Full disclosure (B): Dead End is the Stunticon that I've spent the least amount of time with, so that may have colored the tone of this review.
Ok! I've completed the Combiner Wars Stunticons, and I'll be reviewing them one by one, pretty much in reverse order of purchase. Dead End, firstly, looks great in car mode. He's got these great fanglike headlights, nice curves, and the rear looks like something you'd actually see on a high-end sports car, with the big, central tailpipe and all. I've never really liked Dead End's colors, but here the maroon is made with some pretty nice swirly metallic plastic, so that kind of mitigates that issue, though it's true that I think the Wildrider version of this mold will look better. Dead End's smokestack beatin' stick unceremoniously sticks onto the side, and the foothandgun mounts out too in the least inventive way possible (you'll see what I mean as I review the other Stunticons), so the car mode definitely looks better unarmed than armed, but then, you knew this wasn't the alternators line anyway, so no use in complaining. As a side note, let me add that I'm not really bothered by the lack of clear windows in this line. It's a pretty big change, as most previous lines going back to at least RiD (the first one) have had pretty much every larger-than-basic, and then then some basics, TFs used clear plastic for windshields and such. On the flip side, it's been nice to see all the deluxes have painted rims, even if Motormaster and Blackjack don't. Also, one scary but is that Dead End's windshield doesn't like to come out of its orientation for car mode - it feels like it's going to break while you are opening it and there are now stress marks on the bottom part, so I'm kind of worried. At least this isn't an issue when going between robot and limb modes, but I should be able to put the guy in care mode without fear of breakage, and I worry that Wildrider will have the same issue. I'll update with a fix if I can figure one out.
So, robot mode - I'll admit that I came into this with high expectations. With both Dead End and Breakdown being that last two Stunticons that I got, I only really knew them ahead of time from their online reviews, which decidedly leaned in favor of Dead End. In fact, Dead End probably has more "best of the team" appraisals than any of the deluxe Stunticons. Let's just say I didn't get a good first impression of Dead End. Out of the package, he couldn't hold his foothandgun (too loose, even for all of his 5mm ports save, thankfully, the exhaust), he had loose shoulder and hip joints (not too uncommon) and his lower legs didn't hold together well in any mode. Suffice to say, I've put more nail polish on Dead End than any other recent transformer since I started doing that with Cybertron Unicron in 2006. Now that the polish has cured, he's a lot better, but he's still not as great in hand as he looks in photos. Makes me kind of second guess wanting to pick up Wildrider when he's released. Anyhow - one thing that jumps out to you about Dead End is that he kind of feels like a "grown up" version of Cybertron Clocker. It's not a one-for-one copy, but the upward hood on the back, the hollow lower legs from the back of the car, and arms from the doors all bring Clocker to mind. I do like how the lower legs open and close around the thighs for car mode; that's pretty neat and you kind of a lame hover mode from it. However, it also means that he pretty much has no feet - just little nubs that are even proportionally tinier than the feet Clocker had. A note about the arms - they are kind of short and the elbow joint is more restricted than you'd think. The arm is not designed to look naturally at rest when it's straight/in vehicle configuration - as such, you have to bend the elbow to make the arm appear straight and the door paneling prevents the joint from closing as much as it could. Even so, the arms are serviceable. I do like the smokestack weapon better in bot mode; more than anything else about the new Stunticon toys, it helps sell their image of a bunch of robot thugs. Since Wildrider also comes with one, I figure that they both (being the buddies that they are) jumped some poor Autobot with a semi altmode and ripped the smokestacks off of him. He does look a little out of place with the other teammates since they all have -purpose-built weapons, but as I said this will only further the connection between Dead End and Wildrider once I have the latter.
As a limb, Dead End is...ok. His leg mode is fine if a bit fat. I do like how the smokestack plugs into the same car mode port and it looks good that way, even if it interferes with Motormaster's foot when posing. The arm mode is not as good, mostly because it doesn't feel as solid as the other bots' arm modes. This is at least partly because he feet/the combiner forearm don't connect together that well, but the exhaust pipe that the foothandgun has to connect to has to flip a 180 for this mode and kinda-sorta float in the middle of this weird, partly empty forearm. Also, Dead End's own arms can't stay flush without inhibiting combiner articulation, but don't really look good nor are they very secure from moving around when you've got his shoulder struts pulled out to allow for said combiner articulation. Of course, I'm assuming these issues will be present with Wildrider as well.
Overall, Dead End is a bit of a let down, which is sort of amusing considering his personality. I don't care for the fact that, despite the mold's issues, it will be this mold that gets duplicated for the set as Wildrider instead of a stronger mold being duplicated. In the end, though, it's a good-looking toy, fits in well with the rest of the team, and it's also nice to finally get a real Dead End after years of mixed-up homages that conflate him and Wildrider.
Edit: I wanted to note that, after spending some more time with Dead End (and his newly acquired remold, Wildrider), I'm a lot more positive about this mold than when I wrote this review.
- I figured out how to open the windshield without making myself stress about the stress...basically, push down on the very back of the roof panel that is part of the windshield piece. I have to do this with Wildrider too. Now I don't worry about going to and from vehicle mode, which is great because of how nice the car mode is.
- while the foothandgun placement in car mode is still lazy, it does allow you to use the post itself and the transformation hinge to use it as an anti-aircraft turret; pretty useful for the enemies of the Aerialbots.
- while Dead End himself definitely suffered from QC issues, these aren't inherent to the mold itself, as Wildrider didn't have to have any nail polish (though I may add some for the typical loose hips).
- lastly, I've found that keeping Dead End's arms stowed when he's in arm mode doesn't really hinder articulation much.