Every now and then, cosmic forces align and awesome things happen:) Right now I am very far away from home; across the pond in sunny Los Angeles California and was taking a break from everything when I learned of two rather excellent coincidences- 1) E3, perhaps one of the biggest exhibitions was going to be on while I was still here, and 2) new kids on the block in the blaster world Tek Recon were going to be flying in to LA, selecting E3 as their showcase for their new gear, fresh off the highs of surpassing their kickstarter.com crowd sourcing campaign goal of $50k. Coincidence? Or.. DESTINY:D
I was therefore very lucky to be able to catch some of the fellas from Tek Recon while they were setting up their stand for E3 for an early hands on look at the much anticipated gear and to have an in-depth chat with them about the upcoming line. In short, there's a lot about this line that has us excited- not just the awesome blasters themselves but the work behind the scenes to bring this line to light has been extraordinary. Bootload of pictures available after the jump, so sorry for it being a tad grunty on the bandwidth! Most of this is just pic spam, but I'll do a more indepth write up when my plane lands back in Australia:)
I got to meet up with Harold and Dave, both with quite a lot of experience with toys in general and who were very switched on, personable fellas willing to be very open about the journey behind Tek Recon. Tek Recon's a Canadian company, hailing from Toronto and they're setting out to really concentrate on designing and making high quality toys that are genuinely fun to play.
Despite the hectic nature of these types of expos at the eleventh hour(anyone who's ever manned a stand at one will know whatever CAN go wrong tends TO go wrong) they still took the time to go through everything with me and take on board feedback I had gathered on my experiences as a toy blaster blogger. I was pretty honest with them about how Urban Taggers works- we're totally independent and have always been open and honest with our opinions, so while I was genuinely interested and excited about the Tek Recon line prior to the meeting, I was not going to praise them if I find them to be crap. And the cool thing is they didn't have a problem with that. Luckily, I can honestly hand on my heart say- I think the Tek Recon line is pretty damn sweeeeeeet:)
One of the things I find abundantly clear with the Tek Recon line is it's a blaster design that is the product of user feedback. They've got some pretty talented people in their team to get to where they're at today- the engineers who design the actual blaster internal mechanisms; the industrial designers who design the shells to those who come up with the colour schemes and the graphics people responsible for their point of sale marketing material have all put together a product that looks very slick and polished in a way that surpasses even some of the more seasoned toy blaster manufacturers releases. They may have still been setting up the stand, but the wall banners were impressive.
Lets start with the actual physical gear: the blasters themselves are already enough to get blaster fans interested; their designs look incredible and a really great balance between realistic styling and futuristic/sci-fi detailing. The images we've seen are great, but it's always how they really feel in hand that makes the difference. While the fellas had the misfortune of the product not arriving on time (fingers crossed they get there by the first day of E3!), I was still able to play with the display final working units which they assured me were very much close to the final product.
And they're fantastic. The candy green just pops and reminds me almost like a modded Japanese car import; the build quality is solid, sizable and feels well made and the detail of the moulds look very polished and complete. You can almost be assured they won't be able to be easily re-stickered and sold as an Air Zone Toys R Us product- they've got a distinct visual identity to them that is unlike anything else. I was told this was important to the designers; the blasters would have to stand on their own alone even without any of the smart phone enhancements and I told them I was sceptical of how the community would take to the app if it was going to be cheesy games and awkward gameplay so it was the blaster design that was the main appeal thus far...
SO! Harold goes into overdrive and gave me a glimpse of the proposed Tek Recon app- it's still in beta stages but there was enough to showcase how it would work when mounted to one of the blasters. The term "real life video game" has been adopted by several manufacturers in the past with limited success as is the actual functionality behind augmented reality. In my experiences users just aren't interested in shooting make believe bees or aliens in their doorway.
Harold showed me the app itself was not so much about augmented reality as much as it was about enhancing the overall real world blaster experience. They've also listened to what users want, and I was pretty impressed. We're talking different types of scopes/targeting using the phone's camera; sound effects on firing for funsies, GPS tracking of your team mates/opponents (Aliens style, yes!) even a cool intercom system so u can real time voice chat with your team mates (or taunt your opponents) in battle. Basically- stuff that makes sense.
