Articulation: 18 total points - ball-joint neck; 4 points each arm: double-jointed shoulder, upper arm swivel, hinge elbow; swivel waist; 4 points each leg: Universal joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee.
Colors: Molded grey, black; Painted gunmetal grey, purple, black, silver, lavender, red.
Accessories: Sword, splits to form rifle and broadsword.
Release Data: Released in the United States in February of 2015 at a retail price of US$24.99
Combiner Wars was planned as a big surprise reveal at SDCC 2014, but some creative teases given at Botcon probably took the edge off the return of combiners just a bit. In its place though was surprise at the return of the name Motormaster to the toyline, as several prior attempts at creating the character required alternative naming. Even more surprising given that just a few weeks before, a member of the Hasbro team still specifically referred to the character as "Motorbreath" without even a hint of slip. That must have been difficult to hold back since everyone on the team knew what was just around the corner. Still, I feel a little something has been lost. There was some potential in calling Motormaster himself Menasor, as though he'd finally driven off all the other Stunticons and decided to just be the combined form all by himself. Oh well, I'll always have the memories and the dreams.
This review assumes a general familiarity with the Optimus Prime instance of this mold. For information on the general engineering and design, please see RAC's review of that toy here.
Let's talk mold changes. There's a lot of them. Sandstorm has often been held up as a high-water mark for how extensive pretool alternate parts can get and what can be accomplished in changing the visual identity of a toy. Motormaster may not have gotten the extra step of a reconfigured alternate mode, but there's at least as much happening in the degree of different parts. Now, the legs and the pelvis are not changed between these toys. That might be a tiny bit unfortunate because apart from chest windows, they're the most distinctly Optimus piece of design the toy could have. But with different paint operations the Prime elements can be downplayed, so ultimately Motormaster doesn't stand out and scream that he's wearing Optimus Prime's pants.
So, what is different? Nearly everything else! The upper body is almost entirely new, keeping the same engineering, but all the shapes and details have been changed to make Motormaster look unique. The chest, the backpack, the shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, abdomen and head are all new parts, and of course there's the new Menasor head on a new sculpt inner chest panel. Motormaster goes beyond the clearly necessary like the chest and heads, and pushes right in to above and beyond by redoing the entirety of the arms even when parts like the inner half of either forearm can only be slightly differently detailed so the base engineering still works. The forearms are still fundamentally the same shape, but have had all the details changed just to make the two toys a little bit more different. It's a really impressive piece of work to make this many changes while still coloring inside the lines and not having to alter the way it transforms. And we'll talk more about the changes when we get to the vehicle mode. Yet even among all this, not everything has been redone. The piece that is essentially the frame of the torso is the same as it is on Optimus, and so is the plate the head is attached to. The torso frame is a very low visibility piece. In robot mode its major surfaces are hidden by the arms and the backpack. In torso mode the new sculpt inner chest panel at least distracts from the shared visual elements. And while you could just as easily resculpt the rotating panel the head attaches to... I don't particularly see the point. I wouldn't completely dismiss the notion that someone out there would look one day and notice the two toys have the same collar and declare that the entire exercise is RUINED FOREVER, but at least for myself it's something that I wouldn't have picked up on if I hadn't purposely been studying the toy to determine what is and is not new versus the other iteration.
Probably the most important specific element will be the new head. I'm not entirely a fan. It goes for the box-head style, but that is kind of inherently limiting. The face and implied actual head have to be shrunk down to accommodate the box and fit in the given space, so Motormaster is doing at least as much of the tiny-head thing as Optimus was, if not a little worse. And while the boxy outer shape around another helmet conveys the Motormaster likeness well, I don't really care for the actual face sculpt. It doesn't resemble the original toy at all, and it only barely is similar to the cartoon design where you could say it was taken from that as a source. A sculpt done in what I can only guess is supposed to look like anger comes off like he just smelled a particularly nasty fart instead. The eyes look old and tired thanks to having hard edge lines in addition to the tops of the "cheekbones". Actually, I just figured it out. It doesn't resemble Motormaster's appearance in the cartoon, but there's a few spots in Transformers: The Movie where Kup's face looks very much like this.
Oh, and adding to matters, the slightly open mouth can also make the face read as an expression of Dull Surprise. More on that a little later too. I think what I dislike most in terms of style is the dark eyes. Presumably they're an unpainted plastic surface, and they're left dark grey which just makes them seem empty. If anything would call for just the tiniest bit of paint this is it. Get some purple or yellow or something in there to make Motormaster look like he's at least awake. Sad thing is, the eye sockets are so tiny I think it'd be extremely difficult to do that on the consumer end, and the head is glued together.
Despite the boxy shape, it has a good range of motion. It actually turns more smoothly than Optimus, and has a respectable range of forward and back tilt. Side to side doesn't get very far because of the wide edges, but it still seems to be a bit more than Optimus somehow. One word of caution though: When transforming I recommend not pushing against the head for leverage. I can't say if I did that without realizing, but I got enough view of the neck stem not long after getting the toy open and noticed a stress mark on one side. It may be unrelated, but just in case there's something to this it seems better to err on the side of caution and keep the head attached to the body. The remaining mold changes don't have any distinct effect on the figure's poseability thanks to having to work within the same engineering boundaries as Optimus. The ratchets in the hips don't offer any greater degree of freedom for posing the legs, so if that was a big problem for you on Optimus, you'll encounter it here as well. I would suggest grabbing a screwdriver and just slightly loosening the screws at the tops of the thighs, though. It won't increase the poseability, but it will make the hip ratchets move a bit more freely. Motormaster came out of the box with very stiff hips, and I've heard tell of Primes with similarly stiff ratchets damaging themselves. Just a slight turn of a screwdriver will relieve this, so take it a little at a time. You shouldn't need even an eight of a turn of the screw to get good results.
