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Vehicular Assault

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Why you should avoid the morning traffic.

"You know what this game needs? More helicopters."

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. Also related to Gangland Drive-By.

See also Pedestrian Crushes Car.


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  • A Dodge automobile ad shows a Revolutionary War era battle, with the British 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 & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In one Green Arrow story, a crook acquires the Arrow Car; GA's old Thememobile. Eventually he attempts to run GA down with the Arrow Car, forcing GA to destroy it with an explosive arrow.
  • Robin (1993): Tim Drake uses his car's ability to drive itself to have it drive through the wall of a building he's in and through the attackers surrounding him. He'd given up on the bodywork at that point since a criminal had already rammed the Redbird earlier in the evening.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana directs her radio plane to follow Steve Trevor's commands, which he uses to defend himself against a couple of superpowered foes by having the snarky invisible plane attack them.
    • Wonder Woman (2006): Diana uses her jet's remote AI directed piloting capabilities to direct to to fly through D'grth's neck, which severs his head and limits his ability to do damage to his words as it does not shut him up.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 68 Kill: When Chip attempts to flee, Liza chases after him and attempts to ram his car off the road.
  • The Car tells the story of an unmanned, self-driving mysterious car that goes on a murderous rampage, terrorising the residents of a small town.
  • The Car: Road to Revenge: The gangs of the city use cars and motorbikes to corral the eponymous car into an old quarry where Talen can kill it.
  • A Chase Scene at the start of Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers turns into this as Rose and the mook she is chasing use their vehicles as weapons in an attempt to disable the other's vehicle. Rose ultimately triumphs, but her own car is almost completely totalled in the process.
  • The end of Die Hard with a Vengeance: McClane kills the Big Bad's helicopter, and thus the Big Bad.
  • Steven Spielberg's first TV movie, Duel. A business commuter driving his car through California while on his way to meet a client finds himself chased and terrorised by the mostly-unseen driver of a tractor-trailer.
  • In Fair Game, the hunters' opening move in their game of intimidation against Jessica is to ram her ute off the road with the Beast.
  • In Goldstone, the Howlers attempt to ram Jay's car of the road. He manages to turn the tables and runs their car into a solid metal fence post.
  • The Italian Job (2003) 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.
  • In Killdozer!, a small construction crew on an island is terrorised when a spirit-like being takes over a large bulldozer, and goes on a killing rampage.
  • Mad Max: When the eponymous hero's wife gets attacked by the biker gang. Unfortunately, neither she nor her child survive the encounter.
  • In Murder at the Baskervilles, Moriarty's chauffeur Price rams Holmes' car and knocks it off the road on the moors, after Moran first shoots it up with the automatic airgun.
  • North By Northwest has the protagonist Thornhill get strafed by a cropduster. Ended when Thornhill gets the plane to crash into a gasoline tanker.
  • Prime Cut: Lee Marvin is pursued by psychopathic rednecks in a combine harvester.
  • In Ripper: Letter from Hell, the killer uses a pickup truck to ram Mary-Anne's car off the road and almost over a cliff.
  • 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.
  • In The Tournament, Joshua attempts to ram a bus off the road with a chemical tanker.
  • In Tragedy Girls, Sadie and Mckayla use their car to ram Toby's motorcycle off the road.
  • 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.
  • Vigilante Diaries: During the Car Chase in Yerevan, the Vigilante uses the car he stole to ram Andreas' (also stolen) car into immobility.
  • 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.
  • Happens in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he takes down a helicopter (and previously a jeep).
  • The Dark Knight had this trope: Batman against the Joker's semi-trailer. Result? Batman, and how. Why? Because HE'S THE GODDAMN BATMAN.

