There aren’t many games out there with the relatively tranquil settings of Tour de France that don’t promptly get completely destroyed. So for once you can enjoy the scenery whilst cycling around strategically to ensure victory rather than killing thousands upon thousands of nameless evildoers. So perhaps Tour de France 2013 could be a welcome change of pace.
After quite a lengthy install you are presented with the game’s main menu. It very quickly becomes painfully apparent that you’re not going to have much room for freedom on this game. Aside from the usual options and credits there is “Play Game”, “Load Game” and “Cycling Coach”. Cycling coach is the game’s, entirely text based, tutorial. It’s information you need to play the game properly but unfortunately the game makes no attempt to even suggest checking this out and truth be told reading it before actually playing the game makes little to no sense. There aren’t even helpful pictures or short video clips to demonstrate the information. As is so often the case with tutorials such as these playing the game first and losing so that then reading the tutorial actually makes sense seems the only real option available.
Proceeding to play game presents you, first, with a choice of team. There are a lot of teams in Tour de France and there are more than enough to choose from. Each has different strengths and weaknesses which no doubt reflect the teams’ performance in real life. They are accompanied with fairly comprehensive stats for you to make your decision however likelihood is that first time round you’re knowledge of these stats will be insufficient to make an informed decision.
After you have picked your team you are presented with 4 different levels of goals, each more challenging and difficult than the last. Maybe they are, but any goal with Tour de France lingo involved was pretty much lost on me. But anyway I moved to the next choice which is the stages you will race on. I kept the default 7 stages but you can pick and choose how many stages will make up the season. If you want you can race on all 24 stages or only 1. It’s a simple solution that works by granting you control over what type of stages you want and therefore how long, and how difficult, the season will be. Last, and most definitely least, you pick yourself a tasty treat or two that your cyclist can enjoy on his journey. The food supplements seem like a good idea, each restoring your three stamina bars by varying amounts. In reality however, they make little to no difference. If you overuse one of your energy reserves some almond paste isn’t going to save the day and reverse your error.
Armed with your efficiently revitalising nut paste and no clue whatsoever as to if you picked the correct cyclist or team you finally get to your first stage. The first thing that will become blindingly obvious to all that can spell their own names is that the stages are long. Really, really long. As a test of human endurance I now have a whole new respect for the racers in Tour de France. One of the stages is a 200 Km ride followed by a mountain climb at up to a 10% inclination. Which is unbelievable steep. Impressive feat indeed but no so entertaining to play in a video game.
The core of the game very quickly becomes stamina bar manager 2013 and ensuring you spend the first 30 minutes or so tickling your R2 button is the key to success. You should then have the stamina you need to get up that hill, or across that sprint section faster than everyone else. I was gravely disappointed when despite conserving almost all my energy until the last minute, and simultaneously ensuring I was at least in a good place in the pack for my final assault, I still got beat. I was using my stamina up as hard as I could without it running out before the end of the track. I was an uphill rider going uphill. I’d used up my food reserves for what little extra stamina could be squeezes out of my weary cyclist. Consistently I seemed to be doing everything right. I was being conservative and managing the hell out of those stamina bars but it wasn’t enough to guarantee victory.
I can only think that my ignorance of Tour de France and general lack of understanding of the finer points of the game are my ultimate downfall. My final standings where actually quite good and I achieved a fair amount of my team’s goals but I just wish there was some way for me to learn and improve. Because your only real interactions are to manage 2 stamina bars and steer occasionally there seems like very little I can change. You reserve your energy up to the end, give it your all and people overtake you effortlessly leaving you cycling at seemingly sedate speeds as they rush to victory. It’s so frustrating as you jam R2 into the back of your pad and mash X for an extra push only to lose in the final 30 seconds of a 30 or 40 minute race.
One solution to this is the ability to fast forward the race through the uneventful sections and only play the crucial sections. The AI does a great job of not losing any stamina so your rider is fresh for you when you return to the game. Unfortunately this usually means any lead you may have built up is gone and you find yourself back in the main pack struggling to break ahead, having now wasted whatever stamina you previously used. The fact that there is a fast forward option at all is a bit strange as you can actually just leave the AI to finish the entire race for you. If this needs to be here so that I can skip 60 or 70% of a race, which the game actually suggests you do, isn’t that indication that something may be wrong?
Having said that you’re not going to miss much. Visually speaking there isn’t a single element that looks even reasonable. Every single aspect is pixelated and jagged. The crowd are robotic and repeated shamelessly. At one point there where 3 crowd members in a huddled group that where identical. The cyclists are nothing to behold either, especially considering that the 30% of the time you’re not looking at the fast forward screen you are guaranteed to be looking at your cyclist. The first time I watched a podium scene it was just embarrassing.
I did actually enjoy Tour de France briefly but my patience soon ran out. It’s uninspired, frustrating and looks terrible. It seems to me like yet another game that was made quickly and cheaply to cash in on a sports franchise. There’s little to no appeal to be had and I can’t honestly imagine even Tour de France fans would get anything extra out of the game. In fact as a novice to Tour de France it quickly becomes obvious that the names of the members of Team Sky have been altered. Chris Froome becomes Chris Vroome and Bradley Wiggins becomes Braulio Waggons. I don’t think anyone has been fooled by changing the first letter of Chris Froome’s last name but at least Braulio Waggons gave me a damn good laugh when I noticed.
Reviewed on PS3. Tour de France 2013: 100th Edition is available now on PS3 and XBOX 360.