The torso mode works just the same as Optimus, of course, so we're going to focus on the new parts added. Where Optimus had details resembling Energon Prime's super mode chest, the inside of Menasor's chest looks rather like Age of Extinction Galvatron's torso. I wonder if that might be evidence of an intent at one point of using that design as Motormaster and going a different way when name issues arose. We'll probably never know that, but the resemblance definitely exists here, and some paint could make this sculpting look really good. Though at that rate you probably would not want to attach Blackjack for fear of scrapes. So, Menasor's head. It, uh, sadly takes the same lessons as Motormaster's face, except bigger. It does get past the sizing issues since it doesn't need to be embedded in a box for stylistic reasons, so the proportions don't have to read so oddly. It catches the general outlines of Menasor's helmet and face well enough. The helmet especially gets that look with no particular problems. The horns are rigid plastic, and they swivel - both for safety's sake, and so they can be moved out of the way for when this head is in storage. But it's the face sculpt again. It's not as pinched and prematurely old and suffering an unpleasant odor as Motormaster, but it has problems.
Click to enlarge
The cartoon's face design is really boringly simple, so changing things up ought to be a positive. But they went in largely the same direction, just updetailing a little around the edges. The face itself stays rather flatly smooth and underdetailed. Menasor gains a heavy brow line, which only becomes obvious over the nose and blends in otherwise, ending up with the facial expression seeming a bit blank. But then you get down to the gaping mouth, and combined with the blank neutrality you'll perceive with the rest of the face becomes Ultimate Dull Surprise. No surprise can be more dully surprising than this! On the positive side, the eyes are painted so Menasor actually looks awake. The head also holds more solidly to the neck joint than Optimus, so you don't get it bobbleheading around at all. That I'd say is a significant step up, even if the head isn't as impressive looking as that of Ultra Prime.
Motormaster works virtually identically to Optimus. I had some trouble getting everything to lock together the first few times going to vehicle mode, but whatever was causing the problem seems to have sorted itself out and it works just as smoothly as Optimus did. Notably on the packaging, Optimus calls out 9 transformation steps and Motormaster has 10. Since the toys are functionally identical despite their large number of changed parts, you might be wondering how this can be. There is in fact some extra moving parts on Motormaster that are inconsequential to the robot mode but must be moved during transformation: you have to flip the windvane over so it's oriented correctly for vehicle mode. That's the extra step. And the instructions don't even show you to do that.
Despite having basically the same shape and dimensions, it's amazing how different the truck mode is made to look with this use of new parts. The shared torso frame is a little more visibly present, as the smokestacks and rear windows sit on it. But the smokestacks go unpainted and the windows aren't fully painted either, leading the shapes to look different enough that it isn't obvious. Otherwise everything on the front half is reshaped in some way. The front of the cab has a rounder appearance from the lack of the grey plates over the windshield, the bumper area is more squared, and adds the detail of sculpted tie-down loops. The upper grille shape is different, but the lower ones are replicated from the shapes on Optimus. A changed color layout hides this really effectively, though. The upper grille also has a tiny tampographed Decepticon insignia in the style of a "hood ornament", a detail I really like. There's differently shaped air dams on the sides, some highlighted with purple paint giving them a nice pop, and of course the sleeper extension is all new detailing. Add the windvane distinctly changing the silhouette, and you've got a really nicely remade vehicle mode that carries its own unique identity. And as a final cap on this, while the cab's dimensions do stay basically the same, they're not quite identical. Motormaster actually has a narrower wheelbase in front, just by a little bit. But it's enough to convince me that it's intentional, another way to differentiate the figures without changing the engineering.
The truck mode comes off generally better in appearance than Optimus, I find, and it's not just the alternate parts at play. The deco really helps everything tie together better. The best example is the use of unpaintable plastic. Optimus Prime had light grey chunks placed within the red cab and none of it could be factory painted so it stood out very distinctly. Motormaster's unpaintable portions are in a color that's very very close to the rest of the cab structure, blending in really well. The only thing starting to give it away is the sections of windshield on those pieces that also couldn't be painted. I kind of wish the rearward windows hadn't been painted at all versus only being partially painted. It looks a bit weird the way it was done and sticking with uniform grey plastic would have likely been a bit better aesthetically. Ultimately the only thing that I feel like really trips up the success of the deco is that sleeper compartment. That's cast in black plastic, and the cap of black on it does not itself clash with the rest of the cab - in fact I rather like the way that looks added to the back of the roof. The problem is the sides are painted in gunmetal grey, which is distinctly darker than the grey plastic on the neighboring pieces. The slight metallic sheen to it doesn't help either, but it's really more the tone mismatch. While I don't expect to get the whole toy painted over, the way this looks makes me wish for a Motormaster whose base plastic had been a couple steps darker because the gunmetal looks really good in the place it's used and a similar tone would I think have made the figure overall look better than it does. Naturally the more simple solution would have been to choose a different grey paint to use on the sleeper walls, but what fun is that?
Motormaster has new accessories too. Effectively, it comes with Menasor's sword which has been made rather more complex than the original which was just a sword. It actually shares some design notions with Drag Strip's machete-gun thing, with split blades and being entirely overdesigned for what it would be meant to do. This actually has the easiest use for Motormaster when it's set up as the giant sword, but the intent differs.
The sword separates in to a shorter broadsword and rifle. The broadsword looks like nothing more than the top half of a big sword, and its post is so short that Motormaster can barely grasp it while keeping a cutting edge facing forward. It works better when turned sideways, but only if it's to be used to wham someone upon the head.