  • Christine, naturally. It tells the story of a car (a 1958 Plymouth Fury) apparently possessed by malevolent supernatural forces.
  • In Icebreaker, James Bond is attacked by four snow ploughs as he driving though Finland.
  • "Trucks", later adapted to film as Maximum Overdrive. The story's narrator and a handful of strangers find themselves trapped together in a freeway truck stop diner after semi-trailers and other large vehicles are suddenly brought to independent life by an unknown force and proceed to gruesomely kill every human in sight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Three for the Road", the bad guys after the Counterfeit Cash start by using their own car in an attempt to ram the '57 Cadillac Guy, June and Mac are travelling in off the road.
  • Midsomer Murders'': In "Faithful Unto Death", the killer murders the first Victim of the Week by using their larger, more powerful car to force the victim's car in to a trailer full of logs, killing her.
  • 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.
  • In The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Juggernaut", Jim West must defeat the title machine (a Steampunk armored car) and its operator.

  • 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.
  • Capcom's unreleased Kingpin depict three mobsters performing a drive-by shooting against an unseen target on the sides of the cabinet, while the backglass shows a shootout between two carloads of gangsters.
  • 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.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: Lots. There have been fights over vehicles, in vehicles, between vehicles. Almost every dimension of this trope is used and blown to bits at some point.

