Robot Combat

BattleBots Season 1 Review: Episode 1

BattleBots Season 1 Review Episode 1 Icewave Razorback
credit: BattleBots Facebook

Traveling back to the year 2015 for a BattleBots Season 1 review.

First, let’s all acknowledge one thing: robot fighting is fucking cool. Long ago during its humble beginnings on Comedy Central, an impaler named Vlad ruled the ring and robot nerds from around the world won the hearts of Americans young and old as we got our first little taste of bot-on-bot carnage. It was unique. It was visceral. It was something of a sport that for the first time since Renaissance Fair jousting nerds and geeks could call their own. Now, after an all-too-long hiatus, BattleBots is finally back, and with it brings the same metal crunching action fans of the series have come to cherish.

Welcome back into the ring.

This episode recap, along with the 5 that follow it, will read a bit differently than most because season 6 (or 1 depending on who you ask) has been over for almost a year now. Call these articles more of a “let’s look back on some great fights as we get ready for some new ones.” Season 2 is just around the corner, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t vomiting uncontrollably in anticipation (figuratively).

Same BattleBot Name, Same BattleBot Flavor

This time around, not a whole lot has changed from the original BattleBots – both in the flow and setup of the show, and the robot battles themselves. We now have a slew of new hosts, a bit of sideline eye candy to enjoy, and plenty of build up that focuses on the personalities and backstories of the diverse class of robot drivers. From NASA engineers to Joe The Plumber, the show makes concerted effort to feature builders from all reaches of the earth.

The arena itself has been left largely unchanged. Fans will quickly recognize the in-floor buzz saws, hydraulic hammer slams and metal crunching spiral cutters. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the first thing that comes to mind.

The season unfolds as a twist on the traditional tournament bracket. In the knock-out rounds, 12 winning teams advance to the round of 16, while the 12 loser bots will be voted on by a panel of shadowy judges who advance 4 as wild cards. Episode one consists of 4 bouts.

Honestly, If you liked BattleBots version 1.0, you’ll most definitely be into the upgrade. If you can ignore the sometimes unbearable commentary of a former UFC fighter and a cast-away sports anchor, you should be good to go. It’s robot fighting, and as I mentioned: it’s fucking cool.

Now, let’s get to those fights.

Bout 1: IceWave vs. Razorback

IceWave Captain: Marc DeVidts

BattleBots Icewave-Team

Raised by a single mom, Marc gravitated towards robotics and engineering at a young age as a way to keep himself busy in an undermanned family. His hobby quickly transformed into a passion and career as he formed his own silicon valley robotics company. So what does the young entrepreneur do with all that success? He raises blood thirsty robots, that’s what! Marc is about as likable as a competitor gets. Home videos of him running around in dated 90’s garb zipping a homemade bot in his driveway turn up all sorts of childhood joy. Prodigy doesn’t quite do the guy justice.

So what’s a big brain like Marc dig up for BattleBots? I give you IceWave: an angry metal marvel who packs a whole mess of horsepower behind its triangular frame. A gasoline fueled combustion engine powers a horizontal, two-blade spinner at extremely high velocity. She’s an ankle biter, to be sure.

Razorback Captain: Zach Bieber

BattleBots Razorback-Team

Don’t even think about calling him “Justin.” Zach is a well known veteran in the robot fighting circuit (yes, there is a robot fighting circuit). He’s been around the block more times than the ice cream truck, and has the gold plaques and honey-baked hams to prove it. His robots are best known for resembling sadistic torture devices hinting at a fetish with the devil himself. It wasn’t a good look.

So, now he’s back with a brand new look and a brand new robot. Razorback is a finely engineered monster with a wedged flipper out in front. Nothing flashy or even particularly unique about the design. Razorback is all function, and will look to sidestep IceWave and use that giant hydrolic flipper to…well…flip. That’s the theory, anyway.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

Unfortunately for Bieber, things go about as well as fishing for shit sandwiches. Which, of course means: not well. It’s evident from the get-go this is going to be a one-sided affair. Razorback looks slow, vulnerable, and completely outmatched by IceWave’s viscious blade spinner. Razorback goes pretty much right at the gullet of IceWave, hoping that taking enough damage might stall the internal combustion engine and open up a chance for the flip. Wrong again, Beibs!

The first collision is violent – Mike Tyson uppercut to Leon Spinks jawbone violent. IceWave’s gas-powered spinner hits hard, sending Razorback reeling and sparks flying. This happens 7 or 8 times in a row before Razorback is literally ripped apart and left lying in a pool of it’s own hydraulic fluid and a heap of shame.

After one last devastating blow to an already-crippled Razorback, IceWave stands over the metal carcass as the ref counts down to zero. Game. Set. Match. Let’s hope IceWave’s next opponent doesn’t fold in half as quickly as Razorback. Yikes.

Winner: IceWave – KO

Hot Take: Not even close.

