If you’ve been pining away for a variant of the Spartan Noble Squad Leader, Carter, then let me make your dreams come true. I received my cases of all of Halo Reach Series 5 last week from BigBadToyStore, and am slowly working my way through reviewing everything in the series (you can see my Toy Review Index here). I never really liked Carter, as he came off as being a weak, figurehead leader of the squad with Kat really calling the shots, but I was buying all the other figures in the set, so I figured I’d get him as well. Following up some of the most-anticipated and best figures in the Halo Reach line such as the Elite Ranger, Skirmisher Murmillo, and Brute Chieftain, you might think that Unhelmeted Carter would be a couple steps down. And you would be absolutely right…
The big difference between this Carter and the original released is obviously the all-new head sculpt. And it really is great head sculpt that McFarlane Toys created for this figure. The resemblance to the video game render of Carter is undeniably accurate. The paintwork on Carter’s head is simply outstanding–the dirt and scars on his face have been expertly painted and really bring this figure to life. Since the head on this figure is its main selling-point, it was crucial that it be perfect–and McFarlane Toys came through.
The other big “prize” with this figure is the Reach version of the Spartan Laser, which is debuting with Carter and will also come with the Target exclusive Red Operator Spartan. The Spartan Laser is all-new and a completely different sculpt and paint job from the one in the Halo 3 line. It looks great and the handle on the rear of the gun didn’t break from my dropping it on the ground repeatedly, so it’s sturdier than the original Spartan Laser.
Speaking of sturdiness, this new version of Carter has some of the tightest, best-working joints in the whole Halo Reach line. Thanks to the improved joints, he can hold a pose much better than the first Carter as well as many of his Spartan comrades. I’m a stickler for joint tightness, so this is a major positive for me. As with all Spartans in the Reach line, Carter has 28 points of articulation and can be posed in most of the ways you’d want him to be (see “The Wrong” below).
The detailing of the paint on the armor of this Carter is also ever-so-slightly improved from the Series 2 Carter. As in, there are a couple of minor little triangles and details on Carter that are painted now that weren’t painted previously. It’s a minor improvement, but I figured it was worth mentioning.
While I appreciate the improved paint detail, I’m not a fan of the actual paint used on this version of Carter. The factories McFarlane Toys uses are atrocious at matching paint from series to series, so it’s not surprise that the blue paint used on this Carter doesn’t match the previous Carter or most any other blue Spartan released. While the Series 2 Carters blue paint was really nice and gave the appearance of painted-blue steel, this figure’s blue looks more like painted-blue toy. From a distance it’s tough to tell the difference, but up-close the Series 2 Carter is clearly superior.
The other big disappointment with this figure–although an expected one–is that Carter’s arms simply do not have the range-of-motion necessary to hold the Spartan laser properly. The Halo 3 line’s Spartans couldn’t successfully hold the Spartan Laser either, but I had hoped with the improvements in the Reach line that McFarlane Toys might have seen fit to retool the arms to allow Carter to accomplish this. It was probably too expensive for McFarlane Toys to even consider it, but given the otherwise high standards of this line I’m still a little let down.
Let’s face facts: Carter’s first release didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He came out almost a year ago and I can still walk into Wal-Mart and have my pick of a half-dozen helmeted Carters. So I’m sure I’m not alone in being horrified that McFarlane Toys saw fit to heavy-pack the less-desirable Unhelmeted Carter at 2-per-case in every Halo Reach Series 5 case, while only shipping the Weapons Pack and Skirmisher Murmillo at 1-per-case and the amazing Brute Chieftain at less-than-1-per-case. McFarlane Toys had better pray for lots of holiday shoppers to think Unhelmeted Carter is the coolest, or else he’s going to be gathering dust on the pegs until long after Halo 4 comes out.
“Where Can I Buy It?!”
BigBadToyStore has the Unhelmeted Carter in-stock for order at $11.99 and ready to ship out. That’s the regular retail price, so that’s what you’d pay at Target or Wal-Mart. They also have a variety of other Halo Reach Series 5 items including all of the Armor Packs and vehicle sets available at the best prices of any online store.
CMDStore has the Unhelmeted Carter in-stock right now and available for $12.95. They also have the whole Series 5 set of 6 for $71.95.
Overall: I don’t award merely average grades to many of the figures in the Halo Reach line, as it’s one of the consistently highest-quality action figure lines out there. But Carter is one figure that I find uninspired and totally unnecessary. To summarize the pros: The head sculpt is great on this guy, his joints are super-tight, and I appreciate the Spartan Laser. But on the negative side of things, his blue paint looks more ‘toy’-like than the previous release, the sculpt other than the head is totally recycled, he can’t hold the Spartan Laser properly, and for some insane reason McFarlane Toys is heavy-packing him in cases. If they had retooled his arms to hold the Spartan Laser better I’d give him a higher grade, but that was never going to happen. Unhelmeted Carter is absolutely not a bad figure, per se, but certainly a Halo figure that I can only see absolute die-hard fans wanting.