Developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive, Tour De France 2016 is the latest in the cycling / racing simulation franchise.
“Embody the greatest cycling champions competing to conquer the yellow jersey along the 21 official stages of a Tour de France 2016, packed with exciting new features. Experience the emotions of a pro rider by attacking, sprinting, counter attacking and taking the best decisions.”
I’m not new to racing games, or even sports games, but I’m new to the genre of professional cycling sports games. It was a pleasant change from the normal hustle and bustle of a car racing simulator, although there is nothing like being surrounded by 199 other cyclists from the starting grid and causing all sorts of collisions as you push through the group to lead the peloton.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the stages can be very long – a decent attempt by the developer to capture the feel of the sport. If you want to step away from all the realism on offer (although while real Tour stages can last for many hours, here they are around 30 minutes) you might want to consider the fast forward function; if you find yourself well ahead of the peloton then fast forward the race without any penalties to your stamina or energy levels.
The game is certainly fun and challenging, and although the graphics aren’t amazing, the environments are really something to look at, and the visuals do a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the most famous cycle race in the world. Having over 100 cyclists on your screen at the same time can be confusing, as it’s very easy to lose your own cyclist in the group.
Of course, you aren’t in the race alone; you have a team to command too, by relaying relay voice commands to your team via the comm link option. Remember, though, if you don’t communicate with your team and work with them, they won’t co operate with you in later stages. The voice over will give you hints when your team can help out in a situation – although these quickly become repetitive and annoying. Yes, you have told me that before – using a different tone of voice isn’t fooling me, Mr Voice Over Man!
Conserving your energy is important – with such long stages the distances take their toll. You need to make sure you use your riders “feeds” at the appropriate time, or you will find yourself with no energy or stamina left at the end of the race and risk losing everything you worked for. Feeds are little bottles (red and blue) that the rider must consume during the race – the red one is energy and the blue is stamina. If either of the corresponding bars deplete then you risk a “blow up” – if this happens your rider will lose all of his momentum and will be at a crawling speed until he regains some energy again. Maintaining good aerodynamic posture on the downhill sections is a useful way of conserving energy; change your rider’s position on the bike to make him as slippery through the air as possible for greater speed and more energy.
You always have to think through your strategies, too, as it’s not just a race to the finish. During the main stage you have to complete other challenges, like winning intermediate sprints, or being the fastest climber on the hills. The decision on when to stay put in the peleton, and when to make the breakaway, will always be gnawing away at your nerves. Jump too soon, attack too hard, and you might grab some temporary glory, but leave yourself exposed without enough energy for that final climb. You’ll slip from hero to zero when the peleton swallows you up and spits you out the back. It’s this strategic element – almost an act of balancing resources and split-second timing – that sets this game apart from other racing sims.
The Challenge mode – new to the series – can be played if you’re looking for a break from the normal stages. It’s an asymmetric competition – like leader boards in Trials or challengers in Forza. You can challenge your friends to get the best times, win jerseys, and even indulge in a little local multiplayer or try to beat your best times against a ghost rider.
Finally, there’s the Pro Team mode, Tour De France 2016’s take on the racing game career mode. You must control your team of novice riders and help them develop them over a number of seasons. You’ll need to keep your sponsors happy and as you grow you can recruit new riders to make your ultimate dream team. It’s thoroughly engrossing, adding an additional layer of thought and planning between stages and races.
While this might seem like a game that would only appeal to fans of the sport, there’s a lot to recommend Tour De France 2016 to a wider audience. Bike handling feels competent, and the in-race strategy means you can never entirely relax. There’s a lot of content here, with the Pro Team mode a particular standout.
Tour De France 2016 is available from the Xbox Store priced £39.99.
The world's most famous cycle race proves that you don't need four wheels or an engine to win.
It might seem like an odd choice, but Tour De France 2016 proves that there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Securing victory in a stage – never mind the whole race – is a tricky and challenging proposition; failure leads you to blame only your own poor decision making rather than any shortcomings in the game. Definitely worth a look of you’re a race-game fan looking for something a little more thoughtful.