Bout 2: Wrecks vs. Plan X

Wrecks Captain: Dan of Team Pub

BattleBots Wrecks-Team

Dan isn’t given the honor of a last name on the show, so he’ll get no such honor here either. Sorry, Dan, thems the breaks. Wrecks is dubbed a walker-bot but after seeing it in motion, it’s more of a flop-around-the-arena-floor-like-a-dead-or-dying-fish-bot. Seriously, seeing this robot in motion is like watching Al Pacino scurrying around his mansion floor, half-dead and bleeding at the end of Scarface. Amusing, yet ineffective.

The inspiration for Wrecks is something out of Jurassic Park.

Something much less terrifying. Word on the street is Dan had a dream about his dino-bot, woke up inspired and got to work on what is the arena’s first of its kind. If I acted on every dream I’ve ever had, I’d have been jailed or institutionalized long ago. One thing Wrecks has going for it is a devastating vertical saw blade that hits with the power of a pack of velociraptors – That is if Dan can get waddle his bot around fast enough for it to land. As we soon find out: a tall order, indeed.

Plan X Captain: Lisa Winter

BattleBots PlanX-Team

Fans of the OG BattleBots will immediately recognize the all-grown-up version of Lisa Winter. She won the hearts of the nerd community back in the day as the young, fiery competitor alongside her ladybug-bot Tentomushi. She is a prodigy in every sense of the word, and is back in 2015 with an all new bot and brand new pink hair (blue hair? I’m colorblind). Lucky for viewers, she comes chock full of the same fire and obsession that made her popular long ago.

Her new bot, Plan X, has a brain. No, not a self-aware AI that controls itself and will someday link into the world’s nuclear network and doom us all to molecular disintegration. It’s really just a brain shaped light that blinks and flickers when the bot senses ‘danger.’ Impressive, nonetheless. It’s actually unclear exactly what Plan X’s weapon of choice is. It has a lifting/pushing bar in the front and an awkward spinner that doesn’t appear to spin in the right direction, but other than that it’s designed to be big, wide, and motor around the arena like some sci-fi frankenstein machine.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

From the get-go, it’s obvious Wrecks is going to have a rough time getting it’s awkward ass around the ring in any kind of effective manner. Giving a robot legs is, in theory, interesting and potentially cool. In practice? It’s gimmicky and lame. Dead fish bot, indeed.

In fact, it’s infuriating to watch a robot with such a powerful saw blade make a mockery of the fight with a slew of near-misses and not-so-near-misses. Just put some fucking wheels on it next time, eh Dan?

We’ve got a flip, people! Plan X pushes the top-heavy Wrecks over forward, introducing its massive saw blade with the arena floor (hello, nice to meet you floor) sending it flying backwards end-over-end. If you thought Wrecks looked uncoordinated right side up, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It flips and flops even more uncontrollably right into the screws.

“Get me off minibots!” That’s pretty much all Ms. Winter can mutter when Plan X gets stuck on an arena saw blade hole, leaving her broadside wide open for a direct hit from Wrecks. With time winding down and a unanimous defeat looming, Wrecks flops over with just enough time to land two or three devastating blows before the buzzer buzzes and time runs out. Was it enough to sway the judges in this largely one-sided affair?

No. No, it wasn’t.

Winner: Plan X – Decision

Hot Take: Hopefully this is the first and last two-legged dino-bot we will ever see.

Bout 3: Warhead vs. Bite Force

Warhead Captains: Ian Lewis and Simon Scott

BattleBots Warhead-Team

Finally! Some fun loving Brits make their way to center stage! Ian and Simon give new meaning to the word enthusiastic while simultaneously embodying every lovable Englishman stereotype one could conceive. They exude an excitement for robot fighting that teeters on maniacal and borders on creepy. That’s what makes them such an endearing duo. Not to mention the two have been friends since they were 14 (images of two 80’s sweatshirt wearing, mullet donning teens flood the screen). They know robot competition – and if you didn’t know that already, they’d be happy to oblige. If there were ever a legend of the sport, their names would be Ian and Simon.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Warhead is fucking weird looking – like some kind of stainless steel crustacean with a massive, upside down spinning steel drum for a face. I’d challenge you to come up with a better description. Its strategy is simple: bull rush whatever metal monster lay in its path. The bowl is saddled with symmetric talon-like fingers, giving Warhead plenty of malice to go along with its impressive track record. Certainly one of the fan favorites, Warhead is a battle-tested machine with only one thing in mind: championship.

Bite Force doesn’t stand a chance, right?

