Robot Combat

BattleBots Season 2 Review: Episode 1

BattleBots Episode 1 Special Two Hour Premiere
image credit: BattleBots Facebook

IIIIIIIIIIT’S ROBOT FIGHTIN’ TIME!! Review of the special two-hour premiere episode of BattleBots Season 2 on ABC

Here’s to hoping the legendary Faruq doesn’t land us in court for stealing a bit of his well documented and heralded thunder. But there’s just no other way to usher in a brand new season of Battlebots, is there?

“I’ve already got one nut, but two nuts are better than on.” Last year’s winner Paul Ventimiglia couldn’t have said it any better.

A new season, a new set of hopes and dreams poised to be crushed, slammed, and eviscerated into oblivion before one lucky team hoists the giant nut and basks in the glory of bot immortality. This year fixes to be even bigger, better, and bottier than last year’s network TV return to the Battle Box. The size of the field has doubled to 48 robots, Chris Rose is twice as punnier, and ubiquitous female host has been replaced by ubiquitous female host ver 2.0.

With all this newness being thrown around, we’ve decided to take a different angle on our episode write-ups this year. I’ll be reviewing each match based on a set criteria, issuing a 1-10 score based on nothing more than gut reaction and completely biased motives. What can I say, I like what I like (hint: it isn’t flame-bots).

What’s that criteria, you ask? Right this way, sir and/or madam.

Carnage
This scale is based on how many interior robot parts are strewn about the battle box floor by the end of the match. If Chris Rose jumps out of his seat as a reaction to a spinning metal blade screaming through the air at his face, chances are marks will be high in this category.

Technique
How well do the drivers…well…drive? Did flippers flip and burners burn? This scale measures how well the drivers exploited weaknesses and protected strengths.

Evenness
I thought about it. I thought real hard. And the best name I could come up with for this category is “evenness.” I’ll just let that explain itself and cry myself to sleep.

Entertainment
Was the match fun to watch? Were there unexpected twists, insufferable drivers, and enough Kenny Florian to fill up an octagon shaped container of some sort? If the answer is yes to any of those, then scores will be high. This is by far the most subjective of all the subjective categories.

Each match will then receive a final point score out of ten that is less of an average of the above scores, and more of an overall gut-reaction number that just feels right. Make sense? Good.

In a surprising and unexpected turn of events, our hosts Kenny and Chris already appear to be in top form already. With a year of bot experience under their belts, they’ve finally seemed to have come to grips with the technical knowledged involved with robot fighting. They know the competitors, they know the robots, and most importantly, they know the sport. A good sign for what will be the longest Battlebots season to date.

Now that we’ve become properly reacquainted, let’s skip any further formality and get straight into the matches!

Bout #1: Bronco vs. Blacksmith

Bronco Drivers: Alexander Rose and Reason Bradley

Bronco Season 2

In probably the most incredible match of last year’s tournament, Bronco suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the slimy hands of Tombstone and driver, Ray Billings. But this year she’s back with that ridiculous pneumatic flipper ready to right some wrongs from a year ago. Bronco is most definitely a fan favorite, even if drivers Alex and Reason have about as much personality as the block of steel they rode in on.

Bronco is better than ever with a brand new six-wheel chassis and the most powerful flipper they’ve ever built. This highlight-making machine just needs to point forward and tear into anything that finds itself straddling that shiny titanium scoop.

In a savvy veteran move, Bronco was fitted with a pair of reinforced fins in anticipation of this week’s opponent, Blacksmith, and its powerful flaming hammer.

Blacksmith Driver: Al Kindle

Blacksmith Team

We saw Blacksmith play it’s way into the field of 48 with a three-way win in the Battlebots special aired last month. It is about as stiffly made as a robot we’ll see, featuring a powerful hammer weapon that shoots worthless flames of sadness out of it’s head. If Blacksmith can manage to get into the side of Bronco, it’s possible to rack up enough points to win a few judges hearts, but the odds aren’t in its favor.

