Assault Heroes Hands-On

We check out the car-combat carnage in this impressive-looking Xbox Live Arcade game.

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Arriving late in the evening at our resort in Palm Springs, California, for a recent Sierra press event, we struck off in the dark to find the location of an outdoor welcome reception. Once there, and having greeted the local Sierra representatives on hand, we were presented with a couple of surprises: two Xbox Live Arcade games that were previously unannounced for the press event. Along with a minigolf game, we got a chance to play a work-in-progress version of a vehicular-combat game called Assault Heroes, which should be hitting the Xbox 360's online distribution service later this year.

Ikari Warriors meets Smash TV meets rally games. Assault Heroes is a fast-paced driving combat game for Xbox Live Arcade.
Ikari Warriors meets Smash TV meets rally games. Assault Heroes is a fast-paced driving combat game for Xbox Live Arcade.

The game, which plays like top-down arcade shooters such as Ikari Warriors and Smash TV, will find you mostly at the wheel of a nimble and rugged-looking buggy, complete with high-powered machine guns. You drive with the left analog stick and fire your weapons in any direction using the right stick. You'll need to keep your right thumb warmed up, too, because the game throws a ton of enemies at you on the screen. From soldiers with their peashooters to gun emplacements, as well as more imposing foes such as battle copters and massive tanks, the action is consistent throughout each level.

While speeding and shooting our way through the game, we got a chance to check out two of the end-level bosses. The first was a gigantic mecha-spider, who crawled out of its lair and put up a pretty hefty fight before we took it down for good, and the second, which we encountered on a later level, was a massive mechanical structure that looked more like a wall than a monster and had several weak points you had to attack before it would go down. While fighting boss battles, you can expect to see a few waves of lower-level minions come at your vehicle, just to complicate things.

Though you spend most of your time in Assault Heroes piloting the assault buggy, should your car suffer too much damage, you'll bail out and continue the fray on foot. Obviously, you're not able to do nearly as much damage with your rifle as you can in the car, but the good news is that you won't be exposed for long, as a new combat-ready buggy will materialize after a few seconds. Unfortunately, any weapons upgrades you've earned along the way will be lost when you step into the new ride. In addition to the standard machine gun, you'll have access to explosive weapons such as grenades, as well. A small colored bull's-eye indicates where the weapon will land once you fire, and though it doesn't have nearly the range as the machine gun, the grenades certainly pack a punch, especially when you're attacking stationary targets.

The levels we played had a decent variety to them. The first level had us traversing along sandy beaches and through forest thickets as we mowed down wave after wave of foes. Along the way, we had to wind through enemy bases and make our way across bridges thick with enemy forces. As you blast your way through the level, the map itself will slowly inch forward during certain sections to keep you moving.

Drivin' and shootin'. Two of our favorite weekend activities.
Drivin' and shootin'. Two of our favorite weekend activities.

Though we only played the single-player game, we understand that you'll be able to take on Assault Heroes levels with a friend via Xbox Live for some good old-fashioned two-player car-combat carnage. Considering how much we enjoyed playing the game solo, we can imagine it's that much more fun taking on the game with a buddy. There's more to learn about Assault Heroes before its release later this year--specifically, we're curious about the number of levels in the game, the different modes, and the XBL achievements you can unlock (as well as how many credits it's going to cost us to download), but what we've seen so far from this fast-paced, slick little shooter makes us eager to learn more in the future.

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