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Vehicular Assault
Why you should avoid the morning traffic.

The someone or something has run up against an enemy. It's time to do battle, just the heroes, and... a vehicle?

This is when someone has to go up against what essentially amounts to a vehicular foe. Maybe the Big Bad is too weak to just attack on foot, and does it from the protection of his vehicle. Maybe it's just a bunch of Mooks in a helicopter. Worst yet, the vehicle itself is the villain, either through malevolent AI or spiritual possession. In any case, the battle isn't between individuals or groups so much as between people.

The end result is that the heroes have an opponent that's faster, more durable, and deadlier than just an ordinary, squishy human. Furthermore, the villain(s) can usually take shots at the heroes, either by shooting at the heroes from the safety of their vehicle or by using weapons mounted on the vehicle itself. Failing that, there's always the old standby of Car Fu. Helicopters in this situation are rather liable to become makeshift blenders, whether or not the helicopter or its occupants have a better way of dispatching the heroes.

When this appears, there's usually three ways it'll play out:
  • The hero takes out the vehicle directly, either by hitting a weak point, manipulating it into a trap, or just using a very big gun.
  • The hero takes out the driver, thereby causing the vehicle to crash, or at least stop moving and attacking.
  • The hero can't take it out, and is forced to run away.

Note that just a character killing a vehicle does not qualify it for this trope, nor does two vehicles duking it out with each other. The attacker must be fighting the victim from or with the vehicle for it to qualify. It can qualify for this trope if the victim does have a vehicle, but one which is at a severe disadvantage against the attacker's vehicle and can't fight off the attacker (jetpack versus spaceship, motorcycle versus helicopter, car versus helicopter, etc.). As a general rule, things like jetpacks and skateboards do not qualify as a vehicle.

Helicopters tend to be a particular favorite for this trope, but anything from a motorcycle to a spaceship can qualify. Also, while this trope is not limited to villains, it's considerably rarer to see heroic examples since it's one of the dirtier techniques in the book.

Pops up frequently in Video Games, though not uncommon in other media. Also Truth in Television; see pretty much any vehicle designed for combat purposes, or any crime where the weapon was a car or other vehicle.

Compare Vehicular Combat, where the emphasis is on the vehicles fighting each other, and Vehicular Sabotage, when a character's vehicle is maliciously tampered with before they drive it. Not to be confused with Car Fu, which is when the vehicle is turned into a makeshift weapon. However, the two are likely to overlap.


Examples

Advertising
  • A recent automobile ad shows a revolutionary war era battle, with the British, in their red uniforms, lined up in a field ready for the attack. George Washington, and his army come out of the woods in cars driving towards the British, forcing them to flee.

Anime and Manga

Film
  • Steven Spielberg's first TV movie, Duel.
  • The Car and Killdozer both deal with "possessed" vehicles that attack people in this manner.
  • The end of Die Hard with a Vengeance: McClane kills the Big Bad's helicopter, and thus the Big Bad.
    McClane: I was out of bullets.
  • Transformers (2007) - Sam vs Barricade. But this pops up all over every version of Transformers.
  • Total Recall (1990) (1990): "Bennie, Sklew yew!"
  • North by Northwest has the protaganist Thornhill get strafed by a cropduster. Ended when Thornhill gets the plane to crash into a gasoline tanker.
  • True Lies has a heroic variant when the hero goes after terrorists in an office building with a Harrier Jet. It ends badly for the terrorists.
  • The Italian Job had the main villain chase the good guys in a helicopter, and he instructed the pilot to use the helicopter blades as a weapon. It doesn't work and actually damages the helicopter
  • Happens in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he takes down a helicopter (and previously a jeep).
  • Mad Max, when the eponymous hero's wife gets attacked by the biker gang. Unfortunately, neither she nor her child survive the encounter.
  • The Dark Knight had this trope: Batman against the Joker's semi-trailer. Result? Batman, and how. Why? Because HE'S THE GODDAMN BATMAN.
  • Warlord of the 21st Century, a.k.a. Battletruck. The Big Bad, Colonel Straker, commands an armoured big rig, in search of fuel at any cost - even if it means running down anything in its way or murdering civilians. In the end, Straker kills his driver in a fit of anger, because he is too arrogant to be warned that the motor is overheating. Straker attempts to take the wheel himself, but is incapacitated by the main protagonist, leaving the truck driverless. The end result? The truck flies over a cliff and combusts big time.
  • Sin City features Old Town girls ramming another car in order to get it to wreck in one scene and in another, Marv is hit repeatedly with a car.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • NCIS: In "South by Southwest", Gibbs and DiNozzo, along with a local sheriff and witness, wind up getting attacked by an assassin in a helicopter. Ended when Gibbs, an ex-marine sniper, shot the pilot.
  • CSI: Miami: One episode began with Calleigh held at gunpoint by the killers of the week as she got into her car. When she pulled a gun on them and identified herself as a cop, they sped off, knocking her gun into the street. Then they got the bright idea to turn around and try to run her over, despite knowing she was armed and trained to shoot things. While one survived, the other wound up a literal example of Too Dumb to Live.
  • In The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Juggernaut", Jim West must defeat the title machine (a Steam Punk armored car) and its operator.

