Le Tour de France 2013 – 100th Edition – PS3
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Jul 2, 2013
Genre: Sports, Simulation
Reviewed by Arend Hart
Review Score: 1 of 5
On the discussion of bicycle road racing, most folks jump right to the high profile stars of the sport; Bernard Hinault, Greg Lamond, Lance Armstrong, and the 2013 winner Chris Froome. And the only reason common folks even recognize any of these names is because of a single race, the Tour de France.
Le Tour de France pits the world’s best cyclists against over 2000 miles of the toughest French roadways, all over a period of just 21 days. Riders vie for the top spot, awarding them the coveted yellow jersey. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013 (it has actually been around for more than 100 years, but there were a few lapses over the years), the Tour is easily the world’s most familiar bicycling event, eclipsing even the Olympics in the sport’s popularity.
But what many people don’t realize is that while the focus is usually on the stars of the sport, the Tour de France is actually more of a team event than an individual event. Similar to NASCAR or TOCA racing, the strategy in Tour de France is more about advancing the corporate-sponsored teams in the overall points standings, than it is putting any one of the over 200 cyclists on the podium at the end of the race. This team-based focus is what simultaneously makes and breaks French developer Cyanide SA’s newest release in their popular European series, Pro Cycling Manager, with Tour de France 100th Edition. The game tries desperately to find a balance between the gamer’s desire to achieve individual success, and the need to maintain overall team standings, though all of the 21 tediously challenging racing stages.
As far as accurate simulations go, I would have to tip my hat to Cyanide SA for their take on the sport of road cycling – they actually do a fairly good job in capturing the essence of the sport. The world of cycling is rife with more science, technology, and drama than most US gamers are even aware of, and Cyanide SA have done a really nice job bringing all of that to the forefront with Tour de France 100th Edition. Gamers will have to closely maintain their riders’ (notice that is pluralized – this is a team sport after all) stamina through the incredibly long racing stages – and by long, I mean you have no clue until you snap into the pedals how long these stages are. My first racing stage easily took an hour to complete from start to finish.
I remember the shock I experienced when I assumed the team manager’s directive 10 minutes in about “only 5km until the breakaway” meant that I was nearing the end of the race, only to have my son point out the onscreen course grid showing that we were still only fractionally into the first quarter of the race. Over the course of this first stage, we passed the controller back and forth multiple times as each needed breaks from the tedium that comes from controlling the cyclist through miles upon miles of French countryside. It was only later that we realized we could simulate portions of the race at any time during the gameplay, but the thought of losing a first-place standing because the simulation went wonky (which it proved to do more often than not) drove us to press on manually through that and subsequent stages.
The control configuration is simple enough to grasp right off the bat, although the steering can be a bit inconsistent at times. Gamers hold “X” to maintain pedaling cadence, and tap “X” repeatedly to sprint (keeping a watchful eye on the stamina meter). The shoulder buttons are used for gear changes, braking, and cycling through team riders. Gamers can revive their rider’s stamina with fruit and water from the inventory packed before the race with a quick tap of the triangle button.
While the control configuration for each individual rider is easy to grasp, the actual gameplay is infinitely more complex when it comes to managing the team as a whole throughout the course of the stage. Keeping one rider out front is a breeze, but when it comes to keeping the team in the front 1/3 of the pack it can be mentally grueling. Gamers will quickly realize that the strategy employed prior to the race in packing inventory is as much, or more, important than what gear should be selected for the upcoming ascent.
This team administration definitely added a sense of urgency to the otherwise sleepy gameplay (riding a virtual bicycle through the French countryside for an hour is only so stimulating on its own) yet the constant shuttling between riders became more micromanagement than I was willing to put up with. I found myself longing for the quick thrills of a motorized racer like Burnout Paradise to cleanse my gaming palette – and believe me, any game that leaves you wishing you were playing a different one definitely needs help.
Visually, Tour de France is a mixed bag. While the French countryside and mountainous vistas are moderately spectacular, the fact that they pop in at such a short distance detracts from the beauty. The onscreen action is sketchy, often for no apparent reason; riders freeze, lag, and appear very frequently.
Often, these visual anomalies coincide with having large numbers of racers onscreen, but almost as frequently they happen with a single rider as well. It would be easy to blame this phenomena on an aging PS3 drive, but this was experienced equally on two test PS3’s, one less than 6 months old. Honestly, if these events happened once in a while it would be one thing, but this glitching happens at least once or more every minute of the gameplay making it terribly distracting.
Granted, as Tour de France is an European “Manager” title at heart, the developers most likely expect gamers to be simulating the stages rather than actually racing them. But with the complexity involved in the management, gamers will find that it is often easier to achieve better standings by manually racing a team through a stage than simulating one. However, I would like to point out that I use the word “easier” lightly – the tedium of plodding through the hour-long stage is obviously much tougher than clicking “simulate”, but unless you really know what you are doing with the management, the team’s simulation results are typically lower than you would get by actually racing.
Tour de France 100th Edition is a great homage to the sport of cycling and to the one event that almost entirely defines it; however, the gameplay is so tediously complex that only the staunchest of cycling fans will be able to put in the time and effort to appreciate continued success and enjoyment.