Le Tour de France; perhaps one of the most iconic and well known sporting events in the world. Often packed with excitement, grueling tests of stamina and sometimes, a body-twisting twenty bike pile up – we know they must hurt. So, can Cyanide Studios deliver a game that equals the event’s heritage? We aim to find out…
Game: Tour de France 2016
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Publisher: Focus Home
Reviewed on: (Review code provided)
Tour de France 2016 has you forming a team of racers ready to compete in the tour. There’s four different modes, one which builds a team for you and lets you crack on with it, another that plays out like a career mode by allowing to develop young hopefuls through preliminary races before the main event, and finally your typical challenge and custom modes – the latter essentially allowing you to pick a certain race and give it the once over.
I should probably say that my viewing time of any cycling sport extends to brief channel flicking and the Olympics, so I’m not versed in all of the sports little details and athletic quirks. However, I’ve played a few video games, many of them racing orientated and there was a few similarities apparent straight away as I lined up for my first virtual cycling experience. For instance, speeding up and slowing down are tied to the trigger buttons as you’d expect and you’ll find racing lines akin to games like Forza and Project Cars to help you make the right decisions when approaching corners.
Where the game and genres separate themselves forms the basis of what makes this title so interesting. It’s all about managing your energy. Making yourself more aerodynamic by leaning in or pushing yourself hard to make up some quick time towards the finish line for example. The way the developers have implemented the energy managements facets is largely excellently done. You’ll have to carefully balance your energy and effort throughout the long race to make sure your rider isn’t giving up on life (aptly named a ‘blow-out’) come the final third – your rider can be aided by consumable gel but it’s not a quick fix for tired legs. There’s an initial learning curve that I wasn’t quite expecting and the more you play, the more you’ll realise that this type of racing really is an entirely different beast if you’re not versed in it from the start – this I liked.
So, in that respect the game does itself proud with its deep understanding of the sport’s technicalities. Pacing, using other racers as shields from the wind (in-turn helping your stamina), or even switching between team mates or issuing them commands for positional aid make this more than just a ‘keep pedaling and you’ll be fine’ type of experience. For those who have a high interest in the sport, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the level of detail that’s been built in to the game.
There are a few issues, though. Despite the handling feeling quite intuitive, there’s a few instances that make the game feel a little jarring. Collisions are far too forgiving for starters. At the start of races there’s a ton of racers around you but you can often just barge through them with little interruption to the animations. Riders can come off their bikes to create a few messy scenes, but short of charging full speed into someone you’ll never get a real immersive feel of contact that can be absolutely detrimental in the real sport itself. The AI doesn’t really help, feeling like lifeless avatars that are going through the motions as if they weren’t really there.
The biggest issue I had was the lack of experience and atmosphere. Music gets bland fast, the commentary feels as exhilarating as hearing Alan Titchmarsh talking about shrubs, and the view leaves a lot to be desired. Textures aren’t great, riders massively generic (I mean, most of them literally look identical), and backdrops repetitive and uninspiring. I never felt as though I was riding in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Instead, I was riding on a poorly represented landscape full of blocky onlookers that stand on the sides doing their best ‘last-gen’ impressions. Of course, visuals aren’t everything, but I’ve always felt sports titles above all else should bring their graphical A-games to the table and create a strong atmosphere. Tour de France 2016 sadly does neither.
At its core there’s a deep simulation of the sport that followers will be thrilled with. There really is a lot of satisfaction in winning a race by perfectly placing your team and managing your energy – especially the last push to the finish line after a grueling race. The attention to detail that has gone into those technical aspects should be applauded and will bring a lot of enjoyment. Had the same attention to detail been implemented to create a genuine race experience from a presentation and graphical standpoint, then I might be able to recommend it to non-fans of the sport. As it stands, not so much.