With cycling in the UK growing in popularity each and every year, there is an opportunity for Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive to turn this decidedly niche racing series into something a little more prevalent within the gaming community. While Le Tour de France 2014 is very unlikely to be that game, it does at least provide an authentic and generally rather enjoyable simulation experience for those already initiated.
Not a huge improvement over last year’s release and an unquestionably poor advertisement for the power of PlayStation 4, Le Tour de France 2014 nonetheless stands as a solid representation of the sport, one complete with all the official licensing a fan could hope for and as close an approximation of the sport you are ever likely to find on consoles.
As per previous games in the series, the basics are actually extremely simple, yet as always, it is the management of these abilities that will ultimately mean the difference between victory and abject failure. While the core experience is based upon the careful use of stamina and the timing of attack moves, it is the ability to manage your 9 man team that is often the most important aspect of any race.
Manageable on the go via the press of a single button, you can instruct the other 8 members of your team to take on a collection of tasks as you continue the race. Whether it be saving stamina via a relay request, having your team attack other riders (not literally of course) or have them defend your position from those in the chasing pack, these team commands are all essential to your chances of victory and do a pretty decent job of capturing the spirit and tactical nuances of Le Tour.
It may all sound relatively basic, but Le Tour is an unforgiving experience and a tricky sell to those with little knowledge of the sport. Luckily, unlike previous years in which the game simply threw you in at the deep end and assumed that you could swim, the 2014 release does at least offer up a training mode. It’s not the greatest tutorial you’ll come across this year, but at least it gives newcomers a chance to work on the basics and get their head around the fundamentals of the sport. It’s hardly a revolutionary addition, but at least it gives the less experienced a chance of warming to what is a relatively unique gaming experience.
Outside of the traditional Tour Mode which lets you race in anything between 7 and the full 21 stages (good luck with that), the big new addition for the 2014 release comes in the form of, Pro Mode. This career based option sees you starting up a team of relatively unskilled riders with the aim of building up their abilities and ultimately winning the Tour with your own unique team. It’s time-consuming stuff and provides plenty of content for those wishing to commit, but beyond a few unique features, provides little more than a chance to repeat the 2014 Tour Mode numerous times. Over. It’s a good idea and a welcome addition, but like so much of this game, is largely underwhelming and certainly under developed.
With only basic split-screen racing available for competitive play, it’s down to Pro Mode’s online leaderboards to provide a sense of advanced challenge. It’s all relatively basic stuff, but it does deliver additional aims and goals for those looking to push their created team to the limit. A full online multiplayer component would obviously be preferable and it absence is somewhat surprising, but as a short term fix, does at least allow you to compete against your friends……even if it isn’t directly.
Despite arriving on PS4, those expecting a generational leap from the PS3 release will be sorely disappointed by Le Tour’s decidedly last-gen visuals. Not quite the ugliest game to grace the PS4, Le Tour nonetheless stands as a visually unimpressive racer with repetitive, bland locations, poor animations and an array of identikit racers. Like the boring menu screens, everything is just about serviceable, but ultimately lacking anything in the way of visual flair. For a game that has you travelling from Yorkshire to Paris via Cambridge and London, it’s a real shame that the vast majority of stages feel so boringly similar. Authenticity does go some way towards lending the experience an air of personality, but beyond that, Le Tour falls painfully short of current-gen standards.
An improvement over previous releases, but only just. Le Tour de France 2014 still feels like a game held back by budgetary constraints, and despite delivering all the authenticity of the big event, is still lacking that bit of finesse required to make it a viable experience for anyone other than the truly initiated. Hardcore fans of Le Tour will find plenty to like, but even the most ardent fans would find it hard to argue with the fact that just about every aspect of this package could do with a good ol’ fashioned spit shine. A move in the right direction then, but still far from perfect.
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