Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Brick Miser: Mega Bloks Call Of Duty 06878 Nuketown

Alright, now that I've gotten over my disgust at the set that quality forgot, let's talk about the set proper. But first, let me introduce you to my assistant/avatar of these segments:

This is the Brick Miser. Why the name?

Because of this

And this

And this

And because we hate spending an insane amount of money on building brick sets, so we'd rather find them on the cheap, usually from lesser known brands or secondhand stores. So while that means a smaller amount of big names like Lego, it also means a large amount of

Bootleg franchise figures

Biblical theme brick sets

Copycat Minifigs

And hilariously(and sometimes disturbingly) low quality sets.

We'll get a bit of everything in these segments, but regardless of the brand or quality, he'll be in charge of putting the sets together and livening up the scene as I discuss the details of the set itself. Maybe he'll fool around with some stop motion afterwards, I don't know. Just as long as the focus stays on the product and the sets and/or characters remain intact throughout the review. ...I'm sure that will happen...

So now that we've been introduced, let's get on to the actual product.

Call of Duty Nuketown
Mega Bloks
689 pcs

I went on a rare trip to Target a few months ago, where I found these on clearance. Normally, I don't purchase Mega Bloks(I'll explain why later), but since it was on sale for nearly 70% off its $45 price, that was a sale I couldn't refuse. In fact, it was so good, I went ahead and bought all 4 of the sets on sale, thinking I could sell them or send them to family as gifts later. ...And as you've probably noticed from the previous post, it was a good thing that I had multiple sets since it took TWO SETS TO PUT TOGETHER ONE MODEL! ...Ok, that's in the past, moving on.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've never played CoD. Not a modern FPS-type person. I love older games like Doom and Wolfenstein and I've spent some time playing Team Fortress 2, mainly for the laughs, but when it comes to newer games, I'd rather spend my game time building custom Minecraft maps than "sniping n00bs." That means that I mostly relied on wiki sites and a few YouTube gameplay videos for the names and factions in this site, so excuse me if I get a few details wrong and feel free to correct me(just please be nice about it and make sure it hasn't already been pointed out.)

This is based on the Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer map by the same name. More specifically, the teal house spawn point and a few landmarks from the map, some of which aren't in the immediate area of the house, but we'll get to that.

This is the one I decided to make my own personal set. To be honest, I really do like the 1950s-era nuclear testing site style to it. I've always been a fan of slice of life models and the amusement park-vibe of a picturesque, abandoned neighborhood ready for destruction... as well as the potential for destruction it provides.

Clearly, riding in a fridge is the least credible thing Jones has ever done...

Also, as one of five people on the face of the planet who actually likes the fourth Indiana Jones movie, it makes me want to reenact "nuking the fridge."

On the back, we get some pretty obviously computer-generated screenshots of the set and characters in various scenes and poses, as well as the pieces of the set.

My favorite is the one in the middle, where the guy actually walked out onto the edge of an awning in full armor with gun and knife drawn, yet seems SURPRISED that it gave way! Luckily, the other guy is there to put him out of his stupidity.

"Includes 10 Authentic Accessories!" ...As opposed to those cheap, lead-paint knockoffs they sometimes put in...?

And we also get an alternate build of the house where the porch is on the back... which actually makes more sense as we'll soon see.

The instruction manual is clear and detailed enough, but it features one of the major problems I have with Mega Bloks.

With 95% of instruction manuals, we read from left to right(or sometimes right to left for some Asian cultures) as if reading a book. This is a good format, as we are conditioned to read and comprehend in this manner.

Mega Bloks, on the other hand, INSISTS on printing its manuals to be read horizontally and from "up to down." Not only is this REALLY awkward to straighten out and keep open, but you can get lost in the steps, since we're conditioned for Left=Start, Right=Finish and having all steps thrown at you at once can be disorienting. It may be why they had to print the manual in 2 parts.

Also, there's the problem I have with most books I have to turn on their sides. ...I feel like I'm looking at a centerfold...


Then, of course, there's the Addendum I raged about in my last post.

However, I'm not as angry as I was then, since all they did was switch around the long pipes and short pipes at the top, so the mistake's more from a printing error than constructing it wrong.

