[Robot Wars UK: S8 is available online through the BBC.]
If last week’s Update article were a game on Steam, its store page show its review score as “Overwhelmingly Negative”. I can’t quite figure out why, though. People seem irrationally up in arms about my “treatment” of Gabriel, a robot that you might recall being the one that I said should’ve won the heat finals. But no, I guess Gabriel just so happens to be the Robot Wars equivalent of Chomp and you’re not allowed to make fun of it without immediately being branded an asshole. There’s a million arguments and statements I can get into but I won’t because this is the article’s introductory paragraph and I’d really prefer not to scare away new readers. Instead, I will replace any references to Gabriel with video stills from the BBC show Baby Jake. This week’s Update is the Grand Final. The whole shebang, the title match to determine who wins and who managed to stave off losing just long enough to appear in two episodes. Five winners from the previous heats plus a sixth wildcard will battle it out for the Robot Wars 2016 title as well as a trophy made from Sir Killalot’s dick and probably some money or something.
TR2 gets top billing for the Grand Final because it’s managed to do what no other finalist has up to this point: win every single one of its fights. Even though at first glance it looks like “a UK flipper” (that just so happens to have the world’s worst pick axe weapon stuck to its ass) TR2’s secret has to be its driver’s skill. After surviving a potential ass kicking from Supernova in its qualifying heat, TR2 went on to do battle with the likes of Big Nipper and King B Remix, two robots which ended up being thrown into the goddamned wall until they quit working, before ultimately toppling the “under new management” version of Dantomkia. TR2 kicked its ass so hard that Dantomkia’s owners ended up reselling the robot to another team to make it someone else’s problem.
Statistically, at least one “killer spinner” had to make it to the Grand Final. CARBIDE gets that honor. Better known to US viewers as Cobalt from BattleBots, Dave Moulds’ spinner is said to be the UK’s equivalent of Tombstone. With a weapon powered by the famous “E-Tek” series of motor Carbide has consistently made short work of all opposition. In the qualifying rounds of its heat Carbide popped a wheel clean off of The General and caused enough damage to Bonk to rupture its pneumatic air tanks which ended up killing the robot once it was flipped over and couldn’t self-right. Carbide also made short work of Nuts by means of ripping its outer weapon ring away, obliterating its minibots, and tearing off an entire fucking wheel. The bot isn’t perfect however, as a mechanical failure in its fight with Terrorhurtz led to Carbide eventually being pitted. Despite the loss, Carbide had earned enough points to make it to the head final where it faced off against Behemoth, and then faced off Behemoth by breaking its plow.
APOLLO is basically a low-res version of TR2, but don’t let the robot’s PS1 appearance fool you. What this robot lacks in aesthetic it more than makes up for in sheer strength. Sure, this robot might not have an immaculate record like TR2, but did TR2 ever manage to throw not one, not two, but three goddamned house robots ass up? I didn’t think so. Apollo is the “loose cannon” of this Grand Final; when it wins, it wins pretty damned nicely, but when things go wrong everything goes to hell immediately. The flipper nearly lost its qualifying round when PP3D cruised over and tore off one of Apollo’s wheels, but somehow Apollo was still able to skid around and remain viable in the match and managed to kill both Kan-Opener and Sweeney Todd. Apollo eventually exacted its revenge on PP3D in the head-to-head rounds by using its flipper to literally rip a whole fucking wheel off of PP3D before reaching Storm 2 in the heat finals wherein the controversial rambot ended up being thrown clear out of the arena.
Every Grand Final also needs a giant fuck off bulldozer. Enter SHOCKWAVE. Sporting 4-wheel drive with incredible torque and a massive lifting wedge, Shockwave successfully deflected DisConstructor into the pit while Thor took out Tough as Nails in its qualifying round. Shockwave’s heat was a bit of a cake walk considering its next two opponents were Foxic and MR Speed Squared — two robots that didn’t even fucking work properly — but the giant plow met its match against Thor during the head-to-head fights. Making the mistake of swapping out its wedge for some shitty scoop made from plastic sewer pipes Shockwave had its ass handed to it pretty easily, but during its rematch against Thor in the heat final the team made the decision to go in with their original wedge and came out victorious.
