The Nerf Revolution for Adults
Nerf RIVAL is an all-new, high-performance line of toy blasters from Hasbro. It also happens to be one of the more confusing Nerf products for parents, because we often associate “Nerf” with “soft and safe.” And to some extent, that’s still true with Nerf RIVAL, which is sold in the toy blaster aisle right alongside traditional Nerf blasters. But make no mistake—RIVAL is Nerf for big kids. In fact, the whole premise of the RIVAL line is that it performs at a level closer to Airsoft or paintball than traditional Nerf products—and that’s intentional. Hasbro believes the older, 14+ age group is a missed opportunity, a group that would rather play video games or extreme sports than play with Nerf guns. So what did they do? They ramped up the performance to convince older kids—and perhaps a few adults—to put down the controller and start blasting.
The New Nerf Has Caveats
To be clear, Nerf RIVAL still uses foam ammunition, but the new, “high impact rounds” (medium-density foam balls of nearly 1” in diameter) are propelled at velocities of 85 to just over 100 feet-per-second—roughly 30-40 feet-per-second faster than regular Nerf darts. These higher velocities could spell trouble for children under the age of 14 who might be interested in RIVAL blasters. In fact, Hasbro goes so far as to sell Nerf RIVAL masks that, while not safety rated, make it clear that shots to the face have the potential for harm. But we’re also concerned about the use of RIVAL blasters by under-age users on younger siblings, animals, or others for whom the higher inherent velocities could be injurious.
In addition to the safety concerns from the velocity of RIVAL’s high-impact rounds, we also have noted that animals—and perhaps small children—may find these small, foam balls a tempting treat. And we suspect they would be a choking hazard in such instances, requiring special vigilance beyond even that required of traditional foam darts. One leftover RIVAL round found lying in the backyard could spell trouble.
We should also note that the RIVAL blasters themselves are not among the easiest Nerf products to use. The Nerf RIVAL Apollo XV-700 we were given by Hasbro has a particularly heavy cocking action, which even some adults may find a challenge (children under 14, especially, will find it hard to prime, and would likely be put-off by the difficulty). In addition, the Apollo has a very thick handle, since it is built to accommodate an ammunition magazine. Smaller hands simply won’t be able to hold it well. And the twice-as-expensive, battery-powered Nerf RIVAL Zeus MXV-1200 has its own issues, chief among them being a noticeable heft (due to a massive, 6 “C” cell battery requirement), and a fiddly ammo magazine loading chamber. The Zeus is also very loud—we measured it to be up to 10 decibels louder than a comparable Nerf Demolisher 2-in-1 blaster, at some frequencies.
Blasters for Teens and Adults
But for older teenagers—and adults, especially—all of those downsides will be easily forgotten when these high-performance beasts come out to play. With both the RIVAL Apollo and Zeus, we saw impressive ranges of around 90 feet with an arc (about 1/3 of that when firing flat) and shot velocities close to 100 feet-per-second. However, the Zeus was moderately more accurate than the Apollo, and also had a much higher rate-of-fire. Both the Zeus and Apollo are notable, however, in how they surpass what is possible from traditional Nerf blasters that typically can’t shoot as far nor hit nearly as hard. Yes, it’s possible to look at specific traits of the Apollo or Zeus and find a blaster that does one thing or another better, but for an overall package at just $25, the Apollo is hard to beat from a performance and fun standpoint, and even at $50, the Zeus is very impressive in how quickly it can belt out hard-hitting rounds.
If your child is under 14 years of age, RIVAL is not the product for him or her—there are lots of other, great Nerf blasters from which to choose, including the aforementioned Demolisher 2-in-1. And even if you’re shopping for a teenager or adult above 14 years of age, you should still be mindful of the presence of other small children or animals that may accidentally be impacted by stray RIVAL rounds—either flying through the air or left-over from a day of play. But for the correct, age-appropriate audience, Hasbro’s new RIVAL series is a welcome addition to the legendary Nerf foam blaster line-up (the RIVAL Apollo XV-700 at $25 is a particularly good buy). These new, high-performance blasters are great fun and a real advancement in foam blasting technology. They’re just not the best choice for the younger Nerf fans among us.
- RIVAL shots fire faster and hit harder than any Nerf blaster series to-date
- RIVAL ranges and accuracy are better than most competitors
- RIVAL is safer than Airsoft or paintball, and cheaper
- RIVAL Apollo XV-700 a particularly good value
- Younger players (and even some adults) may find the cocking action of the Apollo and the weight and noise of the Zeus to be off-putting
- RIVAL Zeus MXV-1200 is expensive and quires lots of batteries (adding even more cost)
- RIVAL is not appropriate for children under the age of 14—and they mean it