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HM Forces from Character Options

HM Forces action figures by Character Options

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Guest reviewer Jeff Parker usually covers high end sixth scale, but tonight he's stepping down slightly to some slightly less expensive (and slightly shorter), but no less cool, figures. Take it away, Jeff!

Thanks as always to Michael. Now I know, due to his recent review that he is of the same mindset as me when it comes to GI Joe action figures. Meaning his love is for the classic 12” doll, not those diddy little plastic soldiers designed by Hasbro to cash in on the popularity of the small Star Wars figures in the 80’s.
Of course in the UK we didn’t have GI Joe when I was growing up, we had Action Man, and everybody but everybody had at least one classic Action Man.

Back in those days before hi-tech toys, when we weren’t actually out on our bikes, up a tree or waist deep in a pond, we lived our childhood adventures through this 12” figure. The choice of outfits, apart from a couple of sport and space related costumes were all military based.

But then in 1977 I was torn away from my Action Man with arrival of Star Wars… I literally didn’t look back… Sadly neither did many other kids, and by 1984, Palitoy, the company that produced them under licence, had closed down.
HM Forces action figures by Character Options

HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options

However in 1993 Hasbro rebooted Action Man but he had changed into something I could barely recognise… I’m sure a lot of PR companies and focus groups had gotten involved, and it was fair to say Hasbro had totally lost its way with the line, turning the character from a noble soldier into some kind of street clothes, skateboard riding, mountain biking, rollerblade wearing, falcon handling ponce! In fact, his way was so utterly lost, that in the UK, Hasbro abandoned the line completely in 2006 (but although he’s down, I’m sure he’s not out!).

EDITOR'S NOTE: In fact, the recent head sculpt for the Cobra Commander 12" figure in the new Rise of Cobra line is from an old Action Man villain named No-Face!

So where could a young man, with an interest in militaria now get action figure toys to play with?
Well, now Character Options (CO) has seen the gap in the market and has decided to give us some much needed ‘soldier’ toys. These have been made with the close co-operation of the actual British armed forces, to ensure that every aspect, (within reason) could be as accurate as possible (remember, these are toys) and showcase members of each arm of British military, fully kitted up with their state of the art weaponry… or not so sate of the art if you watch UK news reports. In fact these figures are lacking helicopters for back up as much as our actual troops… but more on that later!

The three figures featured in this review are Royal Marine Commando (RMC), Royal Marine Commando with Canoe + Light Machine gun (RMCDX) and lastly the Royal Navy Diver (RND). It’s also worth noting at this point that these are not 12” figures, they are in fact 10”… why I hear you cry, well… why not!


These are very much there own stand alone series with a good selection of figures to kick off with and even a token bad guy… who I hope they’ll expand upon. There is also a selection of vehicles including a tank, quad bike and jet fighter and as mentioned earlier I’m told a helicopter is in the works… which would make sense as one of the other figures I have is a helicopter winch man with a stretcher… and he looks pretty lost without a bird!

Packaging - **1/2
If I was giving my mark in this category purely for aesthetic then it would have been a 3 possibly 3.5 star rating… however we like to take everything into consideration here, and one of the biggies is how collector friendly these packages are… and these aren’t!

With care, and I mean by using a knife, scissors, pliers and patience, you can open these up without destroying the boxes completely, I know, because I did. However you can tell these are squarely aimed at your ‘kids toy’ market rather than collectors… unless you are talking about that strange breed the ‘Mint In Boxers’! 

Now I think this is something of a shame as I can see these being popular as a collectible, obviously they’re not in the same league as offerings from Hot Toys, Soldier Story or DiD ect, but they are however much more affordable if you want to get the full range, and they show a good cross section of our armed forces at an important time in the history of our military, so I guess they are more social document than pop collectible in that respect.

The basic shape of the box when viewed from above is a squashed hexagon with a roughly 50/50 percent card board and clear plastic window construction, meaning you get a good clear look at the contents if you want to check the paint apps. I did however find that of the ones I have seen, the quality has been very consistent in this respect. The card part is full colour printed with a logo in the bottom right hand corner to let you know which armed force it is from, whilst the top of all the boxes are emblazoned with the HM Forces logo. For those readers who don’t know, I suppose I should spell out that the HM stands for Her Majesty… well, it does at the moment. In the event of Liz popping her clogs then kingly duties would slide to Ol’Charlie boy, meaning it would then stand for His Majesties Forces… simple really. 

The back of pack has a large pic of the figure alongside his accessories and a pretty detailed description about the relevant soldier.

