There are few game franchises that know how to merchandise like Halo. From the Mountain Dew Gamer Fuel that accompanied the Halo 3 launch, to shoes, t-shirts, and collectibles, gamers tend to go gaga over just about anything with Master Chief’s face on it. It was in this vein of product hysteria that Jasman Toys launched the Covenant Plasma Pistol and Covenant Plasma Rifle Laser Pursuit Gaming Set.
Aside from being an unwieldy name (Lazer Tag is a trademark), the replica Covenant weapons are designed to make you feel like you are right in the game, and you’ve happened across the corpse of some unlucky grunt whose weapon hasn’t yet been poached. In fact, for added fun, when you start up a game, scatter the guns around the playing area and let the players find them. Just like in a real war, if you can’t secure a firearm, then you aren’t going to last long.
The weapons look and sound just like the real thing, with careful attention paid to every detail. The guns are made to scale, leading you to believe you’re holding the real thing, and each of them carries significant weight, creating a sense that this is more than just a plastic toy; if you aren’t careful it may just discharge and put a giant hole in the side of the house. Furthermore, the sound effects used when firing the gun are authentic to the game, so when you hear the familiar buzz of the plasma pistol readying a charged shot or the rapid zaps of rifle fire, you’ll know it’s time to get to cover. The design of the pieces, as well as the recoil after each fired shot, make these replicas feel more realistic than most would imagine.
Other aesthetic touches have been added to the weapons to up the coolness factor, including lights, an LED ammo display, and pop-out pieces for when the gun overheats. That’s right: just like in the game, if you pour out too steady a stream of bullets from the rifle or loose a charged shot from the pistol, flanges will pop out and the gun will refuse to fire until you pop them back in place. It’s a neat touch that lends authenticity, and also prevents anyone from winning a match by simply holding down the trigger at all times.
Each gun also comes with a target to be clipped onto the belt when playing so as to determine which shots hit their marks. Each player is given five dots of “shield,” and once they are totally depleted it’s game over. However, just like in the game, if you manage to get to cover and avoid damage long enough the shield recharges, letting you go back on the offensive.
While the toys may look good and draw "oohs" and "aahs" from friends as they gaze upon them, there’s still the little matter of how well they work in an actual game of “laser pursuit.” Unfortunately, this is where things fall apart and you begin to wonder if functionality wasn’t sacrificed for style.
For starters, the targeting devices are fairly picky, and if you don’t score a direct hit on the sensor it won’t register. Since the actual sensor is roughly 2.5” in diameter, you have to aim at a very specific locale in order to score a hit. Also, since the device will likely be hooked to your friend’s pants, you’ll spend a lot of time aiming at the crotch. It may be funny for a time, but it won’t be long before you begin to feel a bit weird. Further complicating the targeting is the fact that the guns aren’t synched to specific targets, so any gun fired will hit any target. This most commonly becomes a problem in team games, as it’s possible for you to accidentally shoot your allies and knock them out of the game. All the targeting issues really spring out of the fact that the sensors are very rudimentary, and one can only assume they were added as an afterthought. If they had been given the same level of care and diligence as the weapons themselves, it’s likely this could have been the premier laser gaming set.
Aside from the targeting sensors, the guns themselves face a few durability issues as both weapons I received had incurred some degree of damage in shipping. Something had broken loose inside my plasma rifle, thus causing it to rattle whenever it was moved, and the catch which held the overheat flange on the plasma pistol had also broken. Thus, whenever I played, whoever used the pistol had to hold the flange down, release it when they used a charged shot (which causes the gun to “overheat”), and then push it back down and hold it there to get it working again. It’s a fair bit of annoying to have to hold such an integral piece in place as you’re running about anyway, and since everyone knows the pistol is one of the video game’s weakest weapons, this added malady proved that even in real life, the pistol is only useful when there are no other guns around.
A final sticking point is the price, as at full retail these two guns will set you back over $200 when purchased together. Add in the fact that Jasman has plans to release an Energy Sword as well and you’re looking at a hobby that can grow expensive quite quickly. There’s little doubt that the plasma rifle is worth the investment, as it is quite truly badass, but the pistol feels overpriced at $80, and it’s hard to find the incentive to grab what is the more inferior replica.
For the true collector, these two weapons are an invaluable bit of memorabilia, likely to impress friends and woo colleagues anytime you bring them out. They are great display pieces, and hanging these over your mantle would be considered a badge of honor for any gamer. I currently have mine proudly displayed above my computer, and I get a little shiver just looking at them.
If you are looking to use the guns as they are intended, for games in the backyard, then you’ll likely be somewhat disappointed. There are several other sets out there that are much more enjoyable than these and at a lower cost as well. And besides, you already know every match is going to devolve into a fight over who gets the rifle, so unless you have two there’s little reason to bother. When it comes right down to it, the guns are collectibles in the truest sense, nice to look at, but not for touching.