Bite Force Captain: Paul Ventimiglia

BattleBots Bite-Force-Team

Wrong! Not if Polly V has anything to say about it, anyway. As is BattleBots’ modus operandi, they spend about 7 minutes hyping up the first team (the crazy Brits), leaving a glossy swipe of a profile for ‘the other dude.’ Don’t let the lack of build-up fool you though, Bite Force has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Well, it really only has one trick, and I wouldn’t even say it keeps it up its sleeve. Robots don’t even have sleeves! Bite Force pretty much says it all: a fairly standard flat-bot with above average mobility and a biting mechanism for clamping, flipping, and all other forklift tomfoolery. Hype is on Warhead’s side, but as my grandpappy once told me about hype: it ain’t everything.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

After an comically timed commercial break, the bout begins with Bite Force making good on its strategy to be a pusher man. Warhead is unable to land a meaningful blow in the early minutes of the fight, and it’s evident from the beginning that it’s operable praying mantis arms and armadillo tail are utterly useless.

Bite Force pushes Warhead right into the screws! Up to this point, Warheads steel drum spinner has actually worked to its own demise. BF just pushes its bulldozer scoop at the spinner and it sends Warhead flying. In this instance throwing it out of control and over the side rail.

Warhead has effectively destroyed its only weapon as the good ole’ steel drum spinner spins its last spin after ramming face-first into the side rail. With a dead spinner, all Warhead can do at this point is look pretty…pretty fucking stupid, that is!

With a final ‘F you’ Bite Force pushes Warhead underneath the hydraulic hammer, pinning it down and ending any dignity the Brits might have had left. I think I even heard Bite Force whisper “stop hitting yourself” through the sound of crinkling metal.

Care for a dance, Warhead? Well, you don’t have a choice because Bite Force just lifted you up like a sock puppet and took you around the room for an unconsented tango. Better luck next time, pal.

Sorry, Warhead, but the hype train stops here.

Winner: Bite Force – Decision

Hot Take: USA! USA! USA!

Bout 4: Nightmare vs. Warrior Clan

Warrior Clan Captain: The Ewert Family

BattleBots Warrior-Clan

BattleBot veteran Tony Ewert assembles his entire family of four sons for his swan song, as this was his last competition in the sport (*tear). The Ewert clad hails from Abbotsford, Wisconsin where, as you’d expect from somewhere named Abbotsford, Wisconsin, there isn’t a whole lot ot do other than build robot fighting machines. That is when you aren’t mowing lawns, 4-wheeling or cow-tipping.

Warrior Clan is a multibot that deploys two useless mini bots that are supposed to ‘distract’ the other robot driver. That’s the theory, anyway. It bares a striking resemblance to the Millennium Falcon, a fact that immediately ranks it high in my dark horse contestant list. If only (Editor’s Note: Removed Star Wars spoiler. TLS policy is no Star Wars spoilers for at least 30 years.) were alive to see this…

Warrior Clan has a useless flame thrower and ever more useless aforementioned minibots, relying on it’s only effective weapon in its flipper to do the damage. Flip it up of flip it out (for you Dave Chappelle fans).

Nightmare Captain: Jim Smentowski

BattleBots Nightmare-Team

Again, the TV production does well to skip over the minutiae of Jimmy’s life, though they can muster up the energy to mention “it’s the only thing he’s passionate about in the world.” I’m not necessarily as willing to flat out call Jim a loser just yet. Especially when you consider the bot he’s throwing out there.

Nightmare lives up to its name in both aesthetic and ability. No frills, bells or whistles here, just a gut-wrenching wheel of death – an icon in the sport – that lays waste to just about anything that gets in its way.

Aaaaaand a slow motion shot of Terry Ewert tossing a live grenade at the camera and we’re off!

Let’s Battle Some Bots!

Aaaaahahahaha. After slightly grazing the main body of Warrior Clan, Nightmare’s death spinner sends one of the useless minibots flying into the stands. By far the most comical collision of the evening, and worth a replay or twelve.

And then the other minibot goes flying!! Did I mention they were useless? At this point, Warrior Plan is staying as far away from the devastating spinner as robotly possible. I thought a father bot was supposed to protect its young?

In a shocking turn of events Warrior Plan sneaks its way under Nightmares wheel and flips it! Nothing for Nightmare to do now but flop around on the ground like poor Wrecks in Bout #2. It’s spinning blade chops away at the arena floor in a fleeting attempt to right the ship.

Nightmare continues to flop around like a zombie with no legs, flinging itself into the hammer slam obstacle with impressive velocity. Meanwhile, Warrior Clan is doing everything it can to fuck up it’s inevitable win by zipping around what amounts to a live downed electrical wire. Idiot.

With a final effort to get right-side-up, Nightmare flies over the rail and is down for the count. This quickly prompts one of the exuberant Ewert boys to pound like an insane person on the plexiglass arena wall. Easy on the Red Bull, kid.

Winner: Warrior Clan – KO

Hot Take: More minibot destruction, please.


 

So there you have it! The BattleBots Season 1 review of Episode 1 is in the books. Five more to go before we get BattleBots Season 2 underway. Injecting the human element into the show was surprisingly not terrible and helped make the matches more exciting.

Stay tuned for time-traveling recaps of the remaining five BattleBots Season 1 episodes as we all gear up for more metal mashing pandemonium.

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