Pinball
  • Not content to bring out numerous patrol cars and helicopters, the police in The Getaway: High Speed II are authorized to use lethal force to stop the player.
  • The playfield and backglass of Data East's Secret Service show a shootout between the two American agents in their Ferrari and three Soviet spies in a black Mercedes.

Video Games
  • The original Metal Slug has you fight General Morden in a helicopter as the Final Boss. Morden does try to shoot the player with a bazooka, but that's nothing as compared to the gatling gun, bombs and homing missiles used by the helicopter...
    • He fought you from the second boss (a large missile-launching plane) as well, bazooka and all.
      • Metal Slug 2's first boss was a hovering plane with two soldiers standing on the wings with homing bazookas. In the remake Metal Slug X, the same plane was upgraded (and moved to a later level) to a Clown Car dispensing suicidal falling tanks.
  • Super Contra/Super C has the first boss, a carrier helicopter loaded with turrets and an endless amount of Mooks.
  • Cabal has the first, second and third bosses, a helicopter that fired out bombs, a submarine in a lake, and a truck that hauled in cannon turrets.
  • Some bosses in Dawn of War 2 do this.
  • Bowja The Ninja: Most of the enemies Bowja faces are standard ninja mooks who can be dispatched with arrows or elaborate traps, but the bosses are mostly the same mooks in helicopters, tanks or mecha.
  • Half-Life 2 has this, with you in a hovercraft with a machine gun against a Combine Hunter-Chopper. Episode 2 takes it Up to Eleven, fighting one of the same choppers on foot. With no rocket launcher.
  • Metal Gear Solid: you vs a tank, you vs a Hind-D helicopter, you vs a Metal Gear. Metal Gear Solid 2: you vs a Harrier jumpjet, you vs many Metal Gear Rays. Metal Gear Solid 3: you vs the Shagohod. Metal Gear Solid 4 is slightly different in that you have to take on a Metal Gear Ray, but you yourself are in a Metal Gear Rex.
  • In the new 50 cent game, the Giant Bomb review complained that every single boss in the game is a generic helicopter gunship.
  • In the original Robocop video arcade game (1988), one early boss was an opponent in a large vehicle.
  • The Gears of War franchise includes a few.
    • Gears of War 2 includes a battle between Delta Squad and some Locust in which each side occupies an assault derrick (essentially, an armored drilling apparatus used to assault the subterrainean Locust home turf. The Locust have hijacked theirs). Because the derricks are in motion across mountainous terrain, the player(s) must kill the opposing derrick's pilot before the vehicles reach a one-lane bridge. Also, the turrets on the humans' derrick are broken.
    • With the exception of battle with the Lambent Brumak at the end of Gears of War 2, pretty much every time Delta fights a Brumak. While a Brumak is technically more of a mount than a vehicle, it's 30 feet tall and covered with guns and armor. It also relies on its Locust crew for direction.
    • By the same token, any of the fights against Reavers, except the vehicle-to-vehicle ones. Once again, Reavers are technically mounts, but have a staggering amount of ordinance strapped to them and can be hijacked by Delta.
    • The battles against Bloodmounts probably don't count, since they have no ranged attacks and actually act like mounts.
    • The same basic dynamic happens when trying to hijack an air barge in Gears of War 3. The barges are even more vehicle-like than the other methods of travel employed by the Locust, as the animal portion seems to be used solely to provide lift, with mechanical portions providing the lateral movement.
  • Also typical in platformers, e.g. Doctor Wily in Mega Man or Eggman/Whoever-he-is in Sonic the Hedgehog. You don't fight the boss head-on, you attack his death-machine/etc. Usually he gets away to fight another day(/level), or survives the destruction of the vehicle only to be captured.
    • One particular instance of this in Sonic would be the G.U.N. truck from Sonic Adventure 2 (Battle), which made a return in Sonic Generations.
  • Tends to come up in most RTS games that have hero units, especially (but not exclusively) those in modern or sci-fi settings. Dawn of War is one of the few games that actually makes this a really hard fight, due to vehicles just being better.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The classic final boss fight of Super Mario World with Bowser and his flying Koopa Clown Car.
    • Bowser has a more traditional car in Super Mario 3D World, using it to run over the player and throw bombs at them.
  • Time Crisis had you versus Wild Dog And Helicopter. Apparently it's the popularity of either this battle or Wild Dog himself that keeps bringing him Back from the Dead.
