It must be said right from the outset that this is not quite what we were expecting from this set. The latest in a long line of modern US, we imagined a collection of riflemen plus a few of the modern weapons that you might expect in the field. Not at all. What you see here is a collection of soldiers where no figure has any sort of personal weapon, which must be something of a first. In the US Army some of these troops don't even count as infantry, so instead we have quite a wide variety of support groups displaying many aspects of the effort required to put a modern army into battle, so we shall look at each in detail.
Working from the top, we begin with a Soltam K6 120mm mortar, known as the M120 in US service (since 1991). With the distinctive three-sided M9 baseplate, this is a pretty good model which even does the sight unit justice, although a barrel length of 20mm (144cm) is noticeably shorter than the correct 175cm and the barrel is perhaps a little thin. This mortar has a crew of five, but Toxso provide three, and the box suggests they are arrayed like this. As you can see, no one is really doing anything you could recognise; no one is holding ammunition, nor using the sight, nor manhandling the mortar. Indeed the third figure is resolutely holding his arms tight by his sides, so while the weapon is good we were far from impressed with the poses.
Next we move down a row and we find a soldier with a drone, apparently about to launch it. The pose looks a little odd at first, particularly as the figure comes without the separate drone, but it does accurately mimic photos of this activity by US soldiers, so we cannot complain. The drone is a very basic and square model and does not look good, although we suppose it might be the RQ-11 Raven, but in general form it is passable. Beside our drone operator we have the next mortar, which is the 81mm M252 with two crew. Here at least one of the crew is doing something we can fathom - he is feeding a round into the tube. The other guy is more of an enigma, and reminds us of the generic and aimless poses Airfix sometimes made for their mortar crews. However again the weapon itself is a very decent model, with the Blast Attenuation Device (BAD) on the muzzle and the unusual bipod. Toxso illustrate the whole group in this way , which gives you a better look at the bipod but does nothing to make the crew look any better. It should also be said that with the BAD fitted this weapon is more likely to be mounted on a vehicle.
Row three begins with a soldier holding a Javelin FGM-148 anti-armour missile, which first became part of the US armoury in 1996. This is a slightly simplified model but still easily recognisable, and while the basic pose is simple enough we felt the operator seemed a bit too casual to be in a war zone. Next to him, and intended to pair with him, is a man using some sort of rangefinder which we could not be sure of identifying but looks like the AN/PED-1 LLDR. If so then it is certainly simplified but still a fair model, with the tripod being nicely done.
Toxso illustrate the Javelin pair like this, where you can also see the second pair in this row. We have to admit defeat on this one, because we cannot work out what the tube this man is holding is supposed to be. It has no support, and is simply being held in the hands as shown. It has a larger bottom end and a thick band round the tube near the right hand, plus a block on top that is perhaps meant to serve as some sort of sight or firing mechanism, but other than some sort of hand mortar we do not know what this is. One suggestion is that it is the 60mm M224 in handheld mode, but if so then it is a massively poor model, with no base plate, some unidentifiable elements on the tube and a tube that is far too thick. The other man in this pairing is easier to understand - he simply covers his ears against the din of weapons fire.>/p>
With the next row we move away from weapons entirely, and instead find a four man litter party. Again these make more sense when viewed fully assembled (for which see the box illustration at the head of this review), but we found this a bit fiddly to put together because inevitably the final model is quite moveable, particularly as the plastic used in this whole set is noticeably softer than most sets. However once done the result is very nice. The casualty is a separate piece, so you can have an empty (slightly simplified) litter should you wish, and there are issues with the accuracy of these figures which we will come on to in a moment.
The last row keeps the surprises coming as it consists mainly of three poses for an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team. One man is correctly operating a mine-detector while a second is walking empty-handed and a third is crouching, perhaps taking a closer look at a suspect item. Once more our main issue with these figures is that not a lot seems to be happening. The man with the detector is fine but the others are rather generic and we would have preferred to see some interaction with a device, or at least some of the many tools such men have at their disposal. For the record, this is how Toxso imagine this team painted and deployed. This final row ends with a particularly interesting and potentially very useful figure, which is of a gunner as he might appear on top of a vehicle. The pose makes more sense when illustrated in context as here, so although he lacks the machine gun he is supposed to be grasping, he is an interesting if surprising pose.
