Thursday, 26 December 2013

2013 Nerf Sum Up

It's that time of year again, time to look back at everything Nerf in 2013.
And what a year is has been, with more blaster releases this year than any other year I've documented.

Also Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from all of us at Outback Nerf.

N-Strike Elite
The Elite line got a whole lot bigger this year, with 13 releases/re-releases this year.
Additionally, the Aus Elite line got a range revision, with range claims of 20m instead of 15m on newer boxes. The blasters themselves are unchangedso don't feel obliged to get another Elite blaster just because it says 20m instead of 15m.

First up are the 5 main additions to the Elite line in early 2013.

The Firestrike (top left) is the Elite line's equivalent to the Nitefinder, featuring a targeting light and two underbarrel dart holders, and is a pull back single shot. Though the plunger is smaller than a Nitefinder's, and spring replacements are comparably harder, the Firestrike's superior shell design and equally low price made it popular among many looking for a simple single shot. Unlike the Nitefinder though, the Firestrike has faced fierce competition from the Triad EX-3 (below).

The Roughcut 2x4 (top right) was first revealed by an article describing the success of Nerf's modern blaster lines, being initially known as the "Ruff Cut". As a two-shot shotgun, it was seen by many as the successor to the Barrel Break, with slam fire pump action and 8 barrels allowing for four bursts of two darts thanks to its "intelligent" AR system, hence the designation 2x4, and its place in the "Multishot Madness" series. This AR system allows it to fire from the highest barrels that are loaded, ensuring a double shot provided there is a dart on either side. The flow of air in the AR system results in firing top to bottom when the Roughcut is emptied. Though not the most practical of blasters, many liked it simply because it was fun and had an extreme cool factor about it. Fast forward a little bit and a Nerfer known as "Solscud" integrated the Roughcut under the Retaliator barrel extension of a Stryfe, creating the first publicly documented Roughcut Masterkey, which quickly became an incredibly popular mod. The combination of the fun factor and coolness and the practicality of the Masterkey made the Roughcut a popular blaster, though its impracticality as a standalone blaster for many Nerf wars limits its Nerf war usage.

The Stryfe (middle left) was first revealed by the same article which mentioned the Roughcut, being known originally as the "Strife". The box art of the Firefly Tech 18 dart clip (mag) revealed the basic design of the Stryfe, with many criticising Nerf's use of flywheels made evident by the bulges in front of the magwell. Upon release however, the Stryfe became popular among many Nerfers because of its great performance and design, and lower price compared to the Rayven. Though let down by the inclusion of a pathetic 6 dart clip (mag), the Stryfe truly shines when owned by someone who already has a moderate clip (mag) system blaster collection, thanks to its tacticool-ity provided by its stock attachment point, barrel extension accepting muzzle, two tactical rails and a magwell. The Stryfe's fantastic ergonomics combined with its great performance and fantastic tacticool-ity made it a favourite of many Nerfers, including myself.

The Strongarm (middle right) was first revealed on eBay, in which a pre-release Strongarm was sold for over a thousand USD. Fast forward to its retail release, and it became popular among those looking for a revolver sidearm. Like the Maverick, it has a pop-out 6 dart cylinder and is slide primed, but various small and major improvements, such as the drastically increased range and the addition of slam-fire, showed that the Strongarm well and truly replaced and completely outclassed the Maverick. Sporting a similar price to the Maverick, the Strongarm has become the backup revolver of choice for many who used to use Mavericks and Spectres.

Finally, the Triad EX-3 (bottom right) is an major upgrade to the old N-Strike Jolt EX-1. Though initial videos seemed to show that the Triad was simply a beefed up Jolt with two dart holders, retail release and further usage showed that the Triad was in fact a true three shot blaster, rather than a single shot with two dart holders. Utilising a similar "intelligent" AR system as the Roughcut, the Triad can fire darts from any barrel, firing counter-clockwise from the user's perspective if fully loaded. Sporting the same improved ranges of the Elite line, the Triad became extremely popular both as a sidearm and as just a fun blaster, as it is extremely cheap yet performs at the same standards of its bigger Elite brothers.