  • Lost Odyssey has you fight General Kakanas in a tank. Twice. He survives both times though. It also had a battle with a seige engine.
  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project's first boss is a helicopter.
  • Star Wars Shadows of the Empire: The Gall Spaceport boss fight starts out as just a standard one-on-one duel with Boba Fett. However, when damaged enough, Boba Fett flees, only to return in his ship.
  • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter does this in the first boss battle. Before you can engage the actual boss, you have to fight off a hummer. And then another hummer after you destroy the first one.
  • Max Payne's final Puzzle Boss battle was against a helicopter that the Big Bad got on board. You had to drop an antenna on it before it took off, otherwise it'd turn you into Swiss cheese with its machine gun.
  • Shinobi: the second boss Black Turtle is a helicopter that's a Clown Car full of those damned Fly Ninja.
  • The final boss of Banjo-Tooie is the HAG-1, a large Drill Tank piloted by Gruntilda.
  • This is what distinguishes most of the bosses in Police 911 2, since every foe, like you, is a One-Hit-Point Wonder. Your pistol isn't powerful enough to destroy the vehicles, so you take out the drivers by firing through the windows.
  • In the video game adaptation of Terminator, one of the stages has you running from a gunship that you can't hurt (but can kill you over and over and over...).
  • In MOTHER, Pokey Minch's preferred method of fighting. In Earthbound, he fights alongside Giygas in a ghastly spider machine. In Mother 3, he's upgraded to some sort of spider-mech pod.
  • Touhou has Rika of the second game, fighting Reimu in a tank. Justified however, as without it she's helpless.
  • In Metroid Prime 3 you fight Space Pirate transport crafts on a few occasions and Space Pirate fighters when you deliver the bomb to destroy the Elysian Leviathan Seed's forcefield.
  • A few bosses in the Game Boy Perfect Dark.
    • The original Perfect Dark has the Data Dyne Hovercopter which follows you around and fires on you as you ascend the Lucerne Tower in level 1-3. Taking it out requires either an obscene number of bullets or a rocket launcher found on the top floor.
  • In Legend of Spyro, you have to fight a boss who uses a steam locomotive. That shoots fireballs and exploding crystals. And is almost as big as Metal Gear Rex and can move incredibly fast. Ouch...
  • Cannoli from Wario: Master of Disguise fights with machines, because Wario stole his wand that granted him super powers.
  • Pikmin 2 had a giant mechanical spider bristling with weapons (who had kidnapped Louie) as the final boss. Of course, the game offers the alternate explanation that Louie was in fact the one controlling the spider all along...
  • Near the end of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, the player character, Bishop, is about to get into a one-on-one showdown with the Big Bad, but a gunship shows up. Bishop is forced to not only avoid the helicopter's fire, but also deal with Mooks that are thrown at you, until your allies can commandeer a SAM.
  • During the final confrontation with a brainwashed Jake in Ape Escape, Jake attempts to take you on in a large race car.
  • In Bomberman 64, Orion, the mini boss from the Red Mountain area, returns at the last section of the world in a large, mining/battle robot.
  • Cave Story has Monster X, an aptly-named X-shaped vehicle in one of the Labyrinth tunnels that's piloted by a homicidal giant cat.
  • The heli-gunship isn't it's own trope yet? Oh well, Prototype has bunchloads of them.
  • Some of the bosses in Jaws Unleashed are ships sent out to destroy the shark.
  • Mass Effect 2 has three gunship battles: one during Archangel's/Garrus' recruitment mission, one during Samara's recruitment mission, and one during Kasumi's loyalty mission.
  • The final Sons of Samedi mission in Saints Row 2 sees you fighting the General in the city mall. Naturally he brings a custom Bulldog, packed with Mooks and fitted with a roof-mounted, triple-barrel Gatling. Cunning and careful players can also maneuver their own vehicles into the mall... such as the game's resident Awesome Personnel Carrier.
  • Ninja Baseball Bat Man has the second boss Mad Lax, a monster truck. The first boss Windy Plane may count in a way, it's a freaking anthropomorphic prop plane that punches with its wheels!


Unskilled, but StrongCombat TropesVictory By Endurance
Vanity License PlateMotor Vehicle TropesWeaponized Car
AdventureImageSource/Tabletop GamesBattleTech
The UnfoughtBoss BattleVictory Fakeout
Vehicle VanishVehicle IndexVehicular Sabotage

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