I’d be surprised if the flaming hammer manages to do any serious damage to the body of Bronco, but then again I’m not a robot builder or driver so what do I know?

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

What a way to kick off the new season! Bronco lived up to the name it’s made for itself by flipping and flopping Blacksmith like a boxy metal ragdoll all over the Battle Box. One of said flips sent the flaming head of Blacksmith’s hammer tumbling off with a way-too-excited “someone lost his head!!!!” from Chris Rose.

Blacksmith did all it could to take an onslaught of devastating hits before finally getting pinned against the wall and counted out. Bronco is back, baby.

Fear the Bronco.

The Numbers
Carnage: 9
Technique: 8
Evenness: 6
Entertainment: 10

Total Score (not an average): 8.5.

Bout Result – KO. Bronco.

Hot Take: God damn I love this show.

Bout #2: Death Roll vs. Cptn. Shrederator

Death Roll Captain: Erica Hediger

Deathroll Team

Erica is one of the handful of rookie drivers with high ambitions of hoisting the coveted Giant Nut. Not only that, she represents the first Australian team to enter the Battle Box with a metal creature that can only be described as something you’d probably find in Australia. Death Roll is a monstrosity, with a chippy vertical spinning blade and a horrific mechanical tail it uses to maintain balance in the arena.

I’m interested to see the force that spinner can generate, but mostly I just want to see that massive robot dinosaur waddle around the ring trying to outrun Cptn. Shrederator. Maybe we’ll see both?

Cptn. Shrederator Driver: Brian Nave

Captain Shredderator Team

By far the most patriotic group in the entire competition, bringing a stars and stripes flavor to the Battle Box Thomas Jefferson himself would be proud of. Captain Shrederator (Shred) made an early exit last year in a match that was largely glossed over by the production team.

But it’s back this year with a fresh coat of red, white and blue, and a new attitude towards destruction. If Shred can get that full-body spinner up to speed, this could be the means to their first ever Battlebots win. ‘Merica!

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

Love the showmanship! Team Shred comes sauntering into the arena dripping in American pride – waving, saluting, and generally worshiping their glorious American Flags. The the Aussies enter the ring doing the most Aussie thing ever: throwing an inflatable alligator pool toy into the crowd. Spectacle points all around before the match even begins!

The salacious Faruq works a “dis-Koalified” into his ring announcement for Deathroll and we all realize how great it is to be back.

The match starts a bit tentatively but quickly escalates as Shred goes for kill shot after kill shot. Each nut-crunching blow does major damage to Death Roll, but takes it’s toll on Shred as well. Team Shred’ experience is paying off dividends as Death Roll appears to be fairly overmatched.

A glancing blow sends Death Roll’s creepy tail flying into the Battle Box wall effectively scaring the smug off Kenny Florian’s pretty-boy mug. Shrederator continues to punish the ineffective Death Roll before delivering one final FUCK YOU blast as the countdown is already winding down. The hit appears to have broken Shred’s spinner in the process, but the match was already over.

It’s official: Death Roll got Shrederatoratored (it’s a word now. And probably an Offspring song).

The Numbers
Carnage: 9
Technique: 7
Evenness: 5
Entertainment: 9

Total Score (not an average): 7.5

Bout Result – KO. Shred

Hot Take: Team Shrederator makes me love and hate America in equal measures.

Bout #3: Beta vs. Lucky

Lucky Driver: Mark Demers

Lucky Team

This guy’s coming in wearing overalls and a giant beard like a stand-in on Northern Exposure so I’m going with…….Canadian? Canadian.

Luck is a scoop-bot fashioned ever-so slightly like Battlebot legend previously seen Bronco. I can’t imagine it’s flipping arm is nearly as powerful, but it does have a mildly amusing caricature of a flaming ball bat looking thing painted on it’s side. That’s probably worth something, right?

