VAMP & Steel Brigade Delta
Bear with me, ladies and gentlemen, because another vehicle set is about to get the KansasBrawler review treatment, so this could take a bit. Growing up, the big vehicles were always pretty secondary to me, but I loved the smaller sets. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the hell out of the Thunderclap I got for Christmas (probably in around 1990), but that only got used for massive adventures because it took a while to get set up. The first vehicle I have strong memories of was the Tiger Fish and even though it was a boat, which means it’s a little harder to come up with adventures for, I know I played that thing to death because it was so easy to pick up and play with. During the 25th Anniversary line, Hasbro realized that large-scale vehicles were a bit out of reach for what was supposed to be a very limited line, but man did they do some great stuff with their smaller vehicles. This continued throughout the modern line and the 30th Anniversary line stepped to the plate with the VAMP Mark II. The Hasbro folks threw us a great bone here because, at least in my neck of the woods, the Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault VAMP was basically impossible to find. I literally never saw that thing at retail. Thankfully, the 30th Anniversary VAMP was a straight up rerelease of the Pursuit of Cobra version that came with a new and more interesting driver. I’m sure I would have grabbed the Jungle Assault VAMP had I ever seen it, but I’ll admit I was a little disappointed we were getting another Clutch with it. I would have loved to have seen a jungle guy like Pathfinder get that driver’s slot instead of somebody that I already had, but that’s always been my philosophy with Joes. If you have the choice between giving me a guy I don’t have instead of a repeat, go with the new guy. Tangent about the Jungle Assault VAMP aside, the 30th Anniversary VAMP is a great update of the classic Joe vehicle and the Steel Brigade Delta driver is a great wheelman.
The Mark II VAMP is quite a bit larger than its older brother. While the original VAMP was based around a fast-attack Jeep, the Mark II VAMP seems a bit more like a stripped down Humvee. The doors and back roof have been removed for speed considerations, but this thing definitely looks a lot bigger and more imposing. As a holdover from its Pursuit of Cobra origins, the VAMP has a play feature in the form of a capture claw and winch on the front. It’s not a bad play feature, but it does suffer from the lack of a way to store it built in. You can fake it by clipping it around the bumper, but considering the great little storage points built into the VAMP, it’s a shame you can’t actually clip it onto the bumper somehow. The string attached to the capture claw is appropriately long (unlike the Tomahawk’s lift hook) and the retraction wheel is disguised nicely in the hood. The bumper is large and fits with the armored look of the front end of the vehicle. On the hood, there are also three attachment points. One is used to plug in the heavy machine gun the guy riding shotgun can use to help clear the way. The other two are empty, but the holes (like the others scattered throughout the vehicle) hold backpack pegs very well. I like the idea of vehicles being able to hold the gear of the figures riding in them and between the backpack pegs and the open back end, there’s plenty of storage space here. The canopy of the vehicle is angled back and gives it a very sleek look. It’s still clearly armored but it does give the impression that this thing was stripped down a little in order to up its top speed. The top is enclosed over the driver and passenger, but the two back seats are open to the elements to facilitate one of the two being able to operate the VAMP’s springloaded missile launcher. Unlike most springloaded missile launchers, this one remains rather sleek and I like the real world concession of having an armor plate between the operator and the business end of this thing. I don’t see it as a missile launcher but rather as a heavy cannon of some type.