You have to cut the clear tape that holds the top and bottom in place then slide the cardboard backing tray out. You are now faced 6 heavy duty twisties holding the figures in place and bubble packs that are utilised to hold the accessories to the back board, so you obviously have to prise these off to get to the goodies inside… never a good idea in my opinion, but I guess it gets the contents to you safe and is pretty theft proof when on display in your local Toys R Us. 

So, to sum up, not a bad looking box, it certainly has plenty of photos and detailed information, but it’s sadly not that collector friendly… a criterion that wont bother most of its target audience, but it bothered me.

Sculpting - ***
Although these are produced with the co-operation of the UK Armed Forces they are all of generic soldiers rather than any specific people. In fact the more eagle eyed collectors out there may have noticed that CO has made a little re-use of past sculpts, in as much as the Fighter pilot from the RAF series bears a remarkably close resemblance to Christopher Eccleston, who of course featured as Doctor Who from one of their other licences coincidence? I think not.

So, bearing in mind that these are generic, and aimed at kids as toys I think they’ve done a great job in making them look not only human, but like everyday squadies! There is a bit of repeat use with the sculpts which isn’t evident in this Navy selection, but across the full range, of which I have a further three from the Army, three from the Air Force and a token bad guy to cover yet, you do notice the same face crop up a few times. But compared to the old GI Joe figures who all looked like they were from the same cloning tank, it’s not that bad! I also noticed there was a distinct lack of ethnicity, so I contacted CO to ask why? Quick as a flash I was sent back a picture of a black trooper and assured there are some out there, I guess they must be shorter packed, but I was happier knowing they at least existed… no sign of any women troops yet, but as these are primarily aimed at young boys, I guess that might be a hard sell… you can only take political correctness so far!

Paint - ***
The paintwork here is all relatively simple compared to your hi-end companies, but it’s still perfectly serviceable and I found all the division lines to be crisp and accurate. They do all however have the accursed doll dot… forgivable for a toy I suppose, but I also found the lip colour used was a little ‘noticeable’, making them look like they had just visited the Max Factor concession at John Lewis. But in all fairness the paint job is actually very good when you consider the competition is the likes of Hasbro and Jakks, so as long as you approach with this in mind you’ll be happy.

Some of the most impressive apps are actually on some of the accessories, the diver especially has some well observed details on his oxygen tanks and rig harness and likewise the camo work on the RMCDX’s body armour, patrol vest and helmet is actually very well applied.

Articulation  - ***1/2
Now here’s an area that surprised me, these have some very impressive articulation. The feet are actually sculpted boots, but the top half is separate meaning the range of movement is great both in the ability to point, step and even rock a little from side to side. We then have double knees, a cut joint mid-thigh which is well disguised as it’s sculpted and painted to look like he has a T-shirt and boxers on. The hip joints consist of posts coming out from the groin at 90 degrees; these posts can rotate and are hinged, meaning you in effect have a very poseable universal joint. The waist can turn and tip by a few degrees as well, the shoulders are a pegged rotating hinge joint similar to the hips, the elbows are double jointed and the wrists are a push in peg with a circular hinge. Lastly the neck, this is similar to the True Type in that it is a push on ball joint, it can’t look forward/down much but can tilt a little to the sides and look up pretty well, which is handy for prone rifle holding poses. So, all in all it lacks a few of the finer points that some hi-end figures have like shoulders that can come in over the chest or arch back, but for what is essentially a pocket money toy it shows a great range of movement.

Outfit - ***
This is another area I was pleasantly surprised… not bowled over but still impressed. You have to remember these are 10” figures and that the loss of height means the scaling is obviously reduced. So we don’t have any working pockets or buttons, but the pocket ‘edging’ is stitched instead of printed and the tailoring is very good for the BDU’s on the two RMC figures. A strip of Velcro fastens both the jacket and trousers. The standard RMC has a simple belt with a couple of pouches and his green beret is sculpted to his head, whilst the RMCDX also comes with a plastic moulded patrol vest and helmet. Both these items fit well and don’t hamper articulation at all. The detail on these sculpted elements is very good and I’m liking the coms mic on the helmet a lot. The boots on all these figures across the board are moulded as the feet, but instead of giving them solid ankles, which arguably may have looked a little better, they have made them as two parts, with the top of the boot in effect being a plastic cuff that just rests above the fully articulated ankle, and it works surprisingly well with nicely sculpted details on the laces and tread on the soles.