Beta Captain: John Reid

Beta Season 2 Team

John Reid has brought robot, Beta (beetah) overseas along with the most British of British accents you’ve ever heard. I literally thought he was calling his robot “pizza” for the better part of his intro bit.

Beta features the fastest hammer the Battle Box has ever seen. The imposing metal armature fires at a blazing one fifth of a second for pure robot destruction. However, having your robot fall off the dolly you’re supposed to be wheeling it into the arena with is never a good sign. Yes that happened, and is the second British thing to ever happen on this show just barely behind John Reed’s accent.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

We have movement from Beta! Large hammer. Chris is so funny with his Hammer Time jokes. Kenny is awkward.

Those were my notes I took down at the beginning of the match while watching live, and it pretty much sums it up.

Right off the bat Beta coils up and hammer-slams a huge chunk of the backside of Lucky for a quick bit of damage. That hammer is as-advertised, folks. No joke, indeed.

While it’s apparent right away Lucky’s pneumatic lift isn’t nearly as powerful as Bronco’s, but a few well-placed hits send Beta flying upside down, forcing it to flail around it’s hammer before self-righting itself. A lot of action early!

Lucky gets stuck in what Chris dubbs “cobra position” with it’s lift stuck straight up in the air. It’s a pretty even match that has both bots taking considerable damage but still going at it strong. There’s a lot of pride on the arena floor tonight! Whatever the outcome, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw both of these bots again in the next round.

A late onslaught from Beta ends what amounts to a heavyweight bout for the ages. The fight goes the distance, and the unanimous decision goes to Beta.

The Numbers
Carnage: 7
Technique: 8
Evenness: 9
Entertainment: 8

Total Score (not an average): 8

Bout Result – Unanimous Decision. Beta.

Hot Take: Another round with crazy Brits? Sign me up twice!

Battlebots Quick Hits

Unfortunately, the allotted run-time doesn’t allow the production to fully dig into all of it’s matches. I get that and even appreciate it. What I don’t get is why you would slot Battlebots legends like Ice Wave, Overdrive, and TOMBSTONE in this segment of your show. These are bots and personalities that make the show what it is, and if I had four arms I’d give this segment of the show four thumbs down.

I said it.

Anyway, here’s how the next four matches wend down.

Ice Wave vs. Sub Zero
Hot Take: Ice wave might have died, but he won. Or something like that.

The Ringmaster vs. Ultimo Destructo
Hot Take: The competition’s youngest driver, Hannah Rucker, stood tall against veteran driver, Sean Irvin, delivering a knockout blast and sending Destructo home.

Escape Velocity vs. Overdrive
Hot Take: Overdrive is back with a new vertical spinner as father-daughter team of Christian and Carissa Carlberg get stood up and knocked out against SpaceX driver, Ray Barsa.

Black ice vs. Tombstone
Hot Take: Common. Do I even have to say it? Tombstone sent Black Ice six feet un…..I quit.

Bout #4: Minotaur vs. Photon Storm

Minotaur Driver: Marco Antonio Meggiolaro

Minotaur season 2 Team

Viewers of last seasons tournament might not be familiar with the name Minotaur just yet, but they will be. This mythical beast of a robot has seen more action, dismantled more bots, and won more competitions than any other machine on the planet. It boasts a lightning fast and thunder strong spinning drum that weighs 70 pounds and rotates at a blistering 12,000 rpm.

Marco Antonio Meggiolaro brings his team and the best name ever to the Battle Box from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and has the thinly veiled Portuguese accent to prove it. They have one goal in mind, and are one of a few robots with a legitimate chance to achieve it. They want that nut. They need that nut. And they’ll toss aside any robot in their path to get it.

Photon Storm Driver: Ed Hoppitt

Photon Storm Season 2 Team

Ah, Photon Storm. I never really knew you.

Driver Ed Hoppitt akins Photon Storm’s primary weapon as a metallic Vulcan neck pinch, which of course reminds me of Spaceballs even though I’m quite clear on it being a Star Trek reference. What can I say? I’m a Bill Pullman fan.

