There is a strange allure I have with licensed sports games. I just want to play them, just to see what they’re like. The more common sense person in me says “Don’t be a dick, Sean, that game is £40 and you’ll play it for a week maximum.” It’s this reason why I owned the TNA Impact game, the Rugby League games back on the PS2 and even golf games. I’ll look at a game like the Tiger Woods Masters game and think “Wow, that’s cool! I want to play it” despite my interest in golf being a rather shoddy back 9 at my local course when I was 17 years old. But I am a fan of racing and every year, cycling grows in prominence, especially in the UK. We have some of the best riders in the world right now and the legacy of our success from the 2012 Olympics is still rather strong here.
We have some great names like Sir Chris Hoy (who’s interestingly making the leap to motor racing with the Nissan Le Mans team), Sir Bradley Wiggins (who presumably has a career as a Rhys Ifans lookalike as well) and, according to Tour de France 2015, Chris Frame and Mark Civendash… Yes the heavily licensed video game version of cycling’s pinnacle event is missing arguably two of its greatest stars. Their teams are licenced like Team Sky and Ettix Quick-Step but they aren’t. It’s one of the oversights that have dulled this experience for me as, believe it or not, I was very interested to see what this game was like.
One the face of it, the game is a less leisurely cruise though some of France’s greatest scenery among a throng of computer controlled cyclists vying to be the famed Yellow Jersey. Or if not that, one of the many sub-event jerseys like the polka-dot climbing leader or the green sprint one. You can race through these multiple stages and sub-races in your own pack or as part of the peloton and work your magic through the many stages of the competition. Great if you’re a video game playing cycling fan.
Not so great if you aren’t or if you’re hoping this would be a good entry in to the sport for you. Very little is made clear about the event. Where as most mainstream sports games are quite simple in their scoring and how someone wins, cycling is not and you will quickly become frustrated that it’s not a first past the post scenario. The game manual does help a bit but there’s very little clear indication in the game as to what exactly you’re racing for. How you get the overall lead isn’t particularly obvious, or how various people regularly affect the overall standings as you’re racing and what you’re supposed to do about it. Climbs and sprints, yes, very obvious, but everything else? No. There are also single rider objectives that you can meet for bonuses but even still, they are rather unclear if you aren’t a cycling aficionado.
Which is a shame because one thing that Tour de France 2015 gets really right is the strategy element. Your one button click wheel can control your entire team remotely to plan and strategise exactly what you need to win a stage. Get your people up for the sprints or the climbs then get them to hold defence as you slavishly avoid the wind on the wheels of another before timing your breakaway to perfection. Micro-managing everyone’s energy levels for the best parts of their particular race along with your own wall hitting risk (which you will do), and timing when to top that up with a quick supplement will distract you from the fact that the game doesn’t make the experience that enjoyable.
There’s a commentator/team manager whose received pronunciation voice wobbles like Griff Rhys Jones trying not to sound welsh but accidentally slipping. It’s such a weird combo that you could imagine Coogan and Brydon lampooning it over a chilled chardonnay and a Boudin Blanc whilst following the tour via the regions lavish eateries. At times, the man adopts the tone of an overly worrisome elderly gentleman who bears more resemblance to Lance Corporal Jones than a professional cycling coach. Don’t panic though, as he’s there to guide you with all 8 lines of dialogue he has… Repeatedly.
This package leads to frustration as during vast parts of the game you are in the French wilderness minding your own business, expending far too much energy. Your control method can be adapted of course to however you play but it is essentially one button at a time. You press square to hold behind another rider or RT to pedal. You can then tap X to attack. All of this expends a lot of energy for your rider before you get to a big climb or sprint so you can either run your own race or languish in the peloton for the duration. Then if you want to try your strategy you’ll bumble along as you reach to keep hold of your racing button and select your teammate, ultimately losing grip and slowing down massively or steering in to a verge.
Oh well, at least the game looks good, right? Well no surprises as to what you’ll see anyway, lots of fields with copy and pasted corn, sunflowers, motionless cattle and their human counterparts with their cars parked up on sides manically waving flags and shouting what I assume is complimentary encouragement to you in french. It’s all rather static and a little bit sterile. I mean I’m not expecting Euro Truck style immersiveness but when the Tourmalet climb appears pretty much out of no where on the horizon and your limited camera movement and one view cannot see its imposing form really approach, it’s a bit annoying. Looking back to the peloton, every rider has the same face and body and this only changes when you get a podium screen. Crowds will mob the course as you approach a climb before sliding hastily away when they realise they’re in the middle of a bloody road, and I do mean comically slide. Like an old Quake style stereoscopic no clip mode. And whoever decided that it was a good idea to give the sound department all of the Vuvuzelas from the 2010 world cup and make them the crowd horns and noises should really have thought better.
I’m making a little light of this situation obviously but it is a game that doesn’t give too much to you and probably expects you not to be asking that much from it in the first place. There’s an local multiplayer mode, a Pro team mode for those who want to create their own team of super riders to earn the yellow jersey and a challanged mode. One thing I’d have liked is a freeplay mode so I could have done individual stages but other than that, the game has everything it needs and it has the strategy right, if not the gameplay to pull it off. For the price, it is one for cycling fans who enjoy it but if you’re a more casual fan of the sport or even just the event, then you’ll probably find it frustrating.
Tour de France 2015 does exactly what it says on the box, it replicates the premiere cycling event with loads of licensed content and real stages you can enjoy. What it has in strategy though, it lacks in cohesion and end quality. With a little more adventure it could be a really good game though. Fun for fans of the sport and virtual representations, maybe not for more casual players.
[tab title=”Good Points”]
- Almost completely licensed teams/riders.
- Great representations of the race stages.
- Excellent strategy system and micro-management.
[tab title=”Bad Points”]
- Graphically a bit poor.
- Confusing objectives.
- No open freeplay of stages.
[tab title=”Why a 6?”]
This isn’t a bad game, it’s actually quite a clever sports strategy game given that it isn’t a management sim. But the one button control and the lack of coherence over what your aims are and how to employ the strategy is rather frustrating and alienating those without the knowledge. A few niggles add up to more and dampen your experience but the promise is there.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.