Tour de France. An event, that even if you do not participate in the viewing of, is something that near enough everyone will be aware of what takes place. The best of the best in the cycling world, compete in a grueling tournament. With jerseys awarded to those who reach the summit of the events that make up Tour de France. Such as the green jersey, the white jersey, and the polka dot jersey. Enter Cyanide Studios, and Focus Home Interactive with the 2016 release of Tour de France. A game series that first appeared on Xbox 360, way back in 2009 on the Xbox Live Arcade, and has seen a yearly release ever since, and 2016 is no different, as it sees the second iteration of the game on Xbox One.
I have to be honest, I’ve never watched the Tour de France, nor have I ever considered playing the games based on the competition. Little bit of trivia here. Maurice Garin was the first winner way back in 1903. It has been a main stay in the world of sports for 113 years now. So it makes sense that in this day and age, we have a video game. But just how good does it transition onto home console?
Firstly, the handling is actually a lot better than I had imagined, and you are given a racing line for each stage, as you would in the Forza games. Which is very handy to have should you not be familiar with some thing like this feature. Braking, even for sharp hair pin turns needs to be minimal, so you can keep your speed up. The right trigger will make your cyclist pedal, and tapping the A button will make them “attack” or pedal faster if the terminology of cycling is alien to you as it is to me. whilst on the subject of handling, I want to touch on collision detection. As in, there is none at the start of a stage. You are in a huge crowd of 200 and you are able to go around a corner in the midst of the crowd and it’s as if the other competitors are simply not there. Not something I would have expected from a game on current gen consoles that is a retail price release of £40. The opposite end of the spectrum sees you coming to an instant halt should you oversteer, and veer off into a barrier on the outside of the track or the crowd. Again, not what I would have expected.
Graphics inspection now. I have to keep the negatives coming I’m afraid. Every cyclist in the game looks exactly the same from what I have seen. This is totally unacceptable. I know that a game of this genre has it’s small niche in the gaming market, but still, it’s as if a group of clone extras from Star Wars have descended upon France, intent on convincing us they genuinely look happy when on the podium at the end of a stage. The range of emotions they show is as short as the amount of frames used for the animations. By which they look robotic. The crowd is a lot of group spread out either side of the road throughout each stage. But the assets are of the same quality you would find in Goat Simulator. This goes for the trees that litter game. They also seem to have used the same couple of species of tree, and the same fields appear over and over. A look into the distance, and you will see a big, solid grey silhouette which is supposed to represent a mountain range, but does a very poor job at depicting this. The visuals do not make the game however, as we all know that game play and the relevant mechanics is what makes a game playable first and foremost.
As mentioned earlier in the review, the handling is good, and the controls are not too bad. You just need to learn what does what and how to utilise tactics and strategy. Yes, you read that correctly. You see, charging ahead to lead the pack will see you exhausted and very low on energy, and blow up. Don’t worry, this is not a dodgy remake of Speed. There are no bombs, and no Keanu Reeves to be seen. This just means that you are completely spent of energy. It’s part of the terminology used. You can use your gels, a red or a blue one, depending on which energy bar has been depleted. The red representing attack power, and the blue for your stamina. Again, all part of the tactics, and to make you plan ahead. If you wish, you can choose the team comm button, and swap riders whenever you wish, and as often too. A team with a varied set of specialisations is what you will need in your team, so you can focus them for hilly, mountain and flat. Going downhill can help you recover energy, by holding down the right bumper, will create aerodynamics, and shield yourself from the wind which can slow you down considerably.
The first thing I would suggest upon loading the game, is to jump into the tutorials. They are quick, and just the right length for time spent in them. You will have voice and text instructions to help you through this section. There are plenty of game modes available to you from the get go, and you can even edit teams and riders names should you so wish. Heading over to Tour Mode is where the chance to participate in the big one lies in wait for you. Each stage is listed for you here, or choosing My Tour, will allow you a choice of how many stages you wish to race in. This is a long haul game, and not a quick pick up and play. So a polite warning for those who fancy cycling around France, albeit in a digital fashion.
The game HUD gives you all relevant information you could require, from the ratio of the roads incline or decline, to where you are according to the side viewed map, to how much wind there is. You get the obligatory speedometer, but in KM/h which I am not familiar with, given I work in MPH. But nothing to complain about. You do get the whooshing of the wind as you reach higher speeds, and advice from the in-game expert on what you should be doing, if like me you pedal without a plan. You can issue individual or team orders through team comms. Which is highly advisable.
There is also a challenge mode, with preset sections of stages, where you need to reach the finish line, and you get awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal should you be good enough. If like me you find this experience tough as old boots, when you select to replay a challenge, you have a ghost version of your last attempt to race against, making it easier to determine how to approach corners and when o attack after leaving a corner. Quite enjoyable really, as is entering the Tour de France. It is rough around the edges to be honest, but on the whole, if you’re in the market for something different, or just fancy trying Tour de France 2016, would I recommend that purchase? No, Not because I think it’s terrible, but the asking price is just way too much for a game of this quality. In my humble opinion, it’s a budget title in the £20-25 bracket. So if you want to make that game your own, wait for a sale. Otherwise you may not find that it justifies your expenditure of your hard-earned moolah.
Now for the achievements. Many of them require you to be on Professional or Champion difficulty, and you will struggle on the easiest settings to begin with. But practice makes perfect right? I agree with that sentiment personally. Keep at it, and you will find yourself getting better, and posting better times, and finishing up on the podium in no time. You could easily unlock a fair amount without too much effort.
To summarise, Tour de France was a welcome change for me, as I never once imagined I would ever play a game from the series. Due to the fact I don’t watch the event live on TV. It’s certainly not polished, and if I said you were looking at a 360 game, you would not question me once. That being said, I found the game truly enjoyable, and in a strange kind of way, I enjoyed the scenery too. A world away from all the FPS games available to us all. Just don’t spend too long looking at anything and analysing it, or you may just focus on the negatives and spoil the potentially good game that is hiding under that rough-looking skin. It essentially looks like Freddy Krueger, when it reality it should look like Megan Fox. It wants to be loved, and does deserve some attention. But I cannot emphasize enough, that a sale is the best time to buy this game. Despite the rough and rugged look to the visuals, and it’s dodgy half-brother collision detection bringing down the score more than it needed to be, I am confident that the score I have awarded will justify the enjoyment I had from my time invested. Cyanide Studios need to up their game, and work on these issues for the next iteration.
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