So that is what all these figures are supposed to be doing, but have they been done well? As we have said, the plastic is really quite soft - not weak, but pretty bendable. The sculpting is quite good but the detail is not all that clear or sharp, and in places this makes it difficult to know exactly what is being modelled. Most of the figures have some form of assembly - mostly separate arms - for which see our photo of the sprue. Happily the plastic takes ordinary poly cement really well, so everything stays put, and for the most part things fit together well. None of the joins are particularly precise, so there is plenty of room for some adjustment, but about the only figure we had a problem with was the javelin operator, whose right arm does not properly meet his shoulder if he is to hold his weapon. There is no flash anywhere, and thanks to the various separate pieces there is no unwanted plastic to remove either. Each part is clearly labelled and instructions are easy to follow, so with the accompanying illustrations of the completed models this is a well thought out project.
Depiction of modern soldiers can be very tricky because of the large amount of gear available to such men, both Army issue and private purchase approved items from private suppliers. However the general first impression is positive. One really important feature usually missing on such figures, but present on everyone here, is eye-wear, which does make the faces look rather odd at first glance, but Toxso must be applauded for including this essential feature. The ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) looks quite good although not quite as bulky as it tends to appear in many photographs, but it does have the mount for the optical device on the front, which is great. Strangely it also has some sort of small element at the rear of the helmet which we could not identify, and it lacks the second chin strap to help keep it in place (although some of the figures lack a chin too). The body armour everyone here wears looks good as far as it is visible, although various aspects of it suggests it is more a composite of modern armour rather than any one particular model, so hard to identify with certainty. It does have the neck protector that has only recently been widely worn, but a fairly recent addition which is also now common is a groin protector, which is missing entirely here - a pity. The jacket is of course not particularly visible under all the kit, but it seems to be rather shorter than it should be, particularly round the back. The trousers are especially interesting, partly because they too seem rather too snug, which might restrict movement, but mainly because they appear to be BDU trousers rather than the proper modern ACU uniform. Each leg has a cargo pocket, but this is square (not sloped at the top), much too far down the leg and much too small, plus there is no lower leg pocket, so these do not work at all as ACU, yet as 'modern' soldiers that is what they should be. One caveat on that criticism however is that the Marines wear trousers with something like this arrangement of pockets, so in that sense these figures work better as Marines. Finally the boots look good.
Another good impression is made by the large amounts of pouches and kit these man all carry. Although detail in this area is a bit vague there look to be a good range of M-16 ammunition pouches, radio pouches and M249 SAW pouches, although it would have been nice to see some grenade pouches on some too. Although hard to be sure we could only find a couple of figures with the Individual First Aid Kit; an item widely carried in plain sight so should be more common here. The mix of kit looks great, and it is good to see many wearing camelbacks too. The MOLLE webbing is also hard to make out clearly, but on a couple of figures there is a suspicion of a waist belt, which would suggest another model of armour. There is also a suspicion that some or all of the litter-bearers have specifically medical packs on their backs, which would identify them as medics. This would be very wrong, because in the field a casualty would be carried by his comrades - any medic to hand would be treating and monitoring the patient rather than carrying him, and the idea of having four medics evacuating a casualty on the battlefield is far-fetched. Finally, many of the men are wearing knee protectors - which is good - but they are much too small - which is bad.
There are some further observations on the figures in the bottom row. The EOD team wear bomb suits that look pretty accurate in general form (although inevitably there are some compromises) but seem a bit thin and not as cumbersome as the real thing. Also the suits significantly reduce mobility and awareness, and are simply hot and uncomfortable, so are generally put on when a specific device is identified. This begs the question of why the man with the detector is wearing his - normally he would only put it on once something had been found. Perhaps he is anticipating bobby trapped or multiple items. The gunner riding the vehicle wears the same armour as his comrades, but given his exposed position he would normally also wear the DAPS (Deltoids) that protect his upper arms, but he does not. In addition, this model has been given a sort of eye visor which we could not verify. A full face mask would be plausible, but a visor that ends at the nose is likely to be an error.
Wrapping up a very long review, we return to our original point about the lack of personal weapons. All these men would have some weapon very close at hand, and in the modern era this also applies to the litter team, even if they are all 'medics', as medics are simply infantrymen that are trained to render assistance when the need arises but are otherwise fully armed soldiers. Even the casualty would normally have his weapon kept with him on the litter, so the complete lack of rifles here is a mystery. Other than that our main let-down is that many of the poses are not doing anything much - the mortar crews and the EOD team in particular. The sculpting is good but could be much clearer, and there are a number of sometimes small issues with accuracy. While the contents of the set come as a major surprise, and it lacks even one rifleman in combat, there is much to applaud in this first figure set from this Chinese manufacturer, and as a complement to the various 'modern' US infantry sets made by others this has a lot to offer.