...Though now I'm curious. If someone was ever to buy a used one of these and the previous owner forgot to include the Addendum, would the mistake be obvious enough or would he actually spend hours trying to put it together the way it depicted? ...Well, there's a social experiment for those majoring in psychiatry.

Now before we get into the actual set, there's one more thing I want to bring up. You know how I said I purchased more than one of these sets? Well, apparently, there were two different runs of this set, since I own two differently designed boxes.

Even though both were released in the same year based on the 2015 copyright date and both have the same UPC, I'm guessing the top one was released first since my set's box contains more languages than the other and because mine states it has one more accessory than the other.

Most of the differences are cosmetic(the font on the front of the other is larger, the Mega Bloks logo also contains "Collector's Series", the top has coordinates in the lower left corner that are missing from my copy, etc.), but on the back, the other states that it has 9 accessories rather than 10, missing what looks to be a grenade the black figure wears on his vest. I don't know if this is an oversight in designing the box(but with the addendum, I wouldn't put it past them) or if it truly doesn't contain the grenade.

 However, a closer look at the vest in the scene I showed does show a grenade on both boxes, so it may be included in both sets. I've already wasted one set and I don't feel like opening another to find out...

Seriously though, if there is a grenade in the original box, then how bad is the quality control at Mega Brands that they had to re-release the set with the proper artwork... and STILL screw it up?!

 And here's the final product! ...And at nearly 700 pieces, it took me nearly 8 hours off and on to film and construct and nearly that again to film the end sketch. Not a good way to start a series when you have little free time to spare...

First off, the plastic quality is really good, coming from a top tier mainstream company... but the material they use is one of the stranger reasons I'm not as fond of Mega Bloks as Lego.

 If you feel a Lego brick, it's very smooth with a shine to it, feeling firm and sturdy while also light and slightly malleable.

Mega Bloks, on the other hand, seem to have a much duller and more rubbery texture to them, feeling a little cheaper and more brittle in a way that I can't really describe... It's this different feeling that throws me off and sort of makes me feel like the guys are TRYING to be Lego in every way, but there's a feeling in my subconscious telling me it's not the real thing. This may just be the power of suggestion at work, but there's just something at play that makes me shy away from most Mega Bloks.

 Oh, and the bag that I said was missing from this set? Apparently, it got switched with a bag of white pieces, since I have a surplus of those after building this. Maybe somewhere, there's a guy raging about having too many pieces for the walls and none for the windows...

With that said, the design IS really good. It's rare that any building block line produces a house kit, as opposed to the billions of vehicle sets out there, so it's nice to have an actual building I can use for internal sequences... so long as I can ignore the broken windows.

 Of course, the house is only the front and the left wall, but having an exterior does help establish a bit of a "suburbia" feel.

The walkways on the second floor do make a handy sniping station though...

 The roof was the hardest to understand about the set. Based on the instructions, I thought it attached like this, making it really flimsy and easy to fall off.

 However, after a bit of tinkering, I found that there's a groove on the underside that slides onto the top part of the white bricks, securing it in place. Wish I knew that when I was filming the video...

But now let's compare the Mega Bloks House with the one in the game.

Thanks to MisterJoseee for this footage.

Since I don't have CoD: BO, I had to rely on gameplay videos to show me what the front of the house looked like in game, and this was the clearest picture I could get.

 From the looks of it, the design is spot on, capturing the front of the house perfectly down to the last detail. The awning, the shutters, the rocky foundation, even the teal square right between the second story windows are all present in the set.

I didn't get a clear view of the left side, but I think I saw the drain pipe, so that's another detail they managed to include.

The chimney is missing, but since the entire right side of the house is, that's to be expected. There's no interior either.

 Also, while the Clock Tower and the Welcome to Nuketown sign are present in the house's area, I didn't see a fence, mailbox, street sign, or barbed wire. Maybe they're located somewhere else on the map, but it's weird that they would add random elements of the map when they're clearly trying to focus on this exact location.

But the biggest difference between the game and the set is that while there house has a garage in the game, the set instead has

 ... a deck. ...I can understand that building a garage would greatly increase the pieces included and jack up the price, but in that case, why even add anything there at all? Just keep the front and side of the house, that's probably enough places to shoot a guy.

 And this goes back to the image on the back of the box, where the deck is behind the house in the "rebuilt" position. Why wasn't that the default build? I didn't see the back of the house, so maybe there is a deck back there, or if there isn't, it would at least provide more floor space inside.