PULSAR has had the strangest path to the Grand Final by far. Pulsar originally lost its qualifying round and was eliminated from the competition when Ironside 3 destroyed one side of Pulsar’s drivetrain and left it for dead allowing Ironside 3 and Chompalot to advance onward. As fate would have it, Chompalot was not long for this world and after a beating so severe in its first head-to-head the dragon literally fucking blew up and became a write off for the team. As per the Robot Wars rules the battles must go on so Pulsar was brought back for a second chance at glory where to everyone’s surprise it racked up 6 points thanks to back to back KO’s over Beast and Ironside 3 which propelled it into the heat finals where it mustered a controversial victory over Gabriel securing its place in the Grand Final. The team is still plagued with motor problems, which they attempt to troubleshoot in the pits by whacking their robot with a fucking hammer. Jesus Christ.
Finally, we’re down to the wildcard. The five teams eligible for this place are the ones whose robots lost in their respective heat finals. Those competitors are Behemoth, Gabriel, Thor, Storm 2, and Dantomkia. All five of these robots gave it their all, but only one gets the Pulsar treatment for another shot at the title. That robot is THOR. Originally from the same heat as fellow finalist Shockwave, Thor’s weapon of choice is a powerful pneumatic axe which it used to great success in the qualifiers where a precision shot to Tough as Nails’ electrical box killed the grappler in a single blow. Thor’s axe went on to make short work of MR Speed Squared and Foxic — to the surprise of literally fucking no one — but more importantly Thor came out ahead in its first bout against Shockwave where again precision blows were a decisive factor in damaging its opponent’s drive system. Without question Thor has earned its wildcard which is a nice change of pace because if this were BattleBots I’m positive the wildcard would’ve gone to fucking Glitterbomb or something.
GROUP BATTLE 1
For all the shit that I gave Pulsar last week — which believe me was a lot of shit — it’s doing moderately well at the start of this fight. The first few seconds of the match are made up of the three competitors bumping around trying to figure out who their first target is and Pulsar eventually lands the first hit of the match which rips the covering of Thor’s left wheel off. It’s a bit hard to make out, but Pulsar also lands a hit on the front little “wedgelets” of Thor as well which bends them into an upright position where they appear to get stuck so right away Pulsar has managed to do a substantial amount of damage to one of its opponents. There’s a first time for everything I guess. I’m being generous of course, because immediately after all this happens you can probably guess what happens to Pulsar. Yep, it just fucking dies. Guess they should’ve been whacking it with a bigger hammer in the pits.
At this point it’s pretty obvious who’s going to be moving on and it almost feels like Thor and TR2 kind of stand down for a bit because they know any needless damage they incur here can potentially fuck them over in the finals later. TR2 fires its flipper, misses, and lands on its ass which has led me to notice that the robot’s “bum axe” is no longer attached. I guess after Dara tore the team a new one with that sick burn they had no choice but to remove the weapon to try and save face. Somewhere in this fray I’m assuming TR2’s driver makes the realization that if they take out Thor right now that will force Pulsar to advance, and since Pulsar is basically a blank check it would be worth their while in the long run to do something about Jason Marston and that fucking hand motion he keeps doing every time they introduce his robot. Thor gets rolled over near the pyrotechnic spikes in order to buy TR2 enough time to open the pit. Meanwhile, Pulsar comes back to life (sort of) and becomes a makeshift weapon as TR2 throws the spinner at Thor.
