I’ve never really been that interested in cycling as a sport, I just saw it as way of popping down the shop without hassling around with the car, or having a nice cycle around the lake. So Le Tour de France for the Xbox 360 was a pretty new experience for me, I just thought you had to cycle the fastest and you’d win, how wrong I was.
Before I go into the finer details of the game, let’s cover its gameplay. It’s not particularly advanced at best, although I have a feeling that’s the point, changing your rider’s direction will see him move ever so slightly in the direction you want him to go in order to give you a more realistic experience. Pressing the buttons on your controller will see him go faster, slower or increase effort, and that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t sound very fun I hear you say? Well, that’s because it isn’t.
The game feels rather awkward and even quite sloppy at times, mainly down to the fact that, due to a mediocre tutorial and a lack of hints, I had no idea what to do for the first few races. Once you’ve done a few stages you’ll start to feel more confident, but all it takes is for your cyclist to come across a poorly designed surface (of which there are many) and you’re, in the nicest way possible, screwed.
Races are mostly quite long in length, and what doesn’t help is the lack of speed or rapid movements in the racers. Perhaps that’s not the fault of the game and its developers, it’s just an element of the sport as whole. But it doesn’t make for a particularly good game.
Despite its tedious and boring parts, you do get sucked in at times when attempting to put you strategies into effect. The thing with this game that makes it different from the rest of the racing genre is that speed doesn’t matter that much. Of course, you have to stay at a decent speed, but if your effort and speed levels are maxed out for any longer than a few minutes, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be one of the last ones finishing the race. This feature of the game has been developed superbly, it encourages the player to worry less about speed and more about tactics. At times it’s better to even take your time, and, as a result, Le Tour de France can be pretty damn addictive.
The game’s graphics aren’t bad but they’re nothing really to jump up and down about. The thing that really bug me is the lighting, it just doesn’t work and it looks terrible. The way it’s been developed, the moment your cyclist goes behind a large tree or building the light should dull like it would in real life. This looks terrible and, unless you’re playing the game in a room with a lot of light, you’ll be looking at an almost completely black screen. Poor design on Cyanide Studios’ part there I’m afraid.
If you’ve got a love for cycling as a sport, you might be able to overlook some of these niggles and enjoy putting tactics and strategies into place like in the real sport. Sadly for me, I couldn’t get enthused, a few minutes into a race I’d be bored and feeling like the game’s a chore more than a joy to play. There are a few good things that stand out from this mediocre title, one of the elements I quite like from Le Tour de France is the fact that’s it’s easy to play yet very hard to master, thanks mainly to the rather clever stamina system. It’s not as easy as taking your time to reserve your stamina and pick up the effort near the end of the race, it’s all about timing, and that’s a very hard thing to get right. Even after playing the game for several days, I still got moments where I finished at the bottom of the pile.
This one’s for the cycling buffs out there, it’s a game full of design flaws and poorly thought out systems, but once in a while it’ll surprise you. If you’re looking for a standard racing game or even an introduction to the sport of professional cycling, steer clear from this one I’m afraid.
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