If PS can somehow pinch a hold of Minotaur, it might start racking up enough points to take this one to a decision. If not, it’s a free ticket to the scrap heap and a swift kick in the ass.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

“It’s Brazilian, so you know someone’s about to get waxed.” Classic. My new life goal: meet Faruq and become his writer. Dream big, guys. Dream big.

I’ve got to say, given the heavy build-up for Minotaur as an imposing force in the sport, I haven’t really been super impressed by Marco’s driving skills. He clearly has the more powerful bot, but has left himself open to a pair of punishing pinches at the hands of Photon Storm. He’s trying to line up that spinning drum, but hasn’t connected quite yet.

Wait…

Nevermind…

Jesus. Minotaur is a beast.

The Numbers
Carnage: 5
Technique: 5
Evenness: 5
Entertainment: 7

Total Score (not an average): 6.0

Bout Result – KO. Minotaur

Hot Take: I can’t stop thinking about ‘waxed.’

Bout #5: Disk O’Inferno vs. Chomp

Chomp Driver: Zoe Stephenson.

Chomp Season 2 Team

Chomp didn’t have a good run last year. After graciously being placed in the knockout round as a wildcard after getting torn apart by Ice Wave, Zoe Stephenson and Chomp followed it up with another disappointing loss. All those tears of sadness couldn’t keep them away though, as Chomp is poised to make a deep run this year with some key transformations. Zoe loves her robots, and that passion is visceral and real.

Chomp now has an extremely tall pneumatic hammer and a software system that lets it automatically line up blows with the primary weapon. It’s a neuro net processah. A lehning computah (Arnold voice). I’d be surprised if that hammer didn’t end up making Chomp a little top heavy. Balance is key in this sport, so that could be a problem.

Disk O’Inferno Driver: Jason Bardis

Disco Inferno Season 2 Team

I’m not even sure where to start with this clown. If John Travolta could barely pull off a disco suit with an open chest and bellbottoms in the heart of the 70’s, a cocky little engineer from Cornell in 2016 certainly can’t. Jason’s outfit and generally awkward dancing and behavior wouldn’t be so bad in themselves, but his overconfident demeanor – especially for a rookie – topple it emphatically over the ‘insufferable prick’ line.

DI (I’m not writing out that name ever again) has a glammed out horizontal spinner and some fancy colored lights I can only assume are meant to Studio 54-ify the proceedings. Jason talks a big game, so it will be interesting to see if there’s any substance hidden under that thick layer of pretentious disco wallpaper.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

Holy shit Jason Vargas is a tool! Of destruction? Remains to be seen.

Yep. Chomp and that tall metal hammer are extremely top heavy. Even the glancingest of glancing blows sends it into a slow-motion fall to the arena floor. However Zoe is doing a pretty good job despite being severely unbalanced. The horizontal spinner of DI doesn’t appear to be responsive – just like the girls Jason tried to date in high school.

DI leaves itself open for a few massive blows from Chomp but at least manages to topple over the imposing robot for a few points from the judges. As the match reaches the end, both bots appear to have taken significant damage whether that be self-imposed or otherwise. The timer winds down and this one goes to the scorers table. Did Chomp chomp enough chomps to get the win?

The Numbers
Carnage: 6
Technique: 7
Evenness: 8
Entertainment: 5

Total Score (not an average): 7

Bout Result – Split Decision: Chomp.

Hot Take: Looks like Jason will be strutting his way back to his parents garage.

Bout #6: HyperShock vs. Ultraviolet

Hypershock Driver: Will Bales

Hypershock Season 2 Team

Will made an instant name for himself by fighting off his family in the opening rounds of last season’s tournament. He fought deep into the competition before losing in heart-breaking fashion to eventual-champion, Bite Force, in the round of 16. This year, they’ve “unsuckified” the drivetrain, which ended up dooming them in that infamous loss.

