Let’s play a little game. It’s not too difficult—it just involves a little math. We’ll start off with the APC from the classic sci-fi action movie “Aliens”. Next, we’ll add in a stealth combat helicopter—and we’ll even make it a two-seater. Got that? Good--- okay, now it’s time to finish the equation. APC + stealth helicopter = RHINO. What’s a RHINO, you ask? Only one of the most talked about GIJoe products to hit DTC this year! I’ve been lusting after this vehicle (yes, “lusting”) since I first saw it at the GIJoe Collector’s Convention in Minneapolis. However, does the realization live up to the anticipation? Is this the vehicle that I’ve longed for all these months? Not quite but it’s pretty darned close!
The RHINO (Rapid Heli-Intergrated Neutralizing Offensive Vehicle) is one of those vehicles that almost defy description. Literally, it is a heavily armored troop carrier that has sacrificed troop capacity for a secondary attack mode—in this case, a helicopter. Now it seems to me that some of the members of Hasbro’s design team are sci-fi fans as the APC bears more than a passing resemblance to the Colonial Marines APC seen in the film “Aliens”. It features an armored pilot’s compartment on the front left. The right front corner sports a mounted heavy weapon and could also serve as a co-pilot’s compartment. Both of these compartments appear to be heavily armored, as is the rest of the base vehicle. Even the massive wheels are most protected by a combination of a deep wheel well and four massive hub caps that cover most of the tires vulnerable surfaces.
The sides of the APC feature drop-down doors from which to deploy troops. The right side door accesses a small side compartment while the left side door opens into a small troop bay with seating for three. Each troop bay features a set of foot pegs so that additional figures can be positioned inside. There is a small access hatch on the right rear of the APC located near one of the vehicle’s hard-points. The machine gun mount can be attached and a gunner placed in the hatch to provide cover as the vehicle retreats. Also the roof opens on the both the rear corners to access both the left troop bay and one additional compartment. As stated previously, much of the APC’s internal volume is used by the helicopter launch mechanism so the troop bays, while nicely detailed, are not as large as you might expect for a vehicle of this size. As stated previously, the APC body is covered with various hard-points to which the included weapons mounts can be attached. There are two at the back, two mid-roof, and one located on the side behind each front tire. This gives the APC a tremendous amount of variability although the hard-points are located a bit too closely together on the roof for all of the weapons to be used at once practically. The mounts can also interfere with the deployment of the helicopter as well as the use of the rear hatch. Weapons will have to be rotated to the side before either of these features can be fully used.
What may at first appear to be the driver’s compartment located on the roof of the APC is actually the cockpit of a two-man fast attack helicopter. Simply press a button located on the back of the rear bumper and the helicopter slowly raises up from the body, with the wings deploying from down once the craft clears its parent vehicle. The mechanism is slow and dramatic but also quite effective. I’ve deployed the helicopter about a dozen times and the mechanism has performed flawless each and every time. (Click here to see a short video of the deployment.)
In many cases, the “secondary vehicle” of a toy usually feels like an afterthought. In the case of the ROCC the mini-jet was nice but ultimately lacking in detail—nothing more than a hollow shell. In the case of the RHINO, the helicopter is actually the high point of the set. Resembling modern stealth aircraft with its angular lines, the RHINO copter is two-seater craft that outshines many other attempts by Hasbro at small helicopter. (Remember the Locust?) The cockpit is roomy and features two detailed stations—each with control stick and unique decal simulating controls. The nose sports a dual cannon mount that is reminiscent of the original Dragonfly and each of the wings features molded auto-guns. The small craft is also covered with more of the same hard-points as the APC with one on each wing, one on each side of the nose cannon, and one on each side below the canopy. While on the wing mounts prove to have any practical application given the accessories that we currently have available it leaves no doubt in my mind that Hasbro had big things planned for this design. I can only imagine the interchangeable weapons that would have accompanied each figure and vehicle allowing fans to customize their Joe motor pool to their specific tastes. The wing mounts do, however, accommodate the RHINO’s missile launcher quite well, which gives the diminutive copter additional teeth to take out Cobra. I actually prefer the launchers mounted on the helicopter over mounted on the APC.
My only issue with the copter is that the rear seat in the cockpit is a bit cramped while the front seat is almost too roomy. In the pics that I shot, Flint is swimming in space while Wild Bill feels like a passenger riding coach. However, the helicopter is EASILY my favorite part of this entire vehicle. It casts an impression of speed, firepower, and grace that has made it an instant favorite in my Joe collection. In fact, Hasbro could see this copter individually and I’d snag a few more to use for my Joe team.
Lastly, we come to the driver—the first-ever Joe from South Dakota. Cannonball, as he is code-named, is another in a long line of “Franken-Joes” being comprised of the body of Barrel Roll v1, the forearms of Switch Gears, and what appears to be the head of the Valor vs. Venom Heavy Duty. There has been a lot of discussion as to whether this is a modified head sculpt or not and, I’ll be honest, after staring at him for what feels like hours I’m not certain. The apparent differences could be the result of the use of a lighter skin tone or it could be that his nose was retooled for this piece. I’m more inclined to go with the former explanation, as I don’t see Hasbro putting that much time into a figure that is essentially a throwaway character. Let’s be honest—Long Range from the ROCC is also in Sigma 6 and thusly has a new head sculpt. Cannonball’s only appearance with this vehicle so I have the feeling that this is simply the case of different colored plastic and paint apps causing us to see something that isn’t there. There’s not much else to say about Cannonball—he’s not really distinctive enough to stand out in my collection. When my fiancé first saw him, she commented that if he were a blonde he’d make a great Hulk Hogan figure and since then I can’t look at him the same way. So, while it’s nice to have a pack-in figure this is one case where we could have just had the RHINO sans driver and I’d be okay with it. Cannonball comes equipped with the same helmet as the Adventure Pack Barrel Roll.
So, if I like the APC and I love the helicopter, what’s the problem with the RHINO? Why don’t I completely espouse it as the gem of a GIJoe vehicle that it is? Simple—it’s almost too hi-tech and stylish to be a Joe vehicle. In recent waves the Joe vehicles have actually moved closer to real modern day vehicles with such pieces as the Thunderwing and the Jungle Strike Humvee. The RHINO, while a great vehicle, doesn’t fit in with those pieces of equipment. It does however remind me a great deal of an older Iron Grenadier vehicle—the Dominator. Part helicopter, part tank the Dominator was one of Destro’s multi-functional vehicles that I always thought was a little over-the-top. How much more believable would it have been had it been designed along the lines of the RHINO—built as an APC with a separate support helicopter attached? So, while I do LOVE the RHINO and will use it for my Joe team, I’ll probably have to say that it was based on a discarded MARS design. Either that or I’ll end up snagging another one to repaint for the IG’s.
All in all, the RHINO is a real winner. For the price you get two terrific vehicles that have a good deal of playability and yet are not bogged down by overly gimmicky action features. While I personally don’t think it works 100% as a GIJoe vehicle and I find the driver to be completely discard-able, it still shows the improvements that that design team has made from the early days of the Assault Quad and the Fang 3. Hasbro’s come a long way and we can only hope the future is equally as bright.