The divers outfit is probably the strongest of the whole series, hence why I kicked off with this set… plus I always really wanted the frog-man outfit for my old Action Man, but sadly never got one (cue violins). He comes in a reasonably skin tight body suit, it seams to be made of some black man made material with a pleather collar, cuffs and knee pads sewn on, there are also details stitched into it and a pressure tap on the chest, the flippers are like the boots above sculpted to the feet, but again show good detail, especially on the underside where you can see the workings of the inner wet suit shoe and the straps on the flipper. The most outstanding work on this figure is on the combined oxygen tanks, harness and mask. The whole thing is constructed of soft pliable plastic which carries some great texture on the webbing straps netting covering the cylinders and finer details on the gauges, valves and tubes… in short, I would have absolutely loved this a little over thirty years ago, sigh!

So, getting the military involved to advise and OK these outfits has really paid off, as the level of detail for something that is at the end of the day a ‘toy’, is really quite special.

Accessories - RMC ** RMCDX **** RND ***
The RMC comes off pretty badly here as his only accessory is his L8582 assault rifle with scope, it’s nicely observed on the whole, but in these days of high end 1/6th where you can strip down the weapons completely it shows that these are very much toys, but all the detail is there to make it instantly obvious what weapon you are looking at.

The RMCDX has way more stuff, he also comes with an L8582, but his also has the under-slung grenade launcher, he has a canoe and paddle not to mention a light machine gun that can be put on the front of his boat and a bonus plastic replica of a Royal marines cap badge.

The diver looks impressive, and ultimately much of his accessory package is also kind of outfit… lets face it he wouldn’t be a diver without his oxygen tanks, mask and harness rig. So I guess if you wanted to be harsh you could say his only accessory was his spanner… yes, you read that right… spanner! Now I know the Royal Navy advised CO on what this guy should be packing, but at the end of the day this is also a boys a toy, and I thought every self respecting diver had a knife strapped to his leg, and a harpoon gun (though not strictly accurate, and a bit ‘James Bond’) would have been a nice addition.

However there has been a big anti knife campaign in the UK recently, maybe this was the reasoning… but to deprive the other soldiers in the line of a combat knife, but allow them some big ‘murderous’ automatic assault rifles does seem like something of a double standard!   

As it is I kind of decided that the divers kit covers both outfit and accessories, hence his reasonable score.

Fun Factor -  ****
Definitely 4 stars all the way for these, and even though I have two daughters they both had fun playing with these… it brought back many happy memories of crawling round my back garden in the bushes sending my Action Man on manoeuvres! 

They have as much articulation as many hi-end figures and a reasonable selection of accessories. I would hope they might make outfits for other regiments and weapon expansion sets soon, it would open up a whole new arena of collectability.

Maybe even some ‘celebrity’ troops would be good, I’m sure the Windsor boys would be a big seller… after all the HT ones sold well!

Value - RMC + RND ***1/2 RMCDX **1/2
These come in a whole range of prices, but my score is based on the RRP, which you’ll find them for on the CO web site. The RMC is 14.99 and the RDD is 19.99, so not a bargain but they seem to be priced about right to me. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Hasbro 12” figure for under 20 these days, and the lack of scale is compensated for with the great articulation and groovy attention to detail, especially on the diver. However the RMCDX is listed at 24.99. When you look at the standard RMC next to him, it’s obvious he has way more kit, but I’d argue he isn’t packing 10 worth of extra kit.

However, the pricing on the vehicles is pretty competitive, and though I don’t have any yet they’re getting more appealing… now where’s that helicopter!

Overall - ***3/4
I really like this range and part of the reasoning behind my score was just how pleased I was to finally see some cool well made military main stream affordable toys again.
No, they’re not perfect, but they work well and answer the brief of showcasing our British modern military very well. Add to this that they are totally play friendly to the point of being a real throw around toy that can take some punishment, just like a toy should, and still manage come up smiling!

So, for me the only thing keeping these from a full score is price, which as I said is pretty fair, but could do with a couple of quid being knocked off to make them more ‘pocket money’ friendly.

If they do well, and I hope they will, then I hope they fill out the UK ranks and even start giving us some UN and foreign troops… a Gurkha would be cool, and pretty topical!

Scoring Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpting - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - RMC ** RMCDX **** RND ***
Outfit - ***
Fun Factor - ****
Value - RMC + RND ***1/2 RMCDX **1/2
Overall - ***3/4

Where to Buy -
Well, these are basically a UK toy aimed at boys, so ‘IF you can get these in the US it will be an import item, you can try some online stores or eBay where most seem to be around the RRP anyway. Alternately you can nag your local speciality store to stock a selection. I would imagine anyone who stocks the Doctor Who range should be able to get these.

However if you are in the UK you can find them all over the place, and not just online. You’ll find them on your high street in many larger Super Markets, Toys R Us and Argos.

HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options
HM Forces action figures by Character Options

HM Forces action figures by Character Options


Figures from the collection of Jeff Parker

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