Hypershock is extremely well protected, equipped with strategically designed armor to fend off hammers, spinners, flamers and clampers. It’s also fit with a new vertical drum spinner that could be just the weapon it needs to take this bot to the next level. Welcome back, Will.

Ultraviolent Driver: Andrew Peterson

Ultraviolent Season 2 Team

Ultraviolent certainly has an uphill climb in front of it. The bot was given a spot in the field of 48 despite losing the play-in three-way in the BattleBots special that aired last month. It has a collection of six hinged arms that, if I can be honest, no one has any idea as to what they do. There is a scoop-like fin fitted to the front of the bot, but no real weapons to speak of. Ultraviolent will attempt to drive around Hypershock and use the arena obstacles to its advantage, but that’s a tall order against such a skilled a driver as Will Bales.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

Ultraviolent does little more than flail around like a limp piece of tortellini before being systematically taken apart by Hypershock. Anytime you see the guts of a robot spill out of it’s belly – evoking memories of how Dr. Alan Grant describes being attacked by a velociraptor – you know it’s been an entertaining fight. This is about as one sided as Battlebots matches get, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun to watch!

Hypershock has made an early statement. I’d love to see this robot face off against Minotaur in the later rounds.

BattleBots 2016 Episode 1 Ultraviolent vs Hypershock Ultraviolent guts hanging out

Ultraviolent showing its guts

The Numbers
Carnage: 10
Technique: 8
Evenness: 5
Entertainment: 10

Total Score (not an average): 9.0

Bout Result – KO. HyperShock

Hot Take: “The point is you’re awake when they start to eat you.” You’re welcome, JP fans.

Bout #7: Complete Control vs. Bombshell

Complete Control Driver: Derek Young

Complete Control Season 2 Team

I want to hate Derek Young. I really do. But there’s something about the colorful thick rimmed glasses, shiny gold jacket, and unwavering sense of entitlement that really just do it for me. He cheats, he schemes, he bends the rules, and at the end of the day, he’s a really smart builder who knows how to tilt the arena. He also humiliated last year’s “insufferable prick of the year” award winner, Chuck Pitzer, by exploding a gift wrapped net all over his robot, Ghost Raptor. He stole my heart and never gave it back.

This year, Complete Control has fewer gimmicks and more substance. Derek might be an asshole, but he’s also one hell of a builder. Complete Control will look to grab, claw and clamp its way around the area in hopes of ‘controlling’ the tempo and pace of the fight. He claims that CC’s flame thrower is the most effective in the field. Paint this hater unconvinced.

Bombshell Driver: Michael Jeffries

Bombshell Season 2 Team

We’ve got our first drone bot of the night! We got a brief glimpse at this added component to this year’s competition in the teaser episode that aired last month. They weren’t terrible effective then, and my skepticism remains still. I just don’t them having an real impact on causing damage or even distraction.

Luckily, Bombshell also boasts an evil looking blade hammer attached to a mechanical crank that hopes to deliver massive blows to Complete Control’s sturdy frame. If Bombshell can keep away from the grasps and flames of CC, it could deal enough damage to land in the winner’s circle.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

In a bit of a tip of the cap, slap in the face move, Bombshell enters the Battle Box donning a wrapped package on it’s head. It’s an homage to the prank Complete Control pulled last year and was ultimately disqualified for. Love the passion these guys have.

“You like grapples? How about these grapples?” More classic Faruq! Accompanied by maniacal laugh.

As advertised, the drone is literally doing nothing. Chris makes an off-color ‘kamikaze’ remark that I’m surprised made it through the FCC’s politically correct filters as the lifeless hovering pill lands softly and inconsequentially into the corner of the Battle Box. Thanks for coming, drone guy.

In the meantime, Complete Control makes good on it’s promise of an effective flame-thrower by grasping a hold of Bombshell and unleashing a furious stream of hot gold in, on, and around Bombshell. The hold and flame combo lasts the allotted 30 seconds, which was just enough time for Bombshell to melt like a toasted marshmallow.