Next up are three N-Strike blasters recoloured and slightly altered to match the paintscheme of Elite blasters as well as including Elite darts, though their performance is largely unchanged.

First up is the "Elite" Jolt EX-1 (top left), differing with N-Strike Jolts only in the spring ("Elite" Jolt springs are more powerful), the plunger head and the muzzle attachment.

Next up is the "Elite" Barrel Break IX-2 (top right), differing with the N-Strike Barrel Break in that the "Elite" one does not have the 8 dart tactical rail attachment, which was criticised by many. The "Elite" Barrel Break is exclusive to Toys R Us, like its N-Strike brother.

Lastly is the "Elite" Reflex IX-1 (bottom right), differing only in shell design with the N-Strike Reflex.

After the disappointment of Psuedo-Elite re-releases, Nerf provided three proper Elite re-releases of previous popular blasters.

The N-Strike Alpha Trooper CS-18 was an incredibly popular and highly praised blaster, being so good that I bought four of them. Thus the revealing of the Elite Alpha Trooper CS-12 (top left) made many people (including me) very, very happy. The EAT has redone internals, with the same direct plunger system as the Retaliator and Rampage, as well as a 12 dart clip (mag) replacing the original 18 dart drum. The change of the drum into a smaller clip (mag) was met with mixed reactions, some criticising the loss of capacity, while others liking the smaller, sleeker clip (mag). The internals replacement has been met with largely universal praise, as it has far superior power to the original Alpha Trooper, while still having the same low price. Like its older brother, the EAT is a Target exclusive in both the US and Australia.

The Elite Spectre REV-5 (top right) was revealed in an official Nerf tournament in Singapore, with Singapore getting the first release. It is a direct successor to the N-Strike Spectre, sporting the same attachments in the Elite paintscheme, as well as a similar shell slightly altered for new Elite internals. Unlike the EAT however, the Spectre's performance was not greatly improved over the N-Strike Spectre, as many have commented on various reliability issues, with jamming, misfiring and misrotating occuring more frequently than normal for a Nerf blaster, and far more frequently than with the N-Strike Spectre. The Elite Spectre is exclusive to Walmart in the US, and Toys R Us in Australia as we have no Walmart.

Lastly the Elite Rayven CS-18 (bottom right). This surprised many as the N-Strike Rayven had been released not long ago in the previous year. It supposedly has the same Elite motors as other Elite flywheelers, otherwise being basically identical to the N-Strike Rayven. Unlike other remakes of old blasters, the Elite Rayven has had a price hike compared to the N-Strike Rayven, at least in the US. Unfortunately for us Aussies, Hasbro Australia has no plans to release the Elite Rayven in Australia.

Finally, we have the two late year releases.

The Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 (left) is by far the more important of the two releases, being the first full-auto Elite blaster. It uses flywheels like most other recent electronic blasters, and as a result the voltage of the batteries determines both the range and the rate of fire of the blaster. As a full auto clip (mag) system blaster, the Rapidstrike appears to be the N-Strike Stampede's successor, and what a successor it is. With an exclusive clear 18 dart clip (mag), the Rapidstrike has already become a favourite of many Nerfers, through its combination of great performance compared to the Stampede's mundane performance, drastically improved ergonomics taking only 4 C batteries, and far cooler design. Sadly it does not match the Stampede's incredible value as the Rapidstrike only comes with itself and an 18 dart clip (mag), unlike the Stampede's 60 dart total clip (mag) capacity and extra attachments. For various reasons, for many people it has replaced the Stryfe as the best clip (mag) system flywheeler, as well as replacing the Stampede.