Thor takes the bait and starts chopping away at Pulsar’s underside which affords TR2 an opportunity to flip Thor over yet again. Suitably distracted by Shunt’s axe raining down on it, Thor is vulnerable to attack yet TR2 doesn’t seize the opportunity for some reason and the axe wielding robot bounces back into action. Out of nowhere Pulsar’s weapon begins spinning up to speed for what feels like only the second or so time this match. This prompts Jonathan to start rhyming shit and talk about Sirens. Shunt can’t take any more of this shit and shuts down Pulsar’s disc using its axe. The clock runs down on this match and sends it to the judges.
WINNERS: Thor and TR2
GROUP BATTLE 2
Before this match starts, Apollo’s team whip and nae-nae during their introduction. I wholly believe this is a spat of psychological warfare. It works, because rather than charge at Apollo, Shockwave instead elects to go for Carbide. Shockwave misses its mark, takes a hit, and gets spun off onto the flames. Shockwave doubles down and charges at Carbide again, this time hitting its mark and carrying the spinner into the wall where Carbide’s blade digs in and breaks the fucking wall. Like a bunch of kids who just accidentally broke a window playing baseball, all three robots immediately run away to the other side of the floor hoping no one noticed who did it.
Carbide takes another swing at Shockwave and peels back the armor at its rear right wheel visibly crippling the rammer while Apollo lands its first hit of the match and sends Carbide on a one way trip to a lesson on centrifugal force. The officials finally realize what has happened to the arena wall and stop the match, but not before Carbide can get one more hit in on Shockwave’s wheels.
Alan, a safety official from the event, says that they intend to fix the wall and allow the fight to resume with the remainder of the clock. Meanwhile, Will Thomas from Team Shock is inspecting the damage done to his robot and it’s fucking staggering. Shockwave’s entire backside has been ripped apart, its wheel has fallen off, and all of the drive chains on the right side are gone. Will makes the executive decision to withdraw from the fight and Shockwave loses by forfeit.
WINNERS: Carbide and Apollo
CARBIDE vs. THOR
Remember, Thor has a little bit of modularity; its attachment points are its hammer and front end. For this match Thor’s axe has been swapped out for the pointy one we’ve been seeing in interviews and promo shots for this whole goddamned season but only now are finally getting to see it in use. Additionally Thor’s front floor scrapers have been replaced with a “Carbide blocker” plate 10mm thick. The obvious plan here is to use the plate to stop Carbide’s weapon and then land some hits with the pointy axe. Thor makes an honest attempt to do so at the start of the fight but gets deflected in such a way that it ends up landing on the floor flipper which of course is going to fuck everything up and tosses Thor onto its side. This requires Thor to self-right using its axe and basically this whole string of events puts Thor into an awkward recovery phase that allows Carbide to cruise over and rip open Thor’s right wheel guard.
You may have noticed a potential slight problem with Thor’s spinner stopper as well; it’s very small. “Couldn’t a spinner just clip it from the side?” You might ask. Absolutely, because that’s exactly what Carbide does and as you probably would’ve guessed the entire 10mm plate gets torn off and thrown at the wall. Thor has basically lost this fight now because the rest of its armor isn’t built to take this kind of punishment. Another hit from Carbide sends Thor reeling, spinning out of control, and ultimately totally dead. From his vantage point up in the operator box Jason laughs that one of Thor’s wheels is just hanging off, so I guess that confirms it. Nobody ever really wants to fight Carbide, and this is why. Jason now has to somehow repair his mess of a robot because if he doesn’t I’m like 99% certain the officials are going to fucking put Pulsar back in.
Don’t fuck this up, Jason.
WINNER: Carbide, KO
TR2 vs. APOLLO
Jonathan starts this match by rhyming a bunch of shit about “time is nigh” and “air supply” in what I’m assuming was meant to be a double couplet but since this is Jonathan Pearce we’re talking about of course he fucks it all up and only manages three lines. If you’re having a hard time telling these two robots apart that’s perfectly understandable. TR2 is the robot that is losing at the start of the fight because Apollo is taking some pretty generous flips with it and throws it through the air. At one point TR2 is nearly thrown out of the arena in what would’ve been the first three pointer in Robot Wars history, but unfortunately TR2 clips the side wall and bounces back into the arena.
