Cerebros had his own trick, in that he had his own Headmaster - Spike Witwicky.
In the cartoons, and on the toy bio - the above was correct. In the Marvel comics, Spike just turned straight into Fort Max's head, and Fort Max himself was normally sized so he could interact with the regular bots - he was not a city bot.

In IDW, he is neither a city bot nor a Headmaster.

Phew, we got there in the end.

Perfect Effect's attempt at the smaller Headmaster, brings us this awesome little dude. He is effectively based on the Spike figure from the original Fortress Maximus figure, but with vastly superior articulation.He has arms which do bend outwards a little, and do rotate at the shoulder. There is also an elbow hinge, for extra arm posing action. The hips are on ball joints, and the knees bed. so you can get a staggering array of poses from such a little guy. But the coup de gras here, is that as a result of the transformation, he even has an ab crunch.

That is amazing.

The face on the back also folds up a little, just to hide it when he is in this form. It amounts to his forehead covering his eyes, and not a lot else, but its a cool little extra when they could have totally gotten away with not bothering.

He also has incredible light piping, which I have never seen on a figure so small. But it picks up light brilliantly, even without the source being pointed directly at it.

Transformation is simple, and follows the tried and tested classic Headmaster transformation of fold up legs into chest....and thats about it.
But why mess with something that works perfectly, thankfully PE stuck with that.

One of the ways they have improved the process, is by putting small tabs on the back of his legs which slot into the holes on his shoulders - locking the head mode together.

He transforms into a little interpretation of the Fort Max head, and it looks very cool. He has a very straight impression, but then Magnus in the comics is a prison warden, so you would expect him to look stern - a big cheesy grin would have looked very out of place here.

Its a great little figure in itself, and probably the thing I have played with the most. Its a strangley therapuetic process, transforming him back and forth as it requires very little thought.

My only concern is the actual head of the Headmaster, and the way it connects to the larger robot. Actually no, its removing the head from the larger robot where the problem lies - it feels like it might break. There is a knack to it, where you tilt it to an angle, which pushes the side panels on the neck outwards and makes removal easier. But I can see a lot of broken Headmasters, and very sad Warden fans.

Crikey, even just discussing this one small part of the figure has produced a lot more words than I anticipated. Oh well....6 more modes to go.

Scout Tank

Warden comes with a ton of accessories that attach to him in different ways. But one of the neat ways you can store it, when in the giant Head Mode, or Core Robot mode, is to attach it together to form a scout tank.

Seriously, this on the 7 mode checklist.

Its cool though, and nice if you want to display the robot and not have the extra pieces living back in the box.

Seeing as the Headmaster robot is needed to be, you know, his head - I prefer to stick the giant cannon on top of the scout tank.

The gun is massive, and designed for the original G1 Fort Max to hold, so it looks too big on Warden really.

Makes a nice tank drone though.

Robot Mode

The main robot mode is fantastic. He is chunky, large, amazingly articulated, highly detailed and accurate - he just looks pheonomenal.

He is based off the IDW Fortress Maximus so takes almost all of his design cues from there. There is very little kibble, so it makes for a very clean robot mode. Of course, most of his extra parts are probably assembled somewhere in scout tank mode, so it makes sense as to why he has so little kibble.

From this mode you can only transform him to the giant head mode as well (oh it sounds so simple now), which is why there is no vehicle kibble or anything like that.

The back of the figure demonstrates this clearly, with absolutely nothing hanging off or appearing to be folded up back there.

Obviously there are the missile pods, but even they can be removed.

What is very neat here, is that Fortress Maximus head mode face, is hidden inside the back of the figure. So what you can see as the back, is actually the back of the rotated face - pretty clever huh?

                                                        Clearly a fan of the Undertaker

Nothing is lost when it comes to articulation either. He has shoulders which rotate 360 degrees, and have swing joints on the side to give them extra movement. As if that's not a nuff, the arms have full outward movement and upper bicep swivel, as well as a bend at the elbow. wrist swivel and opening and closing hands.

