The ‘Elite’ series is a brand new branch of the N-Strike range. The bottom line is that the Elite blasters boast more powerful internal parts than normal N-Strike blasters, and the streamline dart design has been revised to grant better ranges and cross-blaster compatibility. Now it needs to be noted that these blasters I have purchased through Amazon.com and thus are the U.S. versions that shoot the advertised ’75 feet’ ranges. When the Elite series gets here in Australia, we’ll be getting toned-down versions to comply with our ‘strict toy safety standards’ which will shoot approximately ’15 metres / 50 feet’. No one is sure yet about *how* these will be tuned down for lower range; we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Retaliator is an ‘Elite’ re-shell of the Recon, whilst the Rampage is that of a Raider. On the surface they look near identical in terms of shape and functionality, but it is when we begin to delve deeper do we find many little changes, along with the BIG internals change.
What you get in the boxes are as follows:
The Retaliator has the same blaster body and barrel extension attachment as the Recon, but lacks the sights attachment. The Retaliator also comes with a new front grip instead of a tactical rail light. The shoulder stock is a completely new design, and a new 12-dart clip is included with 12 Elite streamline darts to fill it.
The Rampage box on the other hand simply comes with the blaster itself and a new 25-dart drum design, thus comes with 25 Elite darts. One downer is that the Rampage foregoes the shoulder stock which I must admit I share Urban Tagger’s point that it feels a little [quote] “…underwhelming.” [/quote]; opening the box somehow feels like you get less than what you would with a Raider (higher dart capacity drum, more darts, a shoulder stock). That being said, this is probably due to the comparison to the Raider, and there are other blasters out there that come with far less potential. But read on and you may find this little short-fall could be overlooked.
Of course, with both blasters you also get the instruction manual… but honestly who ever reads them anymore? :P One bit of trivia I’ll stick here: notice how they haven’t ended the Retaliator or the Rampage names with a “CS-12” or “CS-25” titles for the clip or drum capacity they come with? I know with the advent of the Vortex range they haven’t really been keeping with that tradition. Plus it does make it easier to read on the box and remember… but it is interesting that they have completely omitted that detail on these new fellas :S
Let’s kick off this review by comparing the Recon and Retaliator blasters together! Their physical exterior shell moulds are identical aside from a few minor details; the new blue colour scheme, ‘Retaliator’ embossed on the priming handle instead of ‘Recon’, and the ‘Nerf Elite’ logo on the trigger grip. As much as I’m a fan of the orange / yellow / grey N-Strike combination… the deep blue and darker greys with white stripes makes it pop out and looks very striking. When combined with the detailing of the Retaliator shoulder stock it really does give off that ‘Elite’ theme. To me this is a successful repaint of a Recon shell, and I certainly prefer it over other revisions like the Gear Up edition… personal taste is all :P
The two blasters operate exactly the same; the priming handle on top pulls back to cock the blaster, and during this state you can load / unload a clip. When you push the handle back forwards, the blaster is now primed and ready to fire. As mentioned previously in the Spectre review, the Recon and Retaliator have a tactical rail on the top of this priming handle. It can be a pain when having attachments on the rails; as you grab the priming handle to fire either the attachment gets in the way, slides off or you miss-prime the blaster. However, the Recon and Retaliator kindly grant a barrel extension adaptor to clip on their respective barrels, which add extra tactical rails to combat this problem! :D
The Recon / Retaliator barrel extensions have a slight difference (besides colours) too; the Retaliator barrel features a ‘rifling’ design of the inner barrel. Without going all science-y on you, REAL rifling in REAL guns improves bullet performance. In the world of Nerf however, it is just for looks; no performance enhancements to see here. Even though this is a small detail, I actually really like it! It’s just a nice bit of extra eye-candy flavour that makes the Retaliator package seem like more thought went into it, rather than just a simple re-colour.
Inside the Recon barrel (Straight lines)
Inside the new Retaliator barrel (Rifling effect)
Next up is the shoulder stock… the photo almost speaks for itself.
The Retaliator’s stock is noticeably shorter – I have read complaints saying that this can be frustrating for some users. I am 50/50 on this matter; it *is* shorter than I would normally find comfortable compared to the Raider stock… BUT! Interestingly on blasters such as the Alpha Trooper and Raider or Rampage, I find it VERY cosy. Partly due to those blasters being longer than a Recon or Retaliator, but particularly using Slam Fire just feels more manageable with a shorter stock. In addition, the shoulder ‘pad’ spot is a little bit more rounded on the corners and edges which make it more comfortable over long periods of use. The way it is shaped also means the ‘pad’ is located lower down than the Recon or Raider stocks. For me this means I can raise the blaster itself a little higher towards a suitable eye level, without having the stock in an awkward higher position *or* without having to crane my neck down lower to look down the sights or scope.