TR2 finally gets a small toss in which causes Apollo to land in Dead Metal’s CPZ. Dead Metal, apparently forgetting what happened the last time it tried to fuck with Apollo, cruises in to cause some damage. Apollo responds by nearly flipping the house robot onto its ass for a second time, however TR2 comes in and salts its game. TR2 continues to get thrown around and manages to self-right, but you can tell that the robot is starting to wear out; TR2’s flipper seems to jostle around and is a bit loose, it’s firing with less and less power, and it even seems like the bungee cords used to reset the arm are wearing out. Still, TR2 continues to battle and manages to continue putting up a respectable fight until another flip leaves it stuck on its ass with its flipper unable to reset. Call me crazy, but I get the impression that if they hadn’t removed their bum axe TR2 could’ve gotten down from that position. TR2’s winning streak has come to a end.
Sir Killalot contemplates coming out to pick on TR2, however Apollo stares him the fuck down and Sir Killalot actually backs away. Ladies and gentlemen, Sir K has just been cucked.
WINNER: Apollo, KO
CARBIDE vs. APOLLO
Apollo has been here before, in order to make it to the Grand Final it had to steamroll PP3D whose weapon is similar in function to Carbide’s. Right away the lunar flipper is on the attack and within three goddamned seconds Carbide is on its back. Points have been scored, sure, but when it comes to spinners such as Carbide and Tombstone we’ve seen time and time again that flipping them over sometimes works in their favor because they can now strike at a higher level with their weapon. That doesn’t seem to matter though because for some reason Apollo has decided to do its best impression of Pulsar and has straight up quit working. The reason for Apollo’s sudden cardiac arrest ends up being that goddamned safety link, something which has killed numerous robots in the past and has once again prevented what could’ve been yet another intense fight. Boo.
Carbide takes a few extra swings at Apollo during its KO count, presumably to ensure a victory, to which the team cries foul and calls a cheap shot. Hey, technically the fight isn’t over. Sure, Carbide isn’t supposed to tear someone a new asshole while they are being counted out, but there’s nothing in the rules stopping him from actually doing so. If he wants to end up being a pariah in the sport for being a fucking dick then that’s his prerogative. TR2’s driver said it best in his bio segment: “if you don’t want your robot hurt, don’t put it in the arena”.
WINNER: Carbide, KO
TR2 vs. THOR
Against all odds, Thor has risen from the grave. After being torn apart into its principle atomic elements Jason Marston was presumably able to take his robot’s pieces to CERN or something and use their particle accelerator to reassemble it on a molecular level. Meanwhile Alex from TR2 appears to be preoccupied with being made fun of at school for not winning Robot Wars. Holy shit dude, if people are going to give you shit for losing at Robot Wars you can shut them up by either A) asking them where their robot was at the event or B) kicking them in the fucking dick as hard as you can.
Visibly still somewhat busted, Thor charges onward at the start of the fight and takes a tumble. TR2 just does not let up one bit. It’s hard to tell if there’s even a battle plan in effect beyond “just keep flipping them or some shit I don’t know I just can’t be made fun of at school” but at one point TR2 catches Thor on its wedge, takes it across the arena, and throws it to Dead Metal presumably while yelling “CATCH”. Dead Metal roasts Thor on the flame pit for a bit until the Norse god escapes to resume the battle where Thor ends up careening into Matilda’s flywheel and loses part of one of its wheel guards again. I mean, at this stage in the contest I’m not surprised that Thor has the appearance of something that has been duct taped back together, but I am surprised that it’s still fucking alive after being beaten so savagely in this series thus far.
