The Tour De France, whilst the gargantuan cycling event might not draw the sort of crowds you’d come to expect from a Fifa release, nor the same production budget either, that doesn’t mean it won’t have its devout following of fans. Can Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive breakaway with Tour De France 2016, or will it trundle along with the peloton?
The annual race spans multiple stages across the country and is of course home to probably the largest display of lycra in the world. Hundreds of riders spread across around 20 teams compete for dominance in both their disciplines and alongside their teammates. The Tour De France games help try to replicate the stratagems and team focused plays that occur in the real world. Make no mistake; these games are more akin to strategy managers than racing titles.
Despite the surprising addition of a racing line adorning the track, much like you’d find in a true racing game, you’ll spend a relatively small amount of time worrying about apexes, and more about managing your blue and red gel reserves. Due to the extreme length of the stages, it makes sense for your attention to be focused on stamina levels, when you can attack, when you can assume the most aerodynamic positions, and when to just take it easy.
The game’s short selection of tutorials does a reasonable job at explaining the basics of how to control your character, both types of stamina and also delves slightly into the team management side of things. This is by no means a complete beginners guide to the game however; you’ll likely struggle to understand the finer (and even broader) aspects if you have little understanding of the event in the first place. Naturally, the target audience will be those who share a passion and familiarity with the Tour De France, and for them, it’s no doubt a great recreation. For everyone else who might simply harbour a passing interest, or fancy something a little different to shooting things, Tour De France 2016 doesn’t exactly make things easy.
Despite the excitement of the starts, the climbs and the sprint finishes, I think it’s reasonable to say that there’s a fair amount of the event that doesn’t exactly brim with excitement. Fortunately, to alleviate some of the more tedious sections, there is an option to speed things up. Admittedly, it’s not the best compliment of a game to include a fast forward button, but I did find myself quite grateful for it at several points. When you’re not mashing the x button at the sprint sections, holding triangle to consume packets of gel, or weaving through the competition, there’s not really a huge amount of gameplay on offer. Micromanaging teammates and responding to your instructor’s suggestions feels like the real game here; not that it’s particularly a problem, it’s just somewhat unexpected.
Aside from the aforementioned tutorials, you’ll also have access to an editor for if you wish to tinker with the authenticity of the riders. On top of this, you’ll get the obligatory ‘create your own tournament’ mode, several full events to progress through, inevitably the entire Tour De France, a challenge mode and a spin on a team management sim. The career section lets you pick a team and attempt to fulfil sponsor goals such as overall standing placements, assisting teammates and playing to your riders strengths. The Pro Team provides a decent stab at an alternate career mode with it, on paper at least, sounding like an alternative version of Fifa’s Ultimate Team. In reality it can become quite an anticlimactic affair of simply fulfilling contractual goals, even if creating your own team consisting of the best riders can be quite a satisfying experience.
In terms of the looks and feel of the game, let’s just say it won’t be the most impressive showcase for your PS4. The environments are home to a lot of texture pop-in, even despite the relatively low fidelity. The amount of riders on the route itself, particularly at the start of an event, can be fairly visually impressive, yet things take a slight turn for the worst when you consider the ‘odd’ collision detection. So odd in in fact, that it’s almost impossible to have an accident. At the start of the race, the streets are packed with wheels, frames and adrenaline fuelled riders, yet slipping between 30 people without so much as a wobble breaks the immersion slightly. Careering through downhill bends at speeds of which even some cars might be wary of, and understandably managing to clip the steel railings in the process, will cause you no bother besides occasionally coming to a sudden and abrupt halt. It honestly takes quite a bit of trying to come off your bike, but I guess they’ve had some practice.
Tour De France 2016 is a niche game for a selective audience. For casual passers-by, there’s sadly little in the way of incentive to draw you in. For fans of the event on the other hand, aside from some ‘misspelled’ rider names, the experience should be fairly authentic. You’ll get to manage your own team, enjoy some split-screen fun and most importantly, race around the Arc de Triomphe for a hopefully, triumphant finish.