Tour de France 13 offers very little more than the Tour itself. I mean you choose your team and rider and can pick either to do some of the stages or the complete Tour. Before each stage, you can choose between riders within the team. That is about the some of it. The PC series that Cyanide are renowned for offers a deeper cycling experience as a whole and so I feel the console version is a little skimpy on what is on offer. It also should only really appeal to cycling fans and not general sport fans as there is quite a bit to absorb, and not much to hold your hand as you go along.
Personally I love anything simulator when it comes to sport games, and while I do enjoy cycling, I do not really know much about the technical side of things. Unfortunately what I learnt from the written tutorial didn’t leave me knowing much more than I knew before. It’s a pretty complicated sport really, and even being able to understanding the positioning indicators during the race was a little French to me. It’s not quite, “this guy is first, and that dude is second.” Its pretty different and complicated, there’s so much variables, so much commands and general cycling lingo, that I found my self a little out of sorts most of the time.
So I read the tutorial, jumped into the Tour and I was fairly lost in terms of what was going on. In my first stage I burst out with the first ‘attack’ and had the manager telling me in cycling lingo that I needed to pay attention to my team, command them. You can access a sub-menu where your rider goes into automatic mode, and choose to tell your team-mates to either help you attack, help you relay, wait up for you or just give them carte blanche. These variable offer deeper options within the main variable and knowing what to order when was a complete blur to me.
What I really love about the game, is despite being skimpy in its offerings, once in the race it’s an absolute joy to anyone who enjoys the strategic side of sports. In my first stage for example, bursting with the front runners, attacking every other minute, I found my rider completely gassed not even halfway into the stage. I dropped off dramatically, got overtaken and left for dead by the Peleton – I was intrigued. I loved that I was going to have to work this one out if I was going to conquer a stage.
It’s all about how you tackle the stage – conserving energy by riding in a pack or by slip-streaming, only attacking when you need to and by using your team. This is actually the part I struggled with the most. I found that I either stuck with the team and commanded them all stage long, pretty much guessing my way and not getting anywhere really, or I would break off with the front runners, slipstream with them and actually compete for the stage win. I could manage commanding one or maybe two teammates, but commanding the team takes your control totally off your own race, particularly in the shorter stages.
The control mechanics are well designed – you hold down the trigger button to cycle and mash the A button only when you are attacking. You can stick in someone’s slipstream with Auto riding by holding in the bumper button. Steering, and choosing your trajectory takes a bit of getting used to, but it does work well once you get the hang of it, and it does feel as I would imagine it should. The only issue or critique I have with the mechanics is the fact that you only use two cogs. You basically stick to the smaller cog to conserve energy and only gear up to the large cog when you are attacking. I wouldn’t exactly want 24 gears, but a little more for uphill and downhill for example, would have been welcome.
On the multiplayer front players compete on online leaderboards, or play offline in either two man versus or co-op modes. Co-op mode is probably my favourite, because the bogus team orders go out the window and you and your mate can proparly help one another relay or break away as you should. I tried and tried some more but I just could not get the hang of the team orders when going at it alone. Maybe if I understood a little more, so I welcomed some unartificial intellegence where I could explain what we should do as a team, and it worked.
This latest Tour de France game still very much feels like a PC port. I would imagine that France looks great on the PC, but with the console version, it looks very bland. The cyclists and the bikes look great, but everything else looks bad. The presentation is attractive, neat and modern and there’s even a stunning cinematic intro, but once you are in the race, anything but the bike and riders will disappoint. There’s plenty of slow-loading textures, grainy graphics and a generally lifeless looking France. The crowds, the vehicles on the side of the road, terrible really. The important part – the cyclists look pretty realistic –their cycling motions from taking it easy to sprinting, all look very realistic.
The sound quality is even more generic. Very little seemed to have been recorded for the production – from the crowds to the race director. After a few stages, everything will sound familiar. What I did love was the realistic sounding wind effects as you speed up and so forth, as well as the heartbeat effect which gives you an indication of what your rider’s condition is like.
The game offers nothing more than the cycling in the Tour. What more could I have expected? Well how about creating a cyclist, training for the Tour, getting into a team and then taking on the Tour? The design is just not deep enough, there’s no flair and nothing in the way of any sort of exhibition – It’s just stage after stage.
With that said, as a sim-sports fan, I am really enjoying the game, and probably will continue to do so until I can figure out how to win the mammoth that is The Tour de France. I love the strategy that is needed to succeed and the mechanics are solid while not being fleshed out enough. I’m glad that Cyanide brought their expertise in cycling games to the consoles, but having read up on what the Cycling Pro series offers on PC, I really would have hoped for a deeper single player mode. A much better tutorial would have also helped.