 The more I analyze this set, the more I'm convinced that there was little time and a LOT of behind the scenes contention in trying to get this set released and that even the re-release was rushed out of the factory with no time to actually look over the design and go "Hmmm... We did something wrong here." ...But I digress...

 Oh, and the deck supports are hollow for some reason.

The other set pieces are ok for the most part. The fence looks like a fence, the mailbox looks like a mailbox(and has "Mason" printed on it, which I don't know if that's random or an inside joke), there's a signpost with Latchkey Ave and Trinity Rd on it, and there's a hastily built barbed-wire fence, which I didn't see in the game, but it probably serves some function.

 I'm also pretty impressed with the Clock Tower and how they built the face out of separate custom bricks as opposed to a slab of plastic. Wish they could have done the same with the hands, but at least they turn around quite easily without feeling loose.

 And yes, the melted plastic square I pointed out is still there. Figured it at least matched the nuclear setting of the set.

The Nuketown sign is the part that gave me the most trouble, though. What you see in the pictures is me trying to turn it around to take a picture of the back, but it seems to have the problem of coming apart if I so much as breathe on it.

 And the blocks are so loosely attached, that when I try to press the blocks back in, it just pushes others out.

 So if you ever purchase this set, expect this to be your Nuketown sign half the time.

 My favorite part are the mannequins, because what nuclear testing site would be complete without lifelike plastic statues we disturbingly watch as their faces melt off? There's just so much detail on such tiny figures.

 They not only bothered to mold the faces and hair patterns, but the buttons on the woman's dress and the wrinkles on the man's shirt.

Resistance is useless! The Gap will be your new masters!

Good work, Mega Bloks! All the better for the inevitable Auton uprising!

And finally, let's talk about the figures themselves. I put it off for this long because... I'm really not a fan of most Mega Bloks figures.

World of Warcraft Mega Bloks | Ashens

I think Ashens probably said it best. Mega Bloks is not interested in being a construction toy line. Whenever they receive a license, they're much more interested in creating buildable action figures or statuettes of the characters, which look nice, yes, but they have little/no ability to interact with their environment of building blocks other than just standing around.

Since this review is already a bit long, I'll stop there and probably talk about it later when I feature my own World of Warcraft or Skylanders Mega Bloks figures, but bottom line is that these overly realistic Mega Bloks figures have a habit of sticking out like a sore thumb when placed in their own building brick sets.

 With that said though... I think I'm willing to overlook that for these figures, since, yeah, they're REALLY well made!

So again, I had to check a CoD wiki to find out who these figures are, but apparently, the one on the right is the heroic faction of Black Ops, while the one on the left is the recurring antagonistic Russian Spetsnaz faction. Admittedly, putting this together, I thought the good/evil alignments were the other way around, since I was going by the common trope of the villains being the ones that have their faces hidden while most heroes only have part of their faces hidden at most.

Good prefers to go barefaced, while evil cannot face the world!

Strangely reversed with a costumed hero...

 Unfortunately, I couldn't find what classes these were, if any. There weren't too many pictures of the different multiplayer classes, so I don't know if the Black Ops figure is a preset class or a custom build since I couldn't find one with the mask. I think the other is an Urban Spetsnaz, but again, no picture to back this up.

 The only name I could find for these figures was "Urban Soldier" at the Mega Bloks Collector's site. They may have just made a generic class so anyone can pretend they're actually playing their class of choice, but some official information would be nice...

 That said, the figures are VERY well painted and detailed. You can notice every wrinkle, every insignia, every stitch, and every piece of hardware on these figures. They actually went to the effort of giving the Black Ops figure a headset and shoelaces while the Spetsnaz has a double pocket shirt and army boots. Being a fan of the more contemporary minifig, it is admittedly nice to see something beyond a solid color for the pants and feet.

 The figures themselves are made out of a hardened rubber, giving them a lot of flexibility on top of the many points of articulation. The arms have joints at the shoulders and elbow and have 360 degree rotation at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, while the legs have ball joints and 90 degree knee articulation. On top of that, they have 180 degree waist articulation and a head that can swivel around, allowing for a lot of poseability as I've shown in these pictures. So even if Mega Bloks is more convinced they're making action figures, at least they're adept at it.