There is an ab crunch which gives him, like his little Headmaster, an incredible degree of poseability. There is waist swivel, and the legs are on a joint that gives them a full range of front, back and side to side movement, as well as a swivel just below the hips. Knees bend and the feet have lots of aritculation to get the perfect pose.

What is particularly great here is that he is designed to be able to hold his weight in all sorts of different poses. The feet really hold him well, and his balance is superb, and unlike any figure I have come across personally. He has huge die cast knees, which add to the bulky feel of him, and probably help push the weight down onto his feet. However they have achieved this sense of balance from the figure, Perfect Effect have done an incredible job.

The only limitation comes in the form of the hip skirts, which are very stiff, so you have to actively reposition them when you want to pose the legs. They open fully, so they don't actually hinder articulation in any way, but you do have to move them first - other wise the legs won't bend properly.

In this mode, he is Voyager sized, and is similar in height to Kabaya Fortress Maximus. Personally, I have him stood with my Masterpiece Autobots and he fits in well. Obviously, in that scale he is not as big as he should be, but he still looks cool. Speaking of scale, he probably fits best with a Classics collection, but for me he is just too detailed and awesome to not be placed side by side with Masterpiece figures.

The one accessory that is used for this version of the robot form, is the smaller rifle. It is a part of the larger Head modes forehead and you can tell. It is a decent gun, but it does not look quite right.

This is the one thing I would definitely say is missing from this set - a decent rifle weapon for the robot to hold. Another 3rd party will no doubt step in and fill the void, but for an expensive figure like this its something that should have been included.

Despite the high price of the figure, and 3rd party Transformers in general, Warden feels like great value for money. There is so much there, and so many bits and pieces that even missing a decent rifle weapon, it does not drag the set down.

For some reason, you can remove the chest pieces from Warden and see some detailing underneath. I am not sure as to the significance of this, but its a cool little extra feature.

If anyone knows if there is a reason behind this, please let me know here, or on Twitter or something.

Super Robot Mode

The Super Robot mode, is of course the main draw here - this is IDW Fortress Maximus.

The tank treads are a key feature of his IDW design, and you take the scout tank and attach it to his back and you are done. Every extra piece attaches to him in those mode, and the result is stunning.
He looks so powerful, and built for war.

The tank treads are all on very strong ball joints, so you can position them to suit your own personal taste.

All of the missile pods can be attach in a variety of places, whilst the new chest piece clips in securely, and the tank treads lock in tightly on the back.

The hand gun, also pegs securely onto the back here, and what's neat is how good that looks. Because it also forms the forehead of the giant head mode, it ends looking just right and like it should be there.

Its another example of how good Perfect Effect are at making things look smooth.

Even though he has been loaded with a lot of extra weight, it does not really hinder the balance of the figure. He still stands fine, and does not rock backwards, or feel like he is fighting really hard against gravity.
All of the joints are so tight, and strong, and the weight of the figure so well thought out, that he still stands so well and can get into a great amount of poses.

The last piece that attaches in this mode, is of course his enormous rifle, or as the box describes it - the "Destruction Cannon"

Warden can hold it like an under slung chain gun, with the aid of two black pegs that fold out from under the weapon. It does look a bit silly, as its far too big and plainly designed to be wielded by the larger G1 figure. Saying that, it does feel like something you might see in the IDW comics though. Maybe Brainstorm created it aboard the Lost Light or something, it fits with the aesthetic anyhow.

This is how I will probably choose to display my Warden, in this powered up robot mode. It looks fantastic, and is a great homage to the IDW character design.

However, it is a good example of how Perfect Effect figures come with so many extra parts to remove and replace. You see it with their other figures, that parts need to be removed, and it is the same here. Its not a negative though, as you get so many options and everything is rock solid.