Incredible display of driving from Derek Young as Bombshell is reduced to a charred pile of piping hot steel, marking the first time in history a flame-thrower ever won a match in the Battle Box. *slow clap.

The Numbers
Carnage: 7
Technique: 7
Evenness: 7
Entertainment: 8

Total Score (not an average): 7

Bout Result – Unanimous decision. Complete Control.

Hot Take: Finally, a flame bot that doesn’t suck!

We get yet ANOTHER montage of shorter matches with even more personality firepower in the mix! Even last year’s champion gets taken off center stage in this opening episode of matches! Sigh. I’m inclined to give these matches as little attention as ABC has deemed them worthy of.

Bite Force vs. Mowhawk
Hot Take: How is Mowhak still getting into this competition? Bite Force Wins.

Chrome Fly vs. Blacktooth Burl
Hot Take: Who vs. who?

Splatter vs. Warrior Clan
Hot Take: Remember when Warrior Clan declared it’s retirement last year? Who is this? Brett Favre?

Stinger vs. Nightmare
Hot Take: I get the network has to speed some of these matches along. But it’s a huge mistake taking personalities like Mad Matt Maxham out of the show. Consider this reviewer soured. At least Stinger wins and we get to see him be a maniac in the next round.

Bout #8: Obwalden Overlord vs. Warhead

Obwalden Overlord Driver: Rob Knight

Obwalden Overlord Season 2 Team

Finally – a robot that’s weirdness lives up to the weirdness of it’s name! If you were one of the three people on the planet who has viewed critically forgotten about robot fighting movie Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, you’ll be quite familiar with this robot. Rob Knight is a robot designer by day and by night, and has built an animatronic bot of destruction that is actually controlled by his own movement. His arm, torso, and leg movements are translated to the bot using sophisticated and terrifying software that’s sure to doom the human race some day.

It’s a novel approach to competition, but I’d be surprised if this prototype has any kind of chance to win matches. I’d like to be surprised, but I can’t see this evergrown erector set doing serious damage.

Warhead Driver: Simon Roy Scott & Ian Anthony Lewis

Warhead Season 2 Team

Warhead has gone through quite the overhaul since season 1. It’s imposing stainless steel drum spinner has been replaced by a hideous metallic dinosaur head. Read it again. Yep, that’s right: a metallic dinosaur head. Warhead has turned itself into a monstrosity of a robot that completely changes up how it is going to approach each match. I have to admit, it’s pretty damn cool looking even if it probably sucks as a fighter. That being said, it has a generous match-up with the first humanoid in Battlebots history.

Also, these guys are British, insane, and endlessly entertaining.

Let’s Battle Some Bots!!

Yikes. My fears have materialized in the form of a painfully hard to watch fight featuring a humanoid robot that appears utterly lost and infinitely useless. Warhead is toying around with it’s hilariou T-Rex head shooting billowing flames into the immobile Overlord. Warhead shoots a continuous stream of flames right into the face of OO in a sad display of robocide by arson. Bits of OO’s insides were literally on fire as it gets knocked over with a gentle push and a countdown to defeat.

Team Overlord tried something entirely different, and I’ve got to give them props for that. Hopefully future seasons will feature more if this tech with a bit more destruction. Is that too much to ask?

The Numbers
Carnage: 7
Technique: 3
Evenness: 3
Entertainment: 7

Total Score (not an average): 6
Bout Result – KO. Warhead.
Hot take: Watching a humanoid robot melt under extreme heat is fucking cool.

. . . . . . .

That’s it! Another season of everyone’s favorite robot fighting show kicks off in style. I’m jonesing for more bot destruction in the coming weeks as we whittle down the field to our eventual champion. Tune in next week for another thrilling episode followed by another hilarious review article!

Episode Score: 8
Hot Take: Solid 2-hour opening episode with plenty of room to get even better.

Bonus Content!

20 seconds of metal-crunching hits from Reddit user harris5

 

Image Credits: BattleBots
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