Play Arts Kai Halo 4 Master Chief Review

It’s no secret I love Halo. It’s one of my favorite series of all time and has captivated me ever since the original. The games and expanded universe truly made up a lot of my younger years and still, to this day, provide entertainment. From the figures on the shelves to the complete soundtracks that fill my phone, I really do enjoy the franchise. This is an exciting review for me, as the Play Arts Kai Halo 4 Master Chief is the first Halo product I’ve bought in a long time, let alone one that I was genuinely excited about, so bear with me, as this is going to be very in-depth!

Up until now, while there have been plenty of figures that have upped the ante this year (and to be fair most have come from the budget conscious NECA [not surprising though], who’s work far surpasses their price point, so they fall into their own category in a way), this is the best purchase I’ve made. Just to provide some perspective on how fantastic this figure is,  I still show him off to anyone that visits and absolutely think of it as one of my centerpieces. Something about the appearance screams that there is a story behind the represented character; it really draws you in. The humanity that is exposed through the game is very much translated to the final product there. That’s the response and experience you should have when handling a ~$60 figure.

Packaging

When you pick yours up in store, or rather like I, open your shipping box, you’ll be greeted to a high quality, bookcase/tray-style package that, aside from a single circle of tape, is completely collector friendly. Coated in the typical blue-toned theme that most Halo 4 items are adorned with, it is very glossy, featuring a heroically posed Chief with the portal to Requiem behind him, along with the title and the other, normal information you’d expect. On the back are three generic poses of The Chief, a cross advertisement for the other figure in Series One, a Blue Spartan Warrior, as well as plenty of warnings and other tidbits of knowledge, such as the amount of articulation, materials, and support numbers. The information is multilingual, with at least one language that should be recognizable in most common areas of distribution; a nice touch, highlighting the fact it is an “imported item”.

Opening the front flap, which is secured with strong Velcro on the right, reveals a window coated with decals and a heavy blue tint, which makes The Chief somewhat difficult to see in full detail and clarity (no matter though, this bad boy should NOT be confined to his packaging by any means). On the inner side of the flap there are detailed breakdowns of included weapons as well as some info about The Chief himself and the Spartan project. Once the aforementioned tab of tape is removed, the figure slides out, seated in a slick black plastic tray that is secured shut with a clear lid, which clips on the sides via pressure. Nestled in the plastic bed, you’ll find The Chief, his iconic MA5D assault rifle, a T-25 directed energy plasma pistol and a pair of additional hands. No twisty ties in sight, a nice surprise! Placed in the reverse side of the tray, within the hollow hutch, is a blister card that holds an extremely intricate stand for the figure; the card is adorned with instructions and assembly steps. I’m told this is included with most new Play Arts Kai figures, but I can’t confirm or deny this, as I am not a regular consumer of their product. Personally, I chose to leave this sealed as I didn’t feel I needed it.

Design

When you pull this guy out of his plastic cocoon, the first realization is his heft. He definitely feels solid and of his price point; there are clearly few hollow parts here. Like his weight, the feel of the materials are exquisite, very solid, and very clean with no mold spurs or rough patches to be found. The Chief really, truly feels like a premium figure. He’ll tower over your typical ~5” McFarlane figures, but not meet the (until now) near perfect 1/6 scale Chief. Coming right around 9” high, he is a unique size that stands alone. Unfortunately, this odd scale really doesn’t blend well with others, posing the issue of essential “loneliness” amongst your collection, provided you, like I, do not avidly collect Play Arts Kai products (though they have scale issues amongst their own products regardless). However as a diorama maker, this gives me a perfect opportunity to create a display that stands alone, so the whole situation is hit and miss; is the cup half empty or half full?

Contrary to Bungie’s original trilogy interpretation of The Chief, 343 Industries have taken on a more streamlined look for our Green Hero. He is more sleak, with areas more prone to damage bulked up, such as his shoulders and chest, while his abdomen is armored down without obtrusion, leading to a much more constrained waist guard, and leading back to bulky, imposing thigh armor. Square Enix has tweaked the on-screen proportions slightly to provide a better translation to articulated plastic form, though not obtrusively so like any of their other Halo products. Rather than having obnoxiously large legs or greatly altered designs like some of their items, the Master Chief simply has bulked up shoulder joints, which may look slightly odd when anatomically standing, but this allows for much more natural poses, as his shoulders can roll into his chest to properly sight a rifle. It really is not obtrusive, and the second the figure is posed you would never know of the change. This is still the definite representation of the Halo 4 Chief without a doubt. Everything is where it should be, and if you are in the market, I highly advise picking one up.