By comparison to the Recon stock, there is one advantage to each of them. In favour of the Retaliator stock is it’s MUCH sturdier with no flex or bending – much like the Raider stock. On the other hand for the Recon stock it is able to hold a 6-dart clip inside it. Honestly though, I’d still opt for the Retaliator stock due to its more rigid support… and SERIOUSLY HOW BOSS DOES IT LOOK!? D: … really, I cannot contain myself any longer; it is seriously my new favourite shoulder stock simply because of how slick it looks! It really reminds me of a futuristic AK-47 style stock, and aside from the colour differences I think it looks DELICIOUS on an Alpha Trooper :D and it looks darn snazzy on the Rampage too!
*Ahem!* Moving right along. The next difference is the fore-grip tactical rail attachment. In essence, it is a lesser version of the Stampede bipod grip. Side by side, the Retaliator grip is shorter in height, but has more detailing on it. Simple things like the lip that goes over the top, the ridges lining the front, being a two-tone colour scheme… it looks nice and it works. I’m in two minds about which I like more.
The Stampede bipod function I never really use, but I find it easier to grasp since it is larger. That being said, the Retaliator grip is small enough that it does not exaggerate the size of the blaster it is attached to, and being more orange coloured it tends to blend in more. The ridges on the front of the Retaliator grip I initially found a bit odd in texture, but soon it grew onto me and feels like it keeps my fingers in place better.
Finally, we move onto the 12-dart clip. I’m just going to be abrupt and say this capacity-to-size ratio is great!
I hardly ever use 6-dart clips any more since you have to carry LOTS of them to have a decent amount of ammo, then when using blasters like the Alpha Trooper / Raider / Rayven before you can blink it the clip is empty again.
That being said, I probably have been spoiled by the 18-dart Stampede clips. Sure, you can get the larger capacity drums, but good luck trying to carry multiple. The 18-dart clips are fantastic for their slim design and ammo capacity – but their length can make the blasters clunky and in some cases (like with the Rayven) harder to manoeuvre close to your body, in tight spaces or near obstacles.
The 12-dart clip however compromises on both of these issues and scores top points from me. It is large enough to hold a decent amount of darts without having to spend precious seconds reloading constantly, but is short enough that on smaller size blasters like the Recon / Retaliator / Rayven that it stays in proportion and does not get in the way.
Now if you’re a left-handed user – rejoice! There is yet more joy the 12-dart clip brings to the table that will help you; one side is partially see-through! This means you can quickly and easily see *roughly* how much ammo you have left! I say *roughly* because once you have five darts remaining, you can no longer see the darts, but can still see the pusher plate. Once you get down to four darts, you cannot see either of them since they are hidden inside the blaster’s belly. It still helps as a warning sign that you are running low and should conserve ammo instead of ‘spray & praying’.
Now why did I say this specifically “if you’re a left-handed user”? Because the transparent side is on the right-hand side half of the clip… meaning if you are right handed (like me), the clear-part is facing away from you. It’s not too much of a big deal, but you will need to either twist the blaster upside down or at an angle, or you have to move your head significantly just to see what your remaining dart count is. Your enemy could pot-shot you whilst you are distracted by doing this. Lefties have the advantage that they can see it at all times with just a quick glance. One other goodie to keep your eyes peeled for is the Elite 18-dart clip you will be able to purchase separately; they too have the clear panel on one side to help count your remaining darts :)
Even though it would have been nice to have completely transparent clips like the ones that come with the N-Strike Tactical Vest… at the same time I’m just happy that the 12-dart clip works so well! The 12-dart clip has a small safety ‘notch’ on the inside at the bottom that prevents overloading. Sometimes in other clips you can put in more than the *recommended* dart capacity… which often leads to jamming or dart destruction via squashing, bending or even shredding. This leaves the Nerf designers shaking their heads saying “We warned you…” Luckily with the 12-dart clip there is no need to worry about that; the pusher plate stops going any further down once you’ve topped it up to 12 darts and it hits the safety notch.
Moving right along onto our next contender for this review; the Rampage!
