Game review: Tour de France 15
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Playstation 3
THE growing popularity of road cycling in the wake of British success means the sport is no longer a minority pursuit. Yet with the exception of BMX and mountain biking titles, there have been precious few games dedicated to it over the years. The only developer of note in the field is Cyanide, the French firm set up by former Ubisoft employees. Since the release of Cycling Manager back in 2001, it has released 19 cycling games, including five entries in the Tour de France series.
The sixth is the best yet, though that should not be taken as the endorsement it might appear, especially given the critical mauling handed out to previous instalments. The 2015 version is a passable interpretation of road cycling’s grand tour, but unless you are wholly devoted to the sport, its insistence on obtuse strategy and uncompromisingly prolonged races are unlikely to appeal.
Some race sections take as long as an hour to complete
The game lulls you into a false sense of security with the first race, a brisk, competitive affair which can be completed in two minutes with the occasional bursts of fast pedalling. It could never be described as pacey, but as an introduction, it works well. Unfortunately, it is in no way representative of the slogs you will soon be met with. The sections of some races take as long as an hour to complete, which may well be authentic, but becomes a chore quickly, especially when you are separated from the pack and find yourself coasting through the countryside.
It is in these yawning open stretches that the game asks you to plan your approach carefully. The developers’ determination to create a fully fledged cycling simulation leaves the interface cluttered and unwelcoming. From maps of the course terrain and various gauges through to gear settings, race positions, icons and prompts, anyone playing a Tour de France game for the first time will likely be put off by the confusing array of information on screen, most of which feels arbitrary.
The layers of strategy can feel superfluous and offputting
The layer upon layer of strategy the game seeks to impose on the racing experience feels superfluous. Stamina becomes the one and only consideration as you choose when you go all out, pedalling as fast as you can, and when to hold back and coast for a few hundred metres or so. Sometimes it does not work, but a lot of the time it is enough to get by.
The drop in pace is not all bad; one of the best features is the ability to control an entire team, switching between members over the course of a race. In a sport where tactics and timing trumps speed and strength, the communications hub you can bring up with the flick of a button feels worthwhile and it is rewarding to take charge of your team’s best prospect before using his colleagues to protect him, set the pace, and chase down attacks from opposition contenders.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Don’t worry too much about trying to avoid other cyclists at chokepoints. The physics engine has been overhauled meaning pile ups are nowhere near as frequent as they used to be in previous Tour de France games.
The braking system allows you to be more cavalier than you might think, so don’t shy away from taking bends at high speed.
Tucking in behind another rider can be a good way to conserve your energy, but if they are going fast enough, your rider will also tire so watch out.