 And yes, the pieces do come off and are interchangeable, so if you're the kind to Frankenstein it up, you can.

 So in the seemingly neverending war between Mega Bloks figures and Lego minifigures, I hate to say it, but sorry Lego, Mega Bloks wins this round.


Quality: The bricks are made of plastic that, despite my dislike of its texture, is very high quality and sturdy. Everything feels solid and most of it clicks together very well. I really like the high attention to detail with the molds and the paint job that perfectly matches the in game characters and setting and I'm impressed they went so far as to mold things like shoelaces and hair features for the characters and mannequin set pieces. However, the packing quality leaves a bit to be desired, as I received a half-melted brick and an extra bag in place of a required bag.

Design: The overall design is more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I love having a house set in my collection and I'm pleased that it resembles the exterior of the Nuketown house down to the smallest detail with what they included. The design of the mannequins is very similar to the game and really gives a "nuked town" vibe, while the figures provide an even more insane amount of detail and you can probably look at them for hours and not notice all the little tidbits they inserted into the sculpt. The fence, mailbox, and barbed wire are fine and serve their purpose, but the design of the clock face is the strangest and yet most appealing part as they constructed it out of smaller, separate bricks and gave it movable hands.
On the other hand, the inclusion of the deck in place of the garage on the side of the house makes me tilt my head a bit and wonder why they bothered and if it was originally designed to be located on the back of the house. And while the Nuketown sign looks nice, the construction design leaves it a bit shoddy and it's next to impossible to pick it up without dislodging a piece, often leading to it falling apart.

Creativity: It's a basic brick set built more for display purposes than to be played with, so there's not a whole lot of gimmicks or additions. I'm impressed with the attention to detail they gave to the figures and to the signs and I'm also pleased that they included a large variety of pieces which resemble the textures of the in game objects, especially with the stone blocks of the Nuketown sign and the house foundation. Of course, most of this is just copied straight from the game, so not much had to be added. I guess the fact that they bothered to include a deck even if they could have just left it off is creative and I do like that they tried to give it a more stand-alone, suburban feel using pieces from all over the map, even if they weren't in the immediate area of the original spawn point.

Readability: Like most Mega Bloks manuals, it's in an annoying "centerfold"-esque format, forcing me to turn it on its side and making it hard to keep it open or focus on the current instructions. And, of course, there's the addendum, which I'm not as sore about as I was, but it's still a deterrent to the item's quality. However, I do like the color coordination that is also a staple of Mega Bloks manuals as it really helps to visually link where the studs connect. ...But again, I gotta ask: Why 2 manuals?

Packaging: The box is very sturdy and it serves its purpose, keeping the pieces safe for when a 24-year-old man-child with an obsessive compulsion to collect cheap building bricks sets wants to take them out and show them off to whoever notices. The design is pretty standard, just showing the completed set on the front against a stock desert background to add a bit more of that 1950s Cold War Nuclear Testing feel to it, while the back features a few images that they had to create with computer graphics rather than the actual set. However, I find it hilarious that there are two releases of this set, the latter seemingly just to correct a counting error on the back and pointlessly adjust the font size in a few places, so it gets a few points for that.

Compatibility: Nearly all the bricks included are compatible with any regular building bricks set and can replace any same size brick you might need replaced. There's the issue with the action figure-style of Mega Bloks figurines not really fitting in with the constructive nature of the toy and that you can't combine regular bricks with them as you can a Lego minifig, but in this case, that's not much of a deterrent.


It's not a particularly interesting set and the errors I've found contained in ONE BOX really do stack against it, but it's highly detailed and made with high quality material that will work with most other brick sets. If you're into Call of Duty and the more model-building side of construction brick sets, you'll probably enjoy this one.

And to be fair, compared to the next set I'm going to be featuring here... this is a Legoland replica of the Taj Mahal... However, since I hate my sanity, next we'll look at how Spongebob and friends fare in a Mario Kart knock-off.

Hey, thanks for reading my first review on this blog and, hopefully, watching the stop motion video that comes with it! I'm always looking to improve, so if you'd like to help, please let me know in the comments what you liked and what you didn't like. If you have any suggestions or anything you'd like to see in the future, let me know and I'll get to it when I can. I really hope to make this a full-time thing, so thanks for reading and I hope you'll come back for future reviews!