There’s a port over each front seat that the missile launcher can be plugged into so it’s your choice as to which side gets it. The other side winds up giving you a relatively large flat space. I’ll admit placing 30th Anniversary Lifeline’s backboard up there was initially a concession to the fact that I just couldn’t display all of his accessories with him, but the idea of that large flat space being used as a roof rack to evacuate an injured Joe has really grown on me. On the sides, the VAMP has the traditional G.I. Joe vehicle running boards. However, on this vehicle, it at least makes a degree of sense and there are plenty of places for riders to hang on to. Counting the running boards, the VAMP Mark II can carry nine Joes and that’s pretty impressive. The back end of the VAMP is completely open so the tailgunner has plenty of room to aim his rear-facing Vulcan cannot. I like that the VAMP’s heaviest weapon is rear-facing. It helps tie it back to the fact that when I first saw the VAMP, I didn’t really see it as a heavyhitting vehicle. I never had an A.W.E. Striker growing up, so my brothers Tiger Sting (based on the VAMP Mark II) got that scout role. I can just see the VAMP going on a scouting mission and having to lay down heavy fire to deter its pursuers on the way out of a mission gone wrong. I do have an issue with the design of the Vulcan cannon. It’s supposed to fit into a circle of plastic that you can rotate, however, the fit is terrible. I don’t know how many times I had to reattach that whole assembly while I was taking pictures of it, but I know it was a frustratingly large number of times. That seems like a design flaw that should have been rectified at somewhere along the line. The assembly is great, but I do find it irritating that I can’t rotate it without it coming loose and toppling over with Recondo still in tow. The back end of the VAMP also has storage for the traditional VAMP gas cans as well as a hammer and an entrenching tool. I’m glad these VAMP mainstays are still around and I think it does make a little more sense for them to be in the back end than strapped to the front. I also nearly forgot to mention the last cool feature in the VAMP Mark II’s design—its working suspension. The suspension is tight, but it does add realism to the vehicle. There aren’t a lot of Joe vehicles that have this feature and it’s integrated so seamlessly that it’s pretty easy to miss. Had I not needed to reattach the Vulcan cannon in the back end after it fell while I was moving it to my desk for review, I likely would have forgotten about it entirely.
There’s not a lot in the way of colors on the VAMP, but the colors work and they really stepped things up with stickers in my opinion. The main body of the vehicle is molded in a light green plastic. Apparently, there is a color variant. Early releases (like mine—I found it on a shelf literally the day of its street date) had a relatively pale green color while later releases were a much darker green. According to YoJoe’s break down, the pale green version is harder to find, so I fell backwards into getting the more difficult variant. Either way, I think the green is a little more effective than the color that they used for the Jungle Assault VAMP which is a little more brown than green, at least in the pictures I’ve seen. Most of the add on pieces like the bumper, wheels, and gas cans are black and the colors work well together. My only real complaint is the lack of some paint applications. It’s most glaring on the headlights, which are molded with details but they just look like part of the body. It doesn’t look like they’ve ever gotten attention, but I do think it’s a bit of an oversight that they went to all the trouble of molding headlights but then didn’t do anything with them. To make up for the lack of paint, the VAMP Mark II has stickers just about everywhere. It took me easily a half an hour to sticker this beauty up and it was great. There are a lot of your typical military markings and warning labels, but there are three different sticker sets I really want to give some attention to. On the hood, it’s got a pair of scorpion stickers. These were the same logo that the Cobra Stinger had back in the day, but I really like them on here. It’s a great logo and I can see the driver being a smart alec and using them for his kill markers for the pair of Stingers he’s taken out during his service with this VAMP. Secondly, there are the customizable stickers for the vehicle designation. I liked it when they did it for the Pursuit of Cobra HISS and I like it here. I’m sure as a kid I would have loved coming up with my own designation for the vehicle, but as an adult, I’m glad they included the stickers necessary to recreate the old VAMP designation. Finally, there are the bullet holes. I know I would have loved those as a kid, and full disclosure, I love them as an adult too. I like that there weren’t any specific places for them to be placed so I got to decide where the VAMP got shot up. That kind of simple customization is something I like to see and I’m glad Hasbro was willing to give us a little leeway on those kinds of things.