Very much the same story as before; the external differences between the Raider and the Rampage are the colour scheme, the embossed names and the Elite logo. At first glance or side on, the new colour scheme does not seem that much different from the Raider; ever so slightly a darker blue, with grey parts now a darker shade which seems to blend into the blue. But when you pick it up and look at it from a different angle the white lines pop out much more as if it yells out “Erro! I’m Elite! Hear me Rawr! :3”
Like the Raider, the Rampage features two tactical rail points along the top side, the iconic mag-well that juts out to the left side so clips feed in sideways, and can use compatible N-Strike shoulder stocks. Just like with the Retaliator barrel extension; the Rampage barrel too has the nice ‘rifling’ aesthetic touch, which once more pleases me.
Akin to the Raider, the Rampage is has the ‘Slam Fire’ capability. You pull back the front handle grip to cock it, to feed in or take out a clip. Pushing the handle back to the front of the blaster primes it to fire. For Slam Fire you need to ‘pump’ the handle back and forth whilst holding down the trigger. It will fire a shot automatically when you push the grip back to the front, allowing you to fire off shots VERY rapidly; as fast as you can pump it >:D
Now bear in mind that with all Slam Fire blasters, some accuracy and range loss may occur the faster you fire. You also need to ensure you pull the handle back ALL the way, and then push it forwards ALL the way. If you don’t, you’ll soon know by the horrible sensation of your blaster either getting stuck mid-prime, or worse getting a dart jammed.
(SIDE NOTE: In my case my Rampage seems to move a bit TOO freely particularly when trying to reload clips; I have to point the blaster upwards so the handle doesn’t move forwards, otherwise the clip will not slot in. I can almost bet it’s just my particular Rampage since neither of my Raiders do this, but I thought this was worth mentioning as something to keep your eyes peeled for.)
Charging forward we move onto the new 25-dart drum… again I’m going to be abrupt and say this made me squee quite a bit when I first used this. Although it is a lesser maximum dart capacity than the Raider’s 35-dart drum, it just does EVERYTHING right! The most noticeable and welcome alteration to the design is that it is now balanced in the centre, rather than bulking out to one side.
The 35-dart drum is notorious for being chunky and uncomfortable on certain blasters or trying to carry it around separately, whereas this 25-dart drum helps resolve that by being smaller and being both left and right hand-side friendly. In terms of actual operation the new drum feels a bit smoother to load up, particularly when compared to the Alpha Trooper’s 18-dart drum. In my opinion the 25-dart drum is definitely a redeeming factor for the Rampage since it did not come with a shoulder stock, or with the mythical shield attachment many earlier ‘leaked’ images hinted at.
The next topic to cover is the redesign of the streamline dart as well. The new Elite darts have an altered head design; specifically the inner rubber connection that joins the tip to the foam is significantly shorter. Essentially, the weight is put closer to the tip of the dart and is less distributed towards the middle of the dart, assisting in better ranges and accuracy. This also provides another advantage in that you can use these darts in practically ALL N-Strike blasters! From Mavericks to Vulcans, no longer will the problem of streamline darts sticking out too far or not fitting correctly be a problem! The foam itself feels the same while sporting the new Elite dark blue colour :D and according to SG Nerf’s findings the darts are also a fraction lighter overall.
Now because I’m not quite ready to dissect a sacrificial Elite dart to actually SHOW you these differences, here is a link to SG Nerf’s comparison between the regular and Elite streamlines:
Now while I am impressed with the difference in effectiveness with the Elite darts, it’s still not a ‘perfect’ dart design. At the longer ranges you will still see a spread due to ‘Fish-Tailing’ (where the dart spins off wildly). I believe from what I’ve found elsewhere that the small hole in the rubber tip is a factor in this problem, but it is necessary to make it safer; it crumples and compresses upon impact, ensuring the dart does not sting the person on the receiving end… HOWEVER they do not Fish-Tail as severely as regular streamlines and the noticeable gain in range is really what makes the difference.
Finally, we move onto the segment many of you have likely been hanging out for; what really makes these two blasters ‘Elite’ and what sets them apart from their older brothers. To demonstrate, I’ve decided to crack these bad boys open especially for this review! What really makes these Elite series blasters different are the new plunger internals. In certain older blasters like the Longshot and Stampede, they used what is called a ‘direct’ plunger system. In short, it is the more efficient system of getting more air force behind a dart to fire it faster and further.
In more recent blasters however, such as the Raider and Recon, they use what is called a ‘reverse’ plunger. When I start up my own modding section I’ll explain in more detail the differences between the two and how they actually operate. But for now, at the end of the day what you see here is the difference between the old and new versions of these blasters, and what gives them that extra OOMPH we’ve been waiting / paying for.
In the Retaliator and the Rampage, not only are they now the more efficient direct plunger system, but they are also a tad larger as well. Pretty much all of the other internal components are the same – just the plunger and the spring.