Cannon Tank Mode

Warden's first, and most independent alt mode is this massive Cannon Tank. In the IDW comics, Fortress Maximus rarely changes modes (I think he has only done so once), so Perfect didn't have a great deal to go on.
Its impossible to escape the fact, that this mode is somewhat just a combination of bits, piled on top of each other just to get...something. It is the definition of a parts former.
They have done a good job though, and gone with the tank reads to create this terrifying tank. It looks perfectly apt for a Cybertronian war machine. Honestly, I look at it and think that if it wanted to it could punch a hole in the Earth.

I don't just meant mean in terms of the design either, I am talking about the actual figure itself - its large, heavy and dangerous.
You could really injure someone with it.

Once fully assembled, it looks ace and is a really nice mode, but getting to that stage is a hellish experience.

You take just the normal robot, and pretty much fold him up on himself - then attach all the parts to make the tank. In theory its really simple and straight forward, but in practice it is a nightmare you will be screaming to wake up from.

The reason for this frustration boils down to 2 things, number one - everything has to be lined to a degree of perfection that would make Stanley Kubrick proud, and number 2 the instructions are terribly vague. They miss out key steps, or tiny things that you have to do that completely prevent further progress with the transformation.

Case in point, the missile pods that you attach to the front to hold it in place. The instructions show that you just have to plug them in. What the instructions fail to demonstrate, is that the black tabs on the back need to be rotated 180 degrees, if not they will almost go in but keep falling out.

Another example, is when attaching the cannon to the top of the vehicle. The instructions show it slotting into the peg socket and it says "click". Very specifically, it says "click" as if to suggest it should click in - but it doesn't. The peg just sits in there, as its not tight enough and the gun is in fact held in pace by the other pair of missile pods attaching the back of the truck and peg holes on the side of the gun.

A lot of it will have you cursing, as it has to be lined up perfectly, and it can frustrating getting it to that point.

One small tip, in the instructions it tells you to attach the tank treads last. Personally, I found it easier to attach them as soon as you have folded up the robot and not yet attached any of the other pieces. This helps because by locking the treads in place, it naturally lines up all of the pieces of the robot into the right place. So tabbing in the other bits should not be anywhere near as hard, and you don't get that annoying moment where you attempt to attach the treads and all the other bits just fall off.
Yes, that will happen to you lots.

Once you are actually in this mode, its a really fun toy. There's numerous little features worked in, and even the cannon treads rotate when you roll them across a surface.

The front of the tank is formed from the secondary chest piece for Warden, the one that attaches for is super mode. In this mode it becomes a cockpit for the core robot, and its pretty cool. Of course, at this point you will have cursed this section millions of times whilst trying to assemble it, but its cool nonetheless.

A nice little call back to the original G1 Headmasters, who all had cockpits for the smaller figures to sit in.

The forehead for the head mode, then slots into the front to become another cannon.

This thing is incredibly armed up.

I think the cannon is actually supposed to flip down, well I know it is, as it slots between the core robots legs and locks him in place.

But its a cool little option you have.

There is a lot of play value in this mode, from the aforementioned tank treads, the head master cockpit, and numerous moving missile pods.

Also, when you connect the main turret, it has a larger stock which you need to fold out. I don't know if this was intended, but the hole it leaves forms a small seat that is the perfect size for a Kreon mini figure to sit in.

See, tons of play value.

I really like this mode, and it is my favourite alt mode. As I don;t have an original G1 Fortress Maximus figure, I have very little use for the head gimmick, so this is the main event for me.

Whilst on the one hand its impossible to over emphasise how frustrating the transformation process is, on the other its a great fun toy when you finally get it there. Not only that, but you feel like you have earned a medal for your efforts.

Commander Mode

Warden's other alt mode is as a head for the original G1 Fortress Maximus figure. Now, I don't own one of those (as I mentioned earlier when I was all misty eyed), so I can't talk about how it looks combined from a first hand perspective.

From seeing a couple of photo's on the web though, it seems a little big, and the original Fortress Maximus head maybe works better?

But as I can't try it for myself, its hard to have too much of an opinion on it.