Thor makes the mistake of getting too close to Matilda again and takes a hit to its other wheel guard. Rather than make the damage even, this hit appears to have killed Thor outright and the robot dies right about where it was when Carbide took it apart with extreme prejudice. With a swing of its axe Thor sort of comes back to life with only half of its drivetrain working. TR2 once again corrals the hammerbot over to Matilda who responds by flipping Thor over where the robot vents a choof of CO2 and is unable to right itself. Jonathan offers his commiserations to Thor for the Nth time this match, and out of fucking nowhere Thor fires its axe and gets back onto its wheels. This is some Rocky shit right here, folks.
Realizing that Thor is apparently never going to just fucking die, and that it needs 3 points to potentially stay in the game, TR2 shoves Thor over to Matilda who lends a hand by throwing Thor out of the goddamned arena because she’s tired of dealing with it too.
WINNER: TR2, KO
CARBIDE vs. TR2
TR2 tries the same strategy against Carbide as Apollo but misses their mark and instead takes a glancing blow from the spinner which affords Carbide the time to get up to a more dangerous speed. A second hit literally fucking erases the plastic armor padding from the left side of TR2. Seriously. It’s there one frame, and the next it’s fucking gone. Carbide lands yet another hit and somehow tears off one of the top panels of TR2 exposing its air tanks. A fourth major hit sends TR2 reeling through the air as its flipper twists and flexes before ultimately landing onto the flame pit. Before this fight Alex and Clint Brown were talking strategy in the pits about “out driving” Carbide. I’m no expert here, but since that plan appears to have failed spectacularly Alex decides to smash the panic button to open the pit.
More importantly however is the fact that Carbide’s blade seems to have had enough and has died after just 4 blows. With Carbide’s weapon in the shitter you can really see just how ineffective a robot like Carbide becomes immediately once things start to go downhill. Carbide’s got nothing right now, literally nothing. There is no Plan B. Without its weapon Carbide is so helpless that it just starts taking copious blows from the floor flipper presumably because “if I’m in the air then TR2 can’t get me” or whatever. Jonathan has been screaming for so much of this fight that you can tell he’s about to lose his goddamned voice.
The tables have quite obviously turned on this match, but in doing so it has also demonstrated how TR2 lacks any real knock out power of its own. I mean sure, the floor has been mopped with Carbide and I guess I could also use some bullshit analogy about cleaning up the air as well, but the rest of the fight sees TR2 throwing Carbide over to Shunt in the hopes that Shunt will do something to Carbide to knock it out. Shunt actually does get Carbide stuck against the wall but by that point there’s not enough time for a KO which sends the fight to the judges.
WINNER: TR2, Judges’ Decision
THOR vs. APOLLO
Going into this match Dara says that Apollo needs to win by KO to guarantee a place in the finals otherwise with 5 points it’ll end up tying with TR2. Historically, when that happens the tiebreaker is who won their respective head-to-head fight. Since Apollo beat TR2 in the head-to-heads all Apollo needs to do is just win by literally any means and it’s through to the Grand Final. Considering its opponent is Thor — or rather, what’s left of Thor by this point — I think this battle is in the bag.
Yeah, it’s in the bag. Thor’s first order of business is to drift across the arena floor and get fucked by the flipper. Thor self-rights, as it does, but Apollo is there to toss it right back over. Pay close attention and you’ll see the rear armor of Thor buckle at its weakest point where holes were drilled in order to vent CO2. As Thor tries to self-right for a second time the force of its axe swinging rips the armor panel loose and the floor flipper ensures that Thor will remain on its back. This, finally, is what kills the mighty Thor. After so many brutal losses and fights it exits the final round with zero points. That’s not really something that should imply Thor is a shitty robot, but rather demonstrate what happens when your first head-to-head match ends up being against fucking Carbide.
Apollo claims 3 points for its knock out and TR2 is also eliminated from the competition in the process, finishing in third place.
