Le Tour De France 2015 is another installment in the Tour De France franchise by Cyanide studios which puts you in the heart of competitive cycling in the annual Tour De France event. As you can imagine it’s a racing game where you compete against others, (lots of them) to win a series of races and become the overall champion. However if you’re into your race games then clear all your thoughts and ideas from your mind as this isn’t a fast paced racer with lots of options and customizations to keep you tinkering for hours but in fact a hard long slog with a huge dose of strategy behind it. If you are a keen cyclist, into the Tour De France or just fancy a change in pace then this is definitely the game for you so don your Lycra, grab your gel packs and prepare to get sweaty.
Compared to other games I have seen in the past Tour De France 2015 doesn’t just put you in charge of a single racer but an entire team and this is where the strategy comes in. You can only at any one time focus on a single rider within your team, deciding when he sprints or drafts whilst all the time watching his energy to make sure he doesn’t burn out. Like in real life, the quicker you pedal, the longer you climb hills or sprint, the more energy your burn until eventually you run out, at which point you can watch the world and all the other racers pass you by. If you do feel you are starting to fade then you switch riders to one of your team mates or even call one to come up and take the lead so you can draft him or another competitor for a while allowing you to replenish your energy. This team play and strategy is key to successfully winning events and races and ultimately the tour.
As soon as the game started stunning footage of cyclists racing through the sunny hills and vineyards of France filled me with some excitement and then the main menu appeared laying out six options for me from a tutorial to teach me the basics of the game to various timed events, multiplayer options and the jewel in the crown the Tour De France race itself. Thinking there can’t be much to this game I clicked the tutorial option and then my jaw dropped. As the screen loaded a splash screen appeared showing the controller setup. Now I thought it’s a cycling game how hard can it be, you pedal with one trigger, brake with the other and steer, oh how wrong I was.
I was faced with RT to pedal, LT to brake and the left thumbstick to steer (I got that bit right at least). However RB is to change gear, LB is to assume a low down aerodynamic position (useful when you are going down hills and don’t want to peddle). X button allows you to trail a competitor (slipstream), repeatedly pressing the A button allows you to attack so you can catch players or try to break away. Button Y allows you to consume energy packs and gels and finally button B opens up comms allowing you to control your other teammates and issue tactics like attack or swap control to another cyclist, this I used a lot as I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and found I was running out of energy all the time and needed to swap to another rider. – phew, you still with me?
The races themselves vary and before you get started you pick your team and this determines the aim of the race. This is a nice feature as it kept my focus on the race because it wasn’t necessary to win some events but just to make sure all your team finished in the top 10. Once you have decided on a race you then have to choose what Gel Packs you take, these replenish your energy but can only be taken at set times within the race so use them wisely. After all that I was finally ready to go.
I thought the first race would take me 5 or so minutes and as it set off I was amazed by the sheer number of cyclists at the start, it was truly an impressive sight and brought a real sense of the sheer size of the task I was about to undertake. A short sprint burst to get me ahead in the lead pack and I was away. 30 minutes later I was still cycling on a lifeless road with the lead pack, looking at lovely scenery and once in a while a group of fans lined along the side of the road. At some points I really didn’t know where I was in the race, there is a map on the side of the screen but I found the information it was telling me confusing, from the gradient of slopes to distance cycled. Occasionally there was a burst of excitement when someone tried to break away and you have to react quickly to catch them (lots of A button mashing). My lead and potential victory was short-lived though as just before the end of the race I burnt out as I had completely used all my energy. Within seconds the entire pack of riders passed me and now at the back of the pack I found it difficult to fight and my way through them. I finally staggered over the line to be pleasantly faced with a podium ceremony for sprint champion and my own jersey. A sense of pride came over my again and I soon forgot about my disastrous finish.
The main thing that separates this game from others is all the factors that you have to keep an eye on during the race. As explained before, energy is the most important thing in this game. However, you also have to take into account the gel packs you can consume in the specialised marked out feed zones (to be honest I wasnt sure when I was in one of these) during the race, the hilly terrain, the length of the race and the number of turns. They have even factored in the wind to aid or hinder you as if you ride into a headwind you will find yourself burning more energy, but drafting or riding alongside another player can shield you from this. This makes the game come into its own as you have to plan your attacks and a real sense of strategy and how the real life riders tackle the race comes into play.
The game also offers multiplayer and co-op mode allowing you to race with a friend of compete online with others. This brings a level of excitement to the game that sometimes is missing in the single player as the challenge you face racing with others and the unpredictable nature it brings opens up the true dynamic of the game. Work together as a team for time trails or go head to head to prove you are the best.
So, what’s wrong with the game?
The main game screen has a wealth of information and this can be quite confusing. I still don’t really know what half the information truly means. Also as mentioned above the races can be very long and sometimes you feel that you are cycling by yourself with little or no interaction from anyone else and due to the before you go out or pick up the kids, it needs time and dedication. The quickness that you can go from being in the front 5 to 31st is also annoying as you can lead for 20 minutes and then crawl over the line last, but then again this might just be my general lack of skill in this game. The other issue faced was the collision detection within the game. No matter how hard I tried to run over some of the cheering crowd I couldn’t, I even tried the old Road Rash classic of charging and sideswiping another competitor’s bike but I just seem to bounce of them. One last thing to mention is the brakes, I found a slight tap on them brought me to a complete stand still and then you had to burn precious energy to get back up to speed. There seem to be no difference on how far I pulled the trigger on my controller it was either off or on. I could imagine my rider flying down a hill, applying the brakes and then catapulting himself over the handlebars and propelling himself over the finishing line mid-air like Superman, but however hard I tried I could not do this.
Overall this game does have it problems but then again what game doesn’t. As I played my family looked on and commented on how boring it was but I found myself being drawn into the races, learning from my mistakes and how I could better myself and tactics for the next one. Is this one to invite your friends over to play on a Friday night? No and I can’t see myself playing this over and over again. The game is visually stunning and if you haven’t played a game like this before then I feel you should give it a go because as far as cycling games goes this is the best one yet. It’s a Marmite game, you are either going to love it or hate it, but it’s for you to decide.
Thanks to Koch Media for supporting TiX
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