Lastly we have the Elite Rayven Stinger (right), differing from the Elite Rayven CS-18 in paintscheme, darts (Stinger has 25 yellow and black Elite darts compared to the CS-18's 18 blue and orange Elite darts) and a 12 clip (mag) instead of an 18 Light Up clip (mag). Besides these, it is largely the same as the Elite Rayven and has thus been largely ignored.
It has received a price donwgrade though compared to the Elite Rayven, and even the N-Strike Rayven.

Besides blasters, two major Elite accessories have been released.

First up is the Elite Ammo Box (left). Like its N-Strike predecessors, the Elite Ammo Box contains 100 Elite darts and a pretty boring design and style, with the same clasp mechanism. Unlike the N-Strike Ammo Boxes, the Elite Ammo Box also contains two 6 dart Elite clips (mags), which is nice if you are lacking such clips (mags). If you're seeking extra ammo, the Elite Ammo Box is the most efficient retail option for getting extra ammo in Australia.

Secondly is the Nerf Mission App Tactical Rail Mount (right). It's a tactical rail attachment that holds an Apple device provided it is of a certain size - iPhone 5s and many non-Apple devices won't fit, although the gen 4 Apple devices will fit well, as will similarly sized and smaller smartphones. It is pretty expensive for something that can easily be made yourself, though it is quite sturdy and secure.

In 2013, Nerf revealed their furthest firing blaster line, the Mega line. As a subline of the Elite line, they share similar shell designs and motifs, however the Mega line distinguishes itself with its red paintjob, new and huge Mega darts (not to be confused with the old vintage Mega darts), as well as performance. While Elite blasters are advertised with 75ft range, the Mega Centurion, the first Mega blaster, is advertised for 100ft range. Aus Mega is advertised for a mere 20m.
The Centurion not only advertises the greatest range of all Nerf blasters, but is also the longest of all Nerf blasters at just over 1 metre long. Size is not everything though (as Master Yoda will tell you), as the Centurion's retail release resulted in the biggest negative response to a modern blaster since the Deploy. Though 100ft ranges were advertised, the Centurion would rarely get anywhere near that even with fully-fledged 100ft US versions. Accuracy was also horrendous, as was the quality of the incredibly thin and flimsy Mega darts. Even worse, many Nerfers, more than any other blaster, have reported serious reliability issues, with jams being frequent, the breech getting damaged through even light use, and the Centurion itself not working after some play time for the extremely unlucky. Additionally, the Centurion is a modder's nightmare, with understanding its incredibly complex internals being a challenge, let alone modding it successfully and reassembling it. As a result, the Centurion has largely been shunned, even by "casual" Nerfers, and is to be used purely as a prop unless an internal overhaul is completed.

In 2013 Vortex received only two new additions, although both are quite unique and take good advantage of  the unique features of Vortex discs.

First up the Diatron (left), which is the earlier release of the two. It is Vortex's entry into the "Multishot Madness" series. It uses the same internal mag as the Vigilon, except twice as large to compensate for its double shot feature. It's slower firing than the Roughcut, due to its use of a non-slam-fire lever rather than the Roughcut's slam fire pump. Unlike some of the other 2013 releases, the Diatron was seen as gimmicky and impractical, and thus did not receive the same level of popularity as the Roughcut, or any of the other 2013 releases.

Second we have the Revonix 360, released in late 2013 along with the Rapidstrike and Centurion. It seems to be based on the Pyragon, as they share many features. The Revonix is the first Vortex blaster to advertise ranges besides the usual 60ft, instead advertising 70ft. The Revonix's major features are its ability to be reloaded on the fly, as well as its pump action slam fire and its large 30 disc internal drum containing 5 mini-mags of 6 discs each. Unlike the Diatron which didn't get a whole lot of press or love, the Revonix is liked by some Nerfers who dislike the Pyragon for various reasons. As a result of having to rotate discs before loading and firing them however has made the Pyragon extremely loud during priming, and some Nerfers have commented on the resistance during priming due to this complex system. Though it doesn't have the same fast reloading of most clip/mag blasters, the load on the fly feature, among others, makes the Revonix a favourite for some people.

