The First Order seems to have upgraded the TIE Fighter since it was in the possession of the Empire and 75101 First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter reflects this, with a significant number of upgrades over the previous model. However, this set is eminently similar to 9492 TIE Fighter as both sets contain four minifigures and the structure of the wings is almost identical.
If you own the version from 2012 you will probably agree that it is excellent, so hopefully this version matches or betters it in that regard. One area which has changed is the price, increasing from £49.99 or $54.99 for the previous version to £59.99 or $69.99 for this one. Initially this might seem unreasonable given that only three years have passed, but the quality of 75101 justifies the increase in my opinion.
The four minifigures included in this set are superb, with a great level of detail printed on all of them. The TIE Fighter Pilots have received a significant update since the Original Trilogy, with a new helmet element, a new torso design and printed legs. The helmet looks absolutely brilliant as it is highly detailed and now includes a hose which runs down onto the chest, lining up nicely with the breathing apparatus.
The torso is very detailed on the front and back, including plenty of little buttons on the life support pack and even some creases in the flight suit. The legs are also printed with some intricate designs and there is even some detailing on the hips!
Unfortunately the head typically used for Clone Troopers is still in use under the helmet. I would have preferred a couple of different faces, but these suffice as generic heads I suppose. Each pilot is armed with a standard black blaster pistol.
The First Order Officer is also an excellent minifigure. His cap is a brand new piece which is printed with a black peak and the First Order insignia. The head also features a new printed design as well as a relatively uncommon flesh colour which provides some welcome variety.
Hopefully this figure is based on a particular character in the movie, perhaps one who only plays a relatively small role. I don't think we have seen an officer looking quite like this one in any promotional material so far, but the clothing looks great nevertheless. My only criticism of the figure is that it does not include boots which could have been represented by dual-moulded legs. In the Original Trilogy Imperial Officers wore long boots and the same will probably be true for the First Order commanding officers, so it is a shame they are absent here.
The final minifigure is a First Order Crew member, which also appears in 75104 Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle. I am slightly disappointed that the legs have no printing but the torso looks great on both sides, although the design is fairly simple.
This is another troop type we have yet to see in the trailers, so it is difficult to judge its accuracy. However, I have to assume that the bizarre helmet, which looks to be a combination of the Death Star Gunner helmet and that of Imperial Navy Troopers, is faithful to the movie.
The Completed Model
Back in 2012 I was certain that 9492 TIE Fighter could hardly be improved upon, but this set has proven me wrong. The cockpit sphere is a difficult thing to recreate as a result of its shape but this one looks superb, with 6x6 hinged dishes forming the forward and rear viewports as well as the roof access hatch. There is now room for two pilots in the cockpit, sitting back to back so one can control the flight systems while the other acts as a gunner.
I always like minifigures to be secure in their seats so the lack of any studs for the pilots to sit on is slightly annoying, although the control yoke does hold them in place to an extent. A Technic beam runs through the centre of the cockpit and into the wing pylons, allowing a pilot to stand and poke their head out of the roof hatch. It is a shame that this Technic beam is completely exposed but it doesn't bother me too much.
This TIE Fighter is decorated with a red stripe on the cockpit which signifies that it is part of the First Order Special Forces. We don't know exactly what that means at the moment but it looks great! The addition of an antenna array on top of the cockpit sphere is welcome and this is another authentic detail.
Previous models of this craft have suffered from some stability issues where the wings are joined to the cockpit but these are solved on this version. The wings are fitted using clips, not unlike those on 75095 TIE Fighter, thereby keeping them completely solid so there is no movement as the craft is flown around. The inside of each wing panel is fairly plain, being almost entirely light bluish grey in colour, but the outside looks far better as one would expect.
The angling of the plates around the edge of each wing is brilliant, as are the struts which run across each panel. I love the inversion of the black and grey colour scheme on the First Order TIE Fighter series which looks just as good as the original in my opinion.
75101 First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter was not a set I was particularly excited about when I first saw the box image, but now that I have built it and compared it with others in the new range, it has emerged as one of the best. The colour scheme and level of detail on the starfighter is fantastic, as are the four minifigures included.
This set has received an enormous amount of criticism for its price: £59.99 in the UK or $69.99 in the US. I don't actually think the value is too bad as the quality of the set is absolutely excellent and the price has increased roughly in proportion with the size and weight of the model. Nevertheless, slightly larger sets such as 75103 First Order Transporter offer a great deal more in my opinion, with a greater number of minifigures and more play value.
Although this is not my favourite Star Wars: The Force Awakens set, it certainly ranks among the best. At a slightly lower price it is an absolute must have, but even at full retail I recommend it, just not quite as highly as one or two of the others.