I'm not only an avid gamer but a collector as well, when it comes to anything video game related. So, when I was in a local store and saw a Halo 3D metal model kit, I had to grab it and see what it was all about.
These come in a flat package with all the parts you need cut into the sheet(s) of metal and you're tasked with removing the individual parts from the sheet, then tediously putting it together correctly via the included instructions.
To get an idea of what I'm talking about, visit their site here to browse their offerings and the different sets that they offer. While I got a Halo one to start out with, they also have a Mass Effect set for the gamers, as well as a bunch of other brands and models.
There are 4 different models in the Halo set: Chief's Helmet (the one I bought), UNSC Warthog, UNSC Pelican, and a UNSC Mantis. For the Mass Effect fan, Metal Earth has a model for the SX3 Alliance Fighter, SR2 Normandy, Turian Cruiser, and Alliance Cruiser. They do offer other sets but this will be instead focusing simply on the gaming related series, specifically the Chief's Helmet model that took me a little under three hours to build.
You could best compare these 3D metal models to papercraft. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect, as I've never seen these kits before, and I have certainly never built one or anything like it (papercraft included). I used to build car models back as a kid, however this is something far more difficult and challenging. I thought it was going to be a quick hour-long process of simply attaching piece by piece since instructions are included. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Even the process of punching out the individual pieces can be a challenge if you don't have the right tools for the job. Word of advice: Don't go in expecting to simply be able to build these with just your fingers; it won't happen and you'll almost be sure to hurt yourself in some way (it is metal after all). The right tools will be essential. I was able to complete my build with simply using tweezers, though for my next model I will definitely be purchasing some needle nose pliers, clippers, and a magnifying lamp of some kind. It should also be noted that these kits are completed without the need for glue of any kind, but I don't see how it would be possible without at least tweezers (if you value your fingers in any way).
The packaging might be a little misleading, as you're not really sure on the final size of the model until it's completed. Most kits will be anywhere from 1 to 4 inches long when completed, though it varies from model to model. My completed Chief's Helmet is slightly larger than the size of a looney, so take this into account when purchasing as there's no real indication otherwise.
With this one being my first Metal Earth kit, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Simply removing a piece from the sheet can be deceivingly difficult without the proper tools, as you don't want to bend or warp the sheet; as it can affect the other pieces. The metal itself is very thin but has some give to it. Where the issues will come in is the small tabs that need to be bent and slotted into one another or when you need to bend a curve into the metal.
Even though it's made of metal, many of the pieces are exceedingly small and every step of the process needs to be handled with caution since it's such a fragile process. The metal itself bends easily and shaping each fold requires a tremendous amount of precision and concentration.
These kits are absolutely not for kids, they are much more suited for teens and adults, ones with patience and a steady hand. While I was inexperienced going into my first build, I learned quite a bit during the construction that will make subsequent builds a much smoother and easier process. Let it be known, you will most likely get frustrated at some point for some reason or another when the tabs and slots don't perfectly match up as suggested.
Given that you may find these models in a toy store, it's safe to assume that it was a toy itself, but they aren't. It's a very complex model that will take a lot of skill and even more patience to complete. While it was fun at first figuring out how to piece the incredibly small parts together, some steps tested my patience, as every step needs to be done in an exact manner if you want it all to fit right at the end. That being said, it's very satisfying when completed and it does look great once finished.
While the instructions were simple enough to understand and follow for the most part if you've ever built something from IKEA, the only thing lacking explanation is how to shape certain pieces. If you have a part that needs to be rounded or curved in any way, there's no gauge on how to make it the correct shape until you get to the following steps where you need to connect multiple pieces together in an exact way. When you do manage to get the right shape and things fit the way they are supposed to it's a smooth process, but getting to that perfect shape with a curve can be quite a daunting and frustrating process of trial and error.
What I didn't realize was that the Chief's Helmet kit that I put together is actually the easiest of the 4 in the Halo set. God help you if you manage to choose a much more difficult kit or one of the models that comes with 2 sheets of metal parts for your first build. I would highly suggest looking into the different kits and their difficulties, so that you can choose one of the 'easier' ones to start out with. It will give you a good indication of what skills are not only needed, but if you have the patience to endure the process as well. These are not simple kits.
While my helmet turned out great in the end, there was one tab that broke during the process (because of my inexperience and impatience). Though, you wouldn't be able to tell simply by looking at the completed model. I was doubting my purchase decision during the process but once you get to the final few steps and see it starting to come together it's a great sense of satisfaction, especially once you factor in how small and precise you need to be when building the model.
If you're a Halo fan, you also might be aware of Halo 5: Guardians launching shortly. If you managed to order the Limited or Collector Edition, you'll notice that it comes with a Metal Earth model of an actual Guardian that is exclusive to those game editions. It looks very intricate in comparison to my Chief's Helmet kit, so I would highly recommended grabbing one of these Halo or Mass Effect models before trying your hand at the non-replaceable Guardian, to give you good practice in preparation.
These kits aren't like putting Lego pieces together, and I really only recommend them if you're a fundamentally a builder, love challenges, has a tolerance for frustration, and owns a pair of pliers or tweezers. There's not much room for error, but follow the instructions and take your time and you'll be rewarded with an awesome model that you can boast that you built with your own two hands.