The Rebelle line is one of the two entirely new Nerf lines released in 2013. Aimed at girls, the Rebelle line has a white and black/grey paintscheme with pink/orange/purple highlights, with noticeably smoother and sleeker shells than on regular Elite blasters. The shell designs could almost be called 'organic' compared to the sharp Elite shells. The brightly coloured darts designed for the line are essentially Elite darts in different colours with fancy printing. Unlike other special edition darts, there are multiple varieties of Rebelle collectible darts, though there is no apparent difference in performance or construct. Rebelle blasters still advertise Elite ranges of 75ft/20m, making sure that people who get Rebelle blasters can still compete with Elite blasters.

First up is the Power Pair (top left), which is a two-pack of "Rebelle" Jolts which have two dart holders above behind the barrel, and contains the plunger system in the handle. Unlike the other Rebelle blasters, it has no range claims on the box, which for us Aussies means we can have the fully fledged US version. As it is largely a reshelled Jolt, it is largely ignored other than the fact that is isn't detuned for Australia. There are a number of repainted PP blasters with various feminine alliterating names, but are not worth particular mention as they're basically the same blaster in different colours. Such names include "Angel Aim" and "Pretty Paisley".

Next we have the Pink Crush (top right), which is essentially a reshelled Firestrike minus the light and the dart holders, which are now on a gimmicky detachable bow arm. The ranges are actually better than a Firestrike and is easier to mod, due to the absence of the air-release hole. It is quite popular among male Nerfers, and is said by some that it is better than the Firestrike. Important to note however is that the handle is even smaller than that of the Firestrike, which was already small compared to the Nitefinder.

The Sweet Revenge (middle right) is a five shot revolver with a holster specially designed for the blaster along with free Rebelle vision gear. It is essentially the 'sister' of the ZombieStrike HammerShot (see below) but has a sleeker shell and includes more accessories, at a higher retail price than the HS, but here in Australia can be bought for the same price. Its cool design and great functionality have made its brother the Hammershot very popular among many Nerfers, with the Sweet Revenge being neglected only because in the US it is more expensive than the Hammershot. The Sweet Revenge is a great blaster though and that is shown by the popularity of its brother Hammershot.

The Guardian Crossbow (upper middle left) is a pump action revolver which uses effectively the same internals as the Strongarm, except in a much larger and fancier shell with largely useless bow arms. It has the same features as the Strongarm like slam fire so has been largely ignored by war oriented Nerfers as the Strongarm is practically superior.

Next we have the flagship blaster of the Rebelle line, the Heartbreaker Bow (lower middle left). It is a plunger-based blaster using a combination of a strange draw string and a small plunger to fire darts. Rather than having a trigger like the Big Bad Bow, the Heartbreaker uses a more traditional and realistic pull-and-release system, although this contributes greatly to the blaster's terrible and inconsistent performance. Due to the difficulty and impracticality of the blaster, Nerf warrers have largerly ignored the blaster, however it is easy to find girls enjoying the Heartbreaker bow on the internet. The Heartbreaker includes a 5 dart tac rail attachment, which with the discontinuing of the Barrel Break's dart holder makes it the only retail ammo holding tac rail attachment currently available.

Finally we have the Powerbelle (bottom left) which is basically a repainted Dart Tag Speed Swarm. Because the Speed Swarm was unremarkable by Nerf war practicality standards, and also because of the relative obscurity availability wise, the Powerbelle has received practically no press.

Besides blasters the Rebelle line has a couple of accessories released as well.

First up is the Rebelle Mission App Tactical Rail Mount (top left), which is just a Rebelle version of the Elite Mission App Tactical Rail Mount, a tactical rail attachment for holding an Apple device.

Next is the Dart Diva kit (top right), which is an accessory belt with a small ammo pouch, with 10 Rebelle darts. The belt itself is mostly the same as the Vortex Ammo Belt released earlier, as is the ammo pouch.