WINNER: Apollo, KO
CARBIDE vs. APOLLO
This is it. This is what all of these previous fights have come down to. For better or worse your Grand Finalists are Carbide — “The British Tombstone” — and Apollo, a descendant of the extinct lineage of Kronic the Wedgehog. Neither of these robots have had immaculate records making it to the Grand Final, but both have earned this spot. Carbide has indiscriminately ripped its opponents to pieces with its massive spinning bar while Apollo has had the same luck with its flipper and doesn’t care who’s on the other end, opponent or house bot alike. They’re not perfect machines however, as Carbide is prone to mechanical failure and Apollo isn’t the most durable machine in the contest. Still, I don’t disagree that these are the two best competitors this season. As Dara puts it, “the spinner that destroyed the arena and the flipper that humiliated the house robots”. Two robots. Zero fucks.
Apollo’s strategy hasn’t changed from the last time these two robots met in the arena. Last time their stupid link came out which ruined their plan, not the plan itself failing. Carbide goes up and over Apollo and on its way down its blade catches the flame pit and rips a piece of its paneling off because again this is the robot that cannot be contained. Sir Killalot pinches Carbide to try and wake it up from the nightmare it’s in but to no avail. This is real life, and Apollo throws the spinner onto its back. Like last time this presents an inherent danger because it modifies the height of Carbide’s blade which has now removed one of the upper access panels of Apollo’s armor, but I really don’t think Team MAD gives a shit because even with Carbide upside-down and striking higher up their robot still appears to be holding together. Mostly.
Pieces are flying all over the place in this Grand Final, but in the middle of the fray Carbide starts to smoke. Its weapon has died again. Carbide is now right back where it was in its match against TR2, except this time the team is doing battle against three dudes who can dance. Dave Moulds knows that’s a battle he’d lose hands down so Carbide lunges for the pit button in the hopes that this final can be turned onto its head by luring Apollo into it. Apollo throws Carbide into Sir Killalot and gets its flipper jammed open. We now have a Grand Final consisting of two robots with inoperable weapons as a result of kicking too much ass. Shunt hammers down on Apollo’s flipper which affords the team a single reset and puts them into a position where they can only fire their flipper in the unlikely event that something first hits them from the top.
With a flipper stuck in an open yawn Apollo has become a shitty makeshift clamper bot and the team owns it. Bungee cords exposed, Apollo charges Carbide and “bites” down on it, carrying the spinner to Shunt for some damage at the last minute. The clock runs out on this Grand Final and sends it to the judges, who send it back to Apollo. Team MAD loses their fucking minds because their robot, which was formerly a piece of total shit named Kronic the goddamned Wedgehog, has transcended its former self and won the championship title.
WINNER: Apollo, Judges’ Decision
And there you have it. The prestigious Killalot Drill has been claimed by a robot who’s proven that your history in the sport can be as ridiculous as originally being named after Sonic the Hedgehog and you can still win it all. This isn’t even something “out of left field” for me; in keeping with that same analogy I guess this is something that’s come from a parallel fucking dimension. Still I’ll give credit where due and congratulate Apollo on their journey to the top. Here’s to hoping that should you tumble down in the 2017 series that your landing is soft.
The Update’s coverage of the 2016 series of Robot Wars has ended at a pretty opportune time because I believe as of this article’s posting the “Battle of the Stars” two-part special will have just aired. Before you ask, yes I will be getting into that as well assuming that I can get my hands on episodes of them. Speaking of, since we’re at the end of the season I’ve gotta give major props to EliteTrainerXeos who ensured that I had copies of all six episodes of this series to write about and take stills from. As always, it is tremendously appreciated. Additionally, I also need to thank everyone who has enjoyed the website and laughed along with us to the tune of nearly 2,400 followers on Facebook. I know I bring up Facebook a lot but it’s really like one of the few metrics I have to measure this website’s performance with in some weird way. By the way… here’s that obligatory request link to follow BattleBots Update on Facebook. You thought you were getting away without that? Not a chance. Look, here’s the donate one too!
I’ve got a bit of year-end travelling to do so I might be off for a week from The Update, but I’ll see you all again real soon.