At this stage I’m not really able to do a fair or accurate range test since I currently don’t have much room to measure in. But what I can definitely tell you is that a stock (unmodified) Raider has got nothing against the Rampage in terms of range.
A Raider with normal streamline darts will shoot a short way, with mediocre accuracy (as mentioned earlier; this will become less during Slam Fire mode). Because of Slam Fire you could spray and pray and darts would just go everywhere, leaving you to hope you will hit something (if not everything) in range. Using the Elite darts in the Raider certainly does improve accuracy and a little bit of range, but ultimately the Reverse Plunger system just doesn’t have enough kick to fully utilise the Elite dart’s potential.
Now the Rampage on the other hand, will shoot almost twice as far. With normal streamline darts, they are still unreliable with accuracy, but will certainly shoot further… if not Fish-Tail more erratically :S. Using Elite darts though the accuracy is much better at close to medium ranges, but the darts will still wobble off course a bit as it reaches the extremes of its distance. However you are more likely to hit your target in a more relatively straight line rather than just a shower of random direction darts like the Raider, and the Fish-Tailing effect is often not as severe as regular Streamlines. I actually took the Rampage to a Nerf battle with some friends a week ago. It was easily able to ‘keep up’ with many other blasters including significantly modified ones, in mild wind and light showers conditions which can hamper range and performance. It certainly out performed certain blasters in terms of reliability as well; never missed a beat in the heat of battle, and ended up winning a few battles.
The Retaliator is an interesting story. Similar to the Rampage, it will certainly outperform an unmodified Recon in terms of range. It seems it performs on a similar level to the Rampage both with range and accuracy. But I feel there is more to the Retaliator… it is incredibly efficient to use. It really behaves like what the Recon should have been all along, and although it is simply a re-shell with a new plunger system, the overall experience and the complete package gives me the impression that more attention has been given to the Retaliator to make it not only a worthy upgrade to the Recon, but worthy of the title ‘Elite’. Although I can certainly appreciate how the Rampage performs, if I had to choose which one was ‘better’ I think the Retaliator has truly won me over.
NOTE: My Recon contains modified internals, as I do not currently posses a stock / unmodified one. The ranges between the modded Recon and the Retaliator are quite similar, although the handling and durability of the modified Recon are much more different... but shall be discussed at another time.
So in summation; are these Elite blasters really all that ‘Elite’? The short, pointy end of the abrupt stick is “For the U.S. Elite versions; definitely!” They have the capability to shoot further than their previous versions *and* other N-Strike blasters both due to the new plunger system, as well as bringing better weight calibrated streamline darts to the table. Both offer new clip designs for more logical, convenient dart loading and portability, and in the Retaliator’s case comes with some cool looking extras (especially the shoulder stock :D). The only thing I am still hesitant on is just how well by comparison the non-U.S. versions will hold up, but as said a few times we are just going to be patient to find out.
I’m giving the Rampage a Dart Score of 9 out of 10 Elite darts. I subtract half a dart for feeling a little lacking in the accessory department. I also took down a further half dart off the score since it did not fix the same issue the Raider had where if you half-way cock it, it will get stuck unless you fully re-prime it. There is a mod to fix it… but it would have been nice to not hate to worry about it or deal with it at all. Although it still has that feeling of being a Raider re-sell, the sheer power upgrade and the 25-dart drum definitely makes the Rampage a worthwhile addition to your armoury.
The Retaliator on the other hand… a whopping 10 out of 10 Elite darts! I simply cannot fault it. Even if I was trying to be nit-picky about “well it’s another re-do of a Recon” – it’s a VERY GOOD re-do that is certainly worth buying, both for the avid collector and the serious Nerf Gladiator to do battle with. The extra range gained, the new clip, the new stock, and even just the feeling of how GREAT it performs overall makes it a very ‘Elite’ experience.
Now oddly I’m even going to give the Retaliator’s shoulder stock a score. If the Recon stock was about a 7 out of 10, and the Raider stock a 8.5 out of 10, I’d give the Retaliator’s stock a solid 9 out of 10. I just enjoy using it so much, it looks incredibly unique and actually has a purpose to steady your aim I’d say definitely give this stock a try! Admittedly it would have been nicer if it was a bit longer – but as said it tends to work great on longer blasters like the Rampage, and since it is shorter it helps with manoeuvrability :P
That brings this Elite Double review to a close… but be prepared for another epic review to arrive soon… very soon ;)
I hope you enjoyed this special double review (provided it didn't burn your eyes out for being so long x_x... sorry about that lol!)
To reward you for getting all the way to the end, here’s a random ‘Tacticool’ setup I had a play with while taking photos :D