Lastly is the Rebelle Vision Gear (bottom left), which is just a Rebelle version of Dart Tag's protective eyewear.

The Zombiestrike line started in 2013 with two entirely new blaster designs, which are both currently Target exclusives in the US and Australia. The 2014 additions are set to be for general retail release though, rather than Target exclusives.
Unlike the clean, sharp Elites and the smooth, organic Rebelles, the Zombie Strike blasters appear to be 'unrefined' in a way, and improvised, as shown by the faux tape around the grips and the Hammershot's faux wood handle.

First up we have the Hammershot (left). This five-shot revolver differentiates itself using the one-handable priming hammer instead the more traditional slide, allowing for one-handed usage and dual wielding, as well as being plain cool. Despite its high retail price, the Hammershot is already an extremely popular blaster and has become a favourite of many a Nerfer. Additionally, the Hammershot advertises Elite ranges (75ft/20m) meaning it keeps up with other Elite revolvers.

Next we have the Sledgefire (right), a 3-dart shell-fed shotgun that has a similar break open design to the Barrel Break. Unlike the Hammershot, the Sledgefire doesn't advertise Elite ranges as it puts its power into firing 3 darts an average range, rather than a single dart. The stock holds three shells snugly, allowing for faster reloading. Though the Sledgefire hasn't gotten anywhere near as much press as the Hammershot due to its greater price, lingering hatred towards shells from Buzz Bee blasters as well as its impracticality in Nerf wars, its key shotgun ability has given it some fans and the stock power of the Sledgefire gives great potential to modding.

There are a number of accessories with the Zombie Strike line as well, but as a number are in no way Nerf blaster related and another large number don't have an official release date (and thus could be officially 2014 releases) I won't cover them in this post.

Sonic Ice (Elite)
The main three original Elite blasters, the Retaliator, Rampage and Hailfire, received recolours in the form of the very pretty trans-blue colourscheme.

Blazin' Bow
Finally we have the blaster everyone forgot about (including me when I was writing this post), the N-Strike Blazin' Bow.
The Blazin' Bow is a pull-and-release blaster, like the original Bow 'n' Arrow (someone please correct my spelling of that), and is seemingly a tribute to the latter. Unlike most other blasters nowadays, the Blazin' Bow is part of the N-Strike line, advertising a measly 40ft range. Also unlike many modern blasters, the bow's drawstrings actually assist in firing, although the blaster itself still uses a plunger and spring to fire. It uses large, long arrows like the most recent bow, the Big Bad Bow, however has a much more organic design. Partly because it is pull-and-release, partly because it does't fit into the most recent Nerf lines, partly due to its use of the rare arrow ammo type, and partly due to its lacking range, the Blazin' Bow has been largely forgotten by many Nerfers.

EDIT: Apparently I forgot the new Dart Tag releases this year. *facepalm*
Dart Tag
So I totally forgot to mention these:

Now these things are called Dart Tag Stingers, and are basically Jolt reshells with two dart holders. They're pretty obscure, being pretty much entirely ignored by the online community. They're so obscure I forgot to put these on the post when I remembered the most obscure N-Strike release, the Blazin' Bow.

So yeah these are basically Jolt reshells with some gimmicky accessories. These two are so boring I actually cannot find anything else to say about them and I totally forgot to put them in this post the first time around.

Looking forward to 2014, we've got the Mega Magnus (which is incredibly exciting), a variety of ZombieStrike full retail releases (which aren't exciting to me) and an Elite 'reboot', supposedly of an orange colourscheme like the orange Stryfe we've been seeing. The Psuedo-Whiteout Roughcut is also part of this reboot I believe. Also in 2014 we have some pretty awesome new Lego Star Wars sets, so I probably won't be doing as many reviews next year, unless something amazing comes out.

I'll just finish this post with a pic of my only Nerf related Xmas present...

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