While I'm not completely sold yet, I am probably as close as I've ever been to wanting to actually try it out because the app seems to boast all the features I've always thought would be awesome to have on a blaster. So far, it's looking good:)
But it's the blasters I really wanted to get my hands on, and I LOVED THEM. In the pictures, I was more into the Havok, but in person I found they both had a lot of appeal. These blasters do not require any priming; they're semi auto already which is appealing:)
The Hammer Head is SOLID- it's got a nice large grip that'll appeal to more grown up hands. I'm assured the final product will have a more textured grip.
Like with all Tek Recon blasters, the front 'grip' slides back and forth for semi automatic fire. The slide back and forth basically is connected to the trigger and so it's basically pushing the trigger back and forth faster than your index finger could. I thought it'd feel awkward but it actually doesn't feel bad at all to use- I tried rapid fire several times and emptied the clip pretty quickly with no trouble. My accuracy was rubbish of course using this, but like it matters:P
All Tek Recon blasters come with an inbuilt smart phone mount. It's permanently fixed I think, but doesn't look totally out of place without a phone attached although I did suggest users not sold on the smart phone app would just saw it off. The mount, unlike Nerf's, fits all newish smart phones, both iOS and Android quite securely.
All Tek Recon blasters have a switch that can change the tension of the firing, therefore allowing the user to switch between faster shooting and further distances. The trigger becomes stiffer and harder to shoot for longer distances, but i'm sure users will adapt:D It's sort of similar in concept to the Nerf Dart Tag Snapfire as far as the tension part is concerned.
With each pull of the trigger, there's a spring loaded 'hammer' action at the rear of the blaster giving the blaster recoil. I could take or leave this but recoil admittedly IS pretty fun so it's a bonus to have it there and just indicative of that level of detail they've put into the design.
Clips are unique to each blaster so far- the Hammer Head uses a clip that slides into the butt of the blaster with a white tube to store the ammo. I think it holds 25 rounds but I have to check over my notes to be certain. It's good to finally see a pistol design blaster that has a clip in the butt, and it's neatly integrated too.
Ammo is a very stretchy "rubbery" plastic that are like little rings. They load into the clip in a similar way to the way you'd load a Nerf dart clip. At this stage they're orange, but I did see a green one as well and they've assured me ideas like "glow in the dark" could happen with enough fan feedback:) That's the big thing about Tek Recon- they're very responsive to their fans.
And the ranges? The ranges are good. They are suggesting 75ft which I'd say is pretty accurate, but I was mostly shooting walls so I couldn't really be certain if I was making that. Still, they're quite powerful and while they don't hurt when hit, you can still feel them on contact, especially on bare skin:)
The Havok looks/feels more like a traditional toy blaster and looks awesome. The clip is a large capacity one that has two ammo tubes built in, meaning you can fire till empty and straight away just flip the clip around and keep it going, as well as reloading on the fly which is very cool.
I liked the pump action rapid fire- it feels really good in hand.
The Havok's clip is gorgeous. It's quite chunky and weighty but the gun metal grey goes really well with the candy green finish of the blasters.
The Havok clip basically stores two ammo tubes, one on either side of the clip. Loading is the same as with the Hammerhead, and it's a higher capacity as well.
You can see the clips at this stage are not interchangeable- this clip only fits the Havok, but this might change in future.
Like with the Hammerhead, the Havok has a switch that can adjust the tension of the bands, meaning you can select between easier rapid fire or distance.
The stock is detachable and extends a decent length for grown up shoulders.
The top has a rail that looks like it may allow for future attachments, but at this stage they're concentrating on doing the simple things well first.
So what do I think? I think they're awesome. There's a lot of work that's gone into these to be where they're at, and it shows. Tek Recon listens to their fans. Every email, comment, blog post or call to them is taken seriously and all sorts of ideas have made it to production because of it. I really am looking forward to them hitting the shelves- they're a great bit of kit and I can honestly say I'm impressed.
Thanks so much to Harold and Dave of Tek Recon for taking the time to chat with me and show me the gear.