All details are accounted for and are recreated to perfection in the sculpt, from the relief throughout the armor to the marred right chest plate. His undersuit even features robust amounts of texture and detail.

His helmet remains fairly similar to the original, with the overall look simply brought up to speed with the rest of the transition. He features four lights, represented in white paint in the traditional locations and a lovely bright orangey-gold visor, which contrasts beautifully with the metallic olive armor.

The new forearms also take a hint from the helmet by remaining very classic in their overall appearance, with the exception of a lot more detail. Unlike the gloves of past, these are truly new. They feature armored plates along the shaft of each phalange, save for his index trigger finger and thumb, freed for easy access through a trigger guard and grip.

Rounding it off are knee, shin/calf, and boot armor that look like they could kick their way straight through a wall…and then some. They’re full of detail and really clarify that this is a half-ton suit of armor housing a person.

The overall armor is slim and beefy at the same time, tactically distributed for peak performance. It really does embody the descriptions of MJOLNIR armor as a whole. While it certainly is a far cry from what fans are used to seeing, it still resembles and represents the character we know and love, providing an excellent mix of new with old. It took me a long time to become accustomed to this change, and initially I had very little like for it when it was revealed at the E3 announcement. Over time and many hours logged into the game, it grew on me, quite a lot in fact. Is it better than the original? Perhaps in some ways, but ultimately it has a James Bond feel – you know the character, but face brings something different in every iteration. I look at it no differently than the change from the Combat Evolved MJOLNIR Mark V armor to the Mark VI of Halo 2 and 3. While I know it can simply be attributed to developer choice, I was always frustrated with the lack of cannon explanation for the excessive aesthetic change of the armor in the fourth installment of the franchise. The only description I could find comes from the novel Halo: Glasslands which essentially explains that the Mark VI features nanotechnology that can actively upgrade the armor during cryosleep. Perhaps that can settle some other fans minds who felt a disconnect.

Likewise his weapons are perfect representations of their in-game counterparts, full of detail, and very solid. They each include a peg so that they can be attached to Chief’s back or either thigh. These are glued in, but they can be removed with some heat and determination. Contrary to popular belief they are not permanent, just a real pain to get rid of. 

Articulation

The Chief is equipped with a slick 26 points of articulation (I will list the points, though some have multiple features of movement so they count towards the total two, sometimes three times) with most of them being ratchet joints and very tough ones at that. I highly doubt you’ll be seeing any slipping here. I need to make a clear note that there is a display stand with this figure for a reason – he can be very difficult to keep upright, but that in itself is the nature of ratchet joints. However the weight is a bit of factor here and that leads to some difficulty in stances. This is primarily the reason there aren’t a wide variety of poses in the pictures; I got him standing, he’s staying that way. I recommend a sealed detolf shelf or somewhere where if he tumbles he isn’t base jumping because this is plastic, not game accurate multilayer alloy. However I digress, the joints included are comprised of:

  • Dual ball jointed neck –The tried and true method that is aesthetically pleasing works well here. Featuring full range of motion, you can have Chief look every which way you’d like.
  • Butterfly-hinge shoulders – Directly linked to the chest, these joints allow the shoulders to curl in or out, and provide for a perfect shouldered rifle, unlike a pair of normal swivel hinges. Yes, he can in fact look down the sights of a gun.
  • Swivel-hinged shoulders – Connected to the butterfly-joint, Chief can reach a full 360o rotation as well as bring his arms to a 180o line.
  • Swivel-biceps – Rotating just below the shoulder swivel, these permit the arm to come across the body and hold his rifle with two hands.
  • Swivel-hinged elbows (ratcheted) – A full 360 o rotation is achievable, as well as flexion of his forearm beyond  90o.
  • Dual-peg ratcheted ball wrists – A ratcheted ball with pegs on each side to attach to the forearm and hand respectively allow for deep angles, giving the ability to hold his rifle at ease naturally without sticking his elbow out in an unusual manner.
  • Ball-jointed abdomen – A hidden joint allows extreme rotation around the abdomen. It simultaneously allows for deep leans and crunches for taking cover, or in-motion poses (like many of the speedy runs and action cut-scenes of the game).
  • Ball-jointed waist – Working in conjunction with the abdomen, you can really bring together some very natural poses. There are no stiff chests here, Chief can bend and turn to look around cover or crouch down with ease.
  • Ratcheted hips – I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I told you I  know how to classify this joint. It can extend to a near 180 o line with ratchets, and can rotate forward and back in the same manner. It’s similar to a swivel hinge but integrated straight into the leg mount.
  • Dual ratcheted knees – On each side of the knee there are two ratcheted joints that connect to the equivalent of the femur and tibia/fibula respectively. These allow for the most range I’ve seen on a figure, allowing for incredibly life-like crouching and kneeling. When both are bent entirely it can look strange, but when balanced, it is one of the best designs I’ve seen.
  • Dual-peg ratcheted ankles – A ratcheted ball with pegs on each side are attach to the foot and equivalent tibia/fibula respectively allows for deep angles, though can be frustrating to line the ratchets up with that of the knees and hips so the feet lay flat and even. Again, this is the nature of the ratchet joint.
  • Ball jointed toes – These allow the toe-boxes of The Chief to turn about and line up if you have exteme angular poses. They get the job done and are a welcome addition

Paint

This blows me away each time I look at him. The quality of the paint is superb, and not just the absolutely perfect application, but the selection of colors and vibrancy of such. The Chief is not as green as you’d expect, but at the same time, it does match the on-screen counterpart. He is more of a steel-olive combination, and it looks fantastic. It truly captures the appearance of futuristic military hardware and very much resembles metal. The sheen is bright, but not overly so, precise enough one could mistake it for being die-cast if unknowing.

The color itself isn’t enough to capture the realism this provides, the subtle dark wash that brings out the highlights and recessions in the armor truly completes the ultimate look, with silver weathering and chipping galore across the armor. This truly makes it appear to have battled its way through hordes of Covenant foes and back. The work on this figure really feels as if it was pulled straight out of my Xbox.

Like the armor, the visor is just beautiful. The vibrant orangey-gold contrasts perfectly with the muted armor to bring attention to the head, unifying the entirety of the figure much like a person with bright eyes.

The weapon paint applications are wonderful  as well, with no slop. They are accurate and look the part. I am especially impressed with the look of the plasma pistol, which has to have at least five overall paint apps, quite a lot for just a weapon.

Overall

Conclusively, where does that leave us?

Positives+

  • Outstanding Paint Application
  • Fantastic Display Presence
  • Premium Appearance
  • Excessive Articulation
  • Durable Feel
  • Revitalization of a saturated market
  • Ratcheted joints for longevity

Neutral

  • Can be difficult to pose. Negatable with the included stand or patience.

Negatives-

  • Availability or rather lack thereof. This is more than likely exclusive for the online shopping connoisseur. This does present the absence of picking the most appealing product.

Verdict:

A must buy.

When I found open pictures of this figure for the first time, I couldn’t yell “shut up and take my money” any faster. He absolutely is the perfect iteration of the Master Chief and well worth the premium price. I think extremely highly of this piece (if you couldn’t tell) and it in itself revitalized the series to me. After hordes of McFarlane figures being my intake of Halo, things got rather stale but ultimately, this piece brought that back up to speed. The craftsmanship and quality is outstanding, fulfilling every desire of a die-hard halo fan without a doubt. I hope this has converted any who were on the fence beforehand because you WILL NOT be disappointed in your purchase. This has become the shining star of my Halo Collection, and I have done myself a disservice by not adapting my display to have an exclusive place and diorama for him yet. Go out and get yourself one; it is a purchase you cannot regret.

UPDATE: If you’re interested in obtaining your own, your best bet is eBay. Click this link to search eBay for this Play Arts Kai Halo 4 Master Chief action figure.

“We need to find Halsey…she made you, she can fix you.”

By Weston

Weston is an avid collector, student, and diorama creator. Video games and cinema are the theme of his collection, and when studies or collecting yield extra time, you can find him in a sketchbook.

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