Of course, a great vehicle can be pretty lame if there isn’t anyone to drive it and while I know not everyone is big on the concept of the Steel Brigade, I love it and the Steel Brigade Delta is even cooler than his regular counterpart. I always wanted a Steel Brigade figure back in the day, but I never got one. Now when I see Steel Brigade figure, I snap it up. However, Hasbro’s decided to expand the idea a little bit more. Where Steel Brigade troopers are more like regular soldiers, the Steel Brigade Deltas specialize in combat vehicle operations. As a generic trooper, the Steel Brigade Delta relies heavily on the Cobra Shock Trooper and that’s fine by me. That’s a great trooper body and it ties them to the regular Steel Brigade troopers since they are built out of essentially the same body so it looks like they’re wearing similar uniforms. However, to add a little variety, the Deltas wear Pursuit of Cobra Beachhead’s vest. I really like the vest but I think it’s just a little too much for a vehicle operator. It mercifully doesn’t prevent him from sitting properly in the vehicle, but I would have preferred to see something more along the lines of the Resolute Duke’s slightly more stripped down gear or the 25th Cobra Bazooka Trooper’s chest protector. Deltas spend most of their time in a vehicle and while I understand that all soldiers wear body armor in combat, guys behind vehicles prefer to wear a little less so they can move in the vehicle better without having to argue with extra bulky gear. That said, the Steel Brigade Delta really looks good. Surprisingly, the Steel Brigade Delta has a brand new head sculpt. He’s packaged with his new helmet on (more on that in a moment) so I just assumed that he was wearing your basic Beachhead balaclava. Instead, we have a kind of armored full facemask with goggles. I don’t know why they gave him a new head, but it’s a good one. It definitely has a bit of a Snake Eyes vibe to it so I’m wondering where in the line this head was originally supposed to show up. Vehicle operators have slightly different needs compared to regular infantrymen, and the Steel Brigade Delta’s new helmet reflects that. The visor is far more open which allows for more visibility, something that’s always important when driving a VAMP Mark II at high speeds in the middle of a firefight. The helmet originally saw use during the DTC era with the Steel Brigade members in the Steel Brigade Vs. Plague set. I like the more modern take on the Steel Brigade helmet here and I think it’s a nice nod to these somewhat forgotten members of Steel Brigade that came out towards the end of the new sculpt era.
Vehicles and drivers have to be somewhat color coordinated to sell the idea that they’re meant to be together and the Steel Brigade Delta really looks at home behind the wheel of the VAMP because his color scheme works so well with it. I’ll freely admit, there’s a lot of green on this figure, but with three different shades of it, it works out pretty well. My only real complaint is that the shade of green for the body of the figure is almost identical to that used for most of the vest. I’d like there to be a little differentiation there, especially since removable vests don’t have to be the same color as the main figure itself. They’ve still got to mold it separately, so why not make it stand out a little bit more. The green is offset by a very nice pair of grays. This figure should be bland considering how much of it is the same tone of green, but there’s just something about how effectively they used the other colors that it’s not that bad. The helmet gets a lot of paint apps, with a light green base, darker green trim, a brown-ish gray for the facemask and a blue for over his eyes. They really piled on the paint on that helmet and it looks really sharp.
Usually, vehicle drivers don’t fare too well in the accessory department, but the Steel Brigade Delta actually comes out pretty well on this front. To help bring the look together, he’s got a great helmet and vest. In addition, he gets a pair of knives to fill the sheaths on the vest (something that couldn’t be said when Beachhead first wore it) and the great assault rifle that first came with the Rise of Cobra Pit Commando—another generic Joe trooper. I like that the generic Joes have some common gear. The Deltas carry the same gun as the PIT Commandos (who could be considered a more basic Joe trooper than those of Steel Brigade), the Deltas and Steel Brigade troopers wearing a similar uniform and the PIT Commandos and Steel Brigade guys both have the same helmet. I like seeing that degree of interplay between the generic ranks of the Joes. The knives look good in the sheaths and I’m glad they filled them both. I also appreciate that a vehicle driver has a good rifle for a change. A lot of times, they don’t get any sort of firearm and if they do, it’s usually a small pistol. However, the Deltas, while vehicle specialists, still work the field like a regular Steel Brigade trooper. They’re going to need something more than a pistol or a pair of knives while they’re in the field. This gun is a great option and the more Joes that have it, the better.
The VAMP Mark II and Steel Brigade Delta are a great pairing. They look like they belong together, and sometimes that can’t be said for a vehicle and driver combination. Plus, I’m a sucker for adding more members to the ranks of the generic Joe troopers. I do wish it were possible to army build them just because I think they’d look good behind the wheel of just about any Joe vehicle. I understand that’s not a real possibility, but I like the idea that the Joe team’s transportation is more than just guys like Clutch and Cross Country. The VAMP Mark II is a great update of the original ideas of the VAMP, but modernized and made more imposing and realistic. It was a great design when it first came out during Pursuit of Cobra and much like the phantom wave army builders that saw rerelease during the first wave of the 30th Anniversary, I’m glad Hasbro got it back on the shelf for a while in a more accessible form. Now, if only they could have done something about the Cobra Fury…