    Video Games 
  • In 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, every single boss in the game is a generic helicopter gunship.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: One of the first bosses that Ann fights is a large construction mech modified with quadrupedal wheel tracks, armed primarily with giant industrial-sized plasma cutters.
  • During the final confrontation with a brainwashed Jake in Ape Escape, Jake attempts to take you on in a large race car.
  • Army of Two: Devil's Cartel has the Destroyer, a massive, heavily armored truck. Encountered several times, it's nearly unstoppable on foot, but one is fought with rocket launchers from the back of an armored truck. The Final Boss drives one during the final confrontation.
  • The final boss of Banjo-Tooie is the HAG-1, a large Drill Tank piloted by Gruntilda and a combination of the first and second types: parts of the drill require being damaged to proceed during the phases of the fight, but the main target (and the one whose health is measured) is Grunty herself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bug Fables: In the end of Chapter 6, Team Snakemouth ends up fighting General Ultimax piloting a tank.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Contra:
    • The Stage 3 boss of Contra Force is an armed gunship. Also the final boss's helicopter.
    • Super Contra/Super C has the first boss, a carrier helicopter loaded with turrets and an endless amount of Mooks.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: While neither side is deprived of vehicles, some levels have you face off against particularly strong ones.
    • The Soviet invasion of Japan ends with you facing his Super Prototype King Oni.
    • The Soviet's first mission in Uprising has your infantry-only forces deal with a number of Allied vehicles, including space artillery and the new Pacifiers.
  • Dawn of War 2:
    • If Martellus is the traitor in Chaos Rising, he shows up in a souped-up Predator tank.
    • Every campaign in Retribution has you face off against the other factions' superheavy vehicle (Land Raider, Baneblade, Battlewagon...), often reclaiming it at the end of the level (with the exception of the Baneblade, which is destroyed via hacked turrets).
  • EarthBound Series: This is Porky 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.
  • In Freedom Planet, Serpentine faces the player character at the end of Jade Creek in person. When that fails, he stops fighting on equal terms and hops into his military helicopter, from which he shoots missiles and deploys alien soldiers while hovering just out of reach most of the time.
  • 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 subterranean 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.
  • Half-Life 2 has this, with you in a hovercraft with a machine gun against a Combine Hunter-Chopper (in fact, about half the game up until that point is spent running away from said chopper, until you get the machine gun). In episode 2, you fight one of the same choppers on foot. With no rocket launcher.
  • Hitman: Codename 47: In "Slaying a Dragon", there are a copious number of Triads overseeing this small meeting, including a helicopter carrying a sniper.
  • Iconoclasts has General Chrome's helicopter and the Carver (a massive wormlike mining machine). The first form of the Final Boss also turns out to be a glorified alien truck. These fights are all of the first style of vehicle battle.
  • Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb: The Drill Tank segment involves Indy frantically running down a narrow corridor to avoid Von Beck goring him with a big drill.
  • Some of the bosses in Jaws Unleashed are ships sent out to destroy the shark.
  • The Legend of Heroes - Trails: On occasion the heroes find themselves fighting vehicle bosses. Trails in the Sky has the massive Orgueil, Trails to Azure has the RAT-09 with anti-Arts armor, and Trails of Cold Steel has the Gaspard-G. One battle in Trails of Cold Steel II even has an airship providing fire support for the enemy, but it can't be targeted by the player. When the vehicles in question are mobile, they can cause massive damage just by moving around the map and running you over.
  • In The 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.
  • Lost Odyssey has you fight General Kakanas in a tank. Twice. He survives both times though. It also had a battle with a siege engine.
  • Mass Effect:
    • 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.
    • And in Mass Effect 3, a gunship provides cover fire to allow your enemy to recharge his shields. Unlike the ones in 2, this one (and the enemy) are undefeatable; you can take some potshots at it, though.
  • 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.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: In several chapters throughout the series, a Villain of The Week takes over a machine to commit crimes.
  • Metal Gear: 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. Metal Gear Solid V: You vs Metal Gear Sahelanthropus.
  • 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.
    • In general, many enemies you fight, from mooks to bosses, amount to different kinds of military vehicles, which you have to blow up either on foot or with a vehicle (the titular Slugs) of your own.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption 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.
  • 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!
  • Octopath Traveler II: Partitio's final chapter has him facing Mister Roque piloting the Steam Tank Obsidian, a weaponized steam locomotive and "the pinnacle of the Roque Company's technological wizardry".
  • The original Perfect Dark has the DataDyne 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.
  • Pikmin 2 has a giant spider bristling with weapons (who has 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the original Robocop video arcade game (1988), one early boss was an opponent in a large vehicle.
  • The freeware game Rustbucket Revenge has the player trying to survive without getting run down by a murderous sentient car.
  • 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.
  • Shadow Complex's Restoration has an entire fleet of these, from mechanical tarantulas to monowheeled grinders to a nuclear-armed Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
  • 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.
  • Shinobi: The second boss Black Turtle is a helicopter that's a Clown Car full of those damned Fly Ninja.
  • Silent Scope has the player character, a sniper, fending off human enemies in vehicles throughout the series, including a truck, a fighter jet, a camouflaged mech, among other things. These vehicles boast more HP than a human boss alone—20 or 30 Hit Points as opposed to 5 or 10 for human opponents—although shooting the human driver or pilot will take off a large chunk of that HP and a headshot will inflict a One-Hit Kill. Strangely, both the driver/pilot and the vehicle share the same HP, so plugging enough holes into the vehicle to render the next hit a Critical Existence Failure means the driver can be killed with the next hit even if they haven't been shot yet, and vice versa.
  • Eggman in Sonic the Hedgehog. These types of fights usually play out in a combination of the first and second, where the cockpit of the vehicle is the weak point. Usually, the pilot gets away to fight another day (or level in the case of Eggman), or survives the destruction of their vehicle only to be captured and/or start begging for mercy. One particular instance of the third style in a Sonic game would be the G.U.N. Truck from Sonic Adventure 2, which made a return in Sonic Generations.
  • 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.
    • Bowser Junior takes some pages from the aforementioned Eggman's playbook and almost exclusively uses either vehicles or Humongous Mecha in any boss fights with him.
    • Cannoli from Wario: Master of Disguise fights with his Mad Hat machines, because Wario stole his wand that granted him super powers. They're supposedly family heirlooms.
  • In Terminator Rampage, one of the stages has you running from a gunship that you can't hurt (but can kill you over and over and over...).
  • 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.
  • Touhou has Rika of the second game, fighting Reimu in a tank. Justified however, as without it she's helpless.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Robotnik's forces use a wide assortment of armed and armored vehicles in the sky and on the ground. As such, this trope appears in nearly every episode. The Freedom Fighters are prone to stealing said vehicles for their own use as well.