The head mode is really solid, and feels like a small brick. It looks cool too, and captures Fort Max reasonably well. For some reason though, and this is a weird thing to even say, I can't help thinking his nose looks strange?

Why? I have no idea, it just looks odd to me, almost like its a novelty nose.

Every thing is very cleanly done, with no extra parts or kibble hanging on. This is as a consequence of him being transformed from just the "Robot Mode". There is almost no parts forming, as you require none of the extra pieces - with the exception of the smaller hand gun Warden comes with.
This forms the forehead.
The rest of the transformation is entirely self contained and locks together incredibly solidly.

                                                                   "It's a kind of magic"

Whilst it is very solid once you have got it transformed, once again the actual process of transforming him is an exercise in frustration.

The face comes out of his back, and rotates then everything should just fold together. It seems very simple, and the actual steps is not that tough - but its lining things together and steps missing from the instructions once again that is the pain.

I swear, mine came together almost by itself whilst I was trying to figure out what was preventing the legs going into the side of the head. All of a sudden, everything moved and the feet locked on to the side of the head.

Maybe it is alive?

Also, one great thing is that you can store the smaller robot inside the head, as if he is controlling it - but that does make it harder to line up and transform.

As soon at is transformed, it is so solid that you could throw it at a brick wall and its the brick wall that would break.

The head mode is a cool little feature, but I feel like this and the tank mode should have been swapped round. By that, I mean that it should have been designed to have a tank alt mode first and the head mode should have been a bonus.

But it still kinda neat.

Destruction Cannon

The box lists this as one of the 7 modes. Seriously I am not making that up.

In essence, the Destruction Cannon is a large rifle that fits in the hand of G1 Fortress Maximus. I have given mine to Metroplex and it looks cool on him - it just needs a longer peg as otherwise he struggles to hold it.

But yeah, that's all that is.

The cannon itself is really nicely detailed, with nice paint applications - but there is not much I can about it.

Right, here we go, the conclusion of this review and I am exhausted.

This figure is amazing, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Both robot modes are stunning, and just feel like the most high quality action figure you will ever hold in your hands. Many people have it down as a benchmark for 3rd party toys and I would struggle to disagree.
Yes, both the alt modes are not as good as the robot modes, but both are decent in themselves and do a serviceable enough job. I am probably being harsh on the head mode, as I don't have the figure its designed to go with, so that is actually possibly a lot better than I have made it sound. But that's one of the biggest positives, you don't have to have Fortress Maximus to enjoy this figure. In fact, it works better for me without it, as you don't have the urge to display him in head mode - which would be a massive waste.

My favourite part of the whole set is the smaller core robot, or Headmaster as we call it, which is just brilliant and the thing I find it hardest to put down. Now I want Hasbro to go back and do Headmasters again, and someone to do an Overlord figure in scale with Warden - round 3.

If you are on the fence about this, I would say jump off and get this figure - you will not regret it. One of the best 3rd party figures ever made, and you need it in your life.

There is even a stand that comes with the figure, that I ran out of room to talk about - that is how much there is to this set.

You can order Warden from most online retailers

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Please feel free to comment below!


  1. Nice review and fun photos, Hulk, enjoyed reading it even if it did try to slip enablium sulphate into my drink when it thought I wasn't looking....

  2. Haha! That's another one of Warden's hidden features....

  3. It works....via light!

    If I turn out all the lights in the world, Warden's secret power will be useless!

    *constructs massive EMP device, causes worldwide civilisational collapse*

  4. Nice review mate. I didn't know those chest pieces came off and i have spent a lot of time fondling Warden since he arrived! I'm surprised that PE didn't package that as an eighth mode!

  5. Neuta - he will enable by good old fashioned carrier pigeon. Sending Polaroid's of him and Hexatron playing Connect 4.

    Podleian - thanks for the nice comment mate. Heh, its amazing how they tried to get away with calling the gun a mode. The chest parts are a really random extra little feature, and one I have no idea of the purpose for. Maybe it has no purpose? It just...exists.