13 July 2013

REVIEW: Nerf Retaliator

We can't get e-Nerf.

A few weeks ago we got to grips with a rather unique Nerf blaster, the Vortex Diatron. Although we had a great deal of fun with the disk-firing gun, we couldn't help but be a little disappointed. You see what we want most from a toy gun is for it to feel as realistic as possible. Clumsily loading foam disks into a chunky red pistol did not help us feel like Arnie. So we were cock-a-hoop when we were sent the Diatron's bigger brother; the far more serious looking Retaliator.

Even the name means business. Say it to yourself in a gruff American voice: Retaliator. ReeetaliAAA-torrrr. Also, just look at this damn thing; it looks like a real assault rifle (albeit one that has been painted blue with a bright orange end). It's exactly what we want from a toy gun.

Unlike other blasters in the Nerf range, the Nerf Retaliator has a rather unique selling point. Included in the box is not just the gun itself but rather parts of the gun that be assembled in a variety of ways. You get the central blaster section with grip, magazine, cocking slider etc, but you also get a rifled barrel with detachable stability handle as well as a shoulder stock. So basically the Retaliator is a pistol with a bunch of add-ons.

But don't get us wrong, we don;t mean that as a negative - if anything the modular design is a massive benefit. It gives the hardened Nerf player the option of how to use the Retaliator; in essence it becomes several guns that can be tailored for the occasion.

Because of this fact we decided to test the Retaliator in several of its various states to find out how we preferred using it. Nerf tells us that the blaster can shoot the included foam darts (you get 12) up to 75 feet. So, discovering that the drive and car port by the side of Test Pit HQ is about 80 feet, we lined up and took aim. We weren't disappointed.

In our range tests we found that the pistol on its own (without the barrel attached) achieved average distances of around 70 to 80 feet. However this was only the case when there was practically no cross-wind. When the wind did pick up we found that the range dropped to around 50 feet and the darts went crazily off target. This is to be expected considering how light the foam darts are.

Once satisfied we slapped on the rifled barrel, slotted in a fresh magazine, and took aim once more. With the barrel on the Retaliator achieved averages of around 60 feet, which at first sounds disappointing. However with the barrel on, and those clever rifled groves spinning the darts as they fly, the blaster's accuracy noticeably improved. Even when slightly windy the darts that were shot through the barrel flew much straighter. So that is a deciding factor: if you want range go pistol, if you want accuracy go barrel.

We found that adding the shoulder stock didn't make any difference to range or accuracy, but with it and the barrel added it made the Retaliator feel a little more substantial and solid; certainty aiming became easier as we could pull the stock into our shoulder to steady the blaster and grip the stability handle. The Retaliator allows you to choose how you take it into battle.

Fans of customising and modifying their Nerf guns will be happy to hear that the Retaliator features three tactical rails, whereby extras such as telescopic and laser dot sights can be added; one on top of the pistol and two more on the barrel. Obviously the removable stock can be replaced and another fitted - we've seen one available that is adjustable which would better suit an adult.

If there was one gripe we had about the Retaliator it is how the blaster cocks. Once a dart magazine is loaded into place, you must pull back the top of the pistol section to prime the firing spring. This you must do with every shot. We were hoping that this cocking action could have been achieved by a pump-action lever on the lower side of the blaster on the barrel; like with a pump-action shotgun. Having to keep moving your hand back to the top to quickly yank back the slider made for slow shooting, and we found we preferred to just leave our hand on the top of the pistol to load the next dart quicker. But this completely negated the need for a stability handle and made it impossible to aim along the sights.

We realise this is so the barrel can be removed and for the pistol will work independently, but still it meant that the Retaliator is best used as a sniping rifle and not a quick firing machine gun. But hey, what a brilliant sniper it is. If we had two we'd use the complete version to stand back and pick our enemies off from a distance, while keeping the stripped down pistol version on our belts for close-quarter encounters.

All in all, this a brilliant blaster that offers the urban warrior a choice of how best to use it.

Around £25

Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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