Le Tour De France Season 2017 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One
Another year and another Tour De France has ended. For the fourth time in five years it’s been won by Chris Froome. That the race has been run and it’s ended in a familiar way in real life mirrors what we see in the digital world as Cyanide SA and Focus Home Interactive bring to the world the latest iteration of virtual cycling. There are many games which get an annual update, with a great number being in the world of sport. For cycling it’s a more difficult sell than football or UFC, but there are fans of the real thing out there who when you draw a Venn diagram with folks who play games, will appear in the overlap. I’m one of them and look forward to this each year. However the expectation is probably the best part of it as each time I get the new game it’s moved on ever so slightly but not far enough to make me arch my eyebrows. This year we have got again an evolved product which does something substantial and new for the hardcore fans but reminds me of races gone by when you look at everything as one.
It’s always entertaining to load the game up and on the main menu have ‘new’ flashing at you from various points, attracting the eye to all the funky features introduced this year. It’s funny because oftentimes it wouldn’t be noticeable if it weren’t signposted. Consider it a tutorial for finding what’s new this time around. It can be that it’s a subtle tweak to the way the racing works, or at times it is an actual all-new thing. This year there are quite a few changes to the racing itself.
First and foremost is the upgrade to the environments. This is gratefully received. All games benefit from enhanced graphics but with Le Tour De France Season 2017, when you’re cycling for minutes, or hours on end, through one or more stages in any session it really helps to embellish the world with a visual flourish. It does two things - it makes it more interesting and it draws you in if you want to immerse yourself in the racing. When cycling you have an improved AI which is beneficial in terms of your teammates (or you if you choose to simulate rather than race) who you continue to manage as the team leader, in addition to cycling yourself. The improved AI can also be problematic in that opposition teams know how to better achieve success too. On balance it’s a good thing and compared to previous years things do seem better, and this can only help.
Your race strategy is an area with more options and choice this year, really helping you to vary what you do and see meaningful results from it. Of course you have your in-race management of resources, be that food or energy, but with the upgraded performance engine how you apply that strategy will more intimately affect the output your rider gives. It means you can’t just win like you did last time as there are subtle variations which now lead to a more intuitive style if looking to win. What this means is that instead of it literally being a maths equation whereby you had X energy, Y food and Z distance, which when balanced led to success, here you can think more logically about what you’re doing and managing the energies and the resources as if you were actually cycling. The equation is less easy to balance mechanically and relies more on racing and the feel. Strategy also comes into play dependent on some of the areas you race through. The aforementioned environment upgrades brings into play real different areas: wider roads, more obvious inclines and declines. Using these wisely can impact where you place and whether you breakaway successfully or retain your position in the heart of the peloton. It’s a lot of small changes in the gameplay, and they are tiny in terms of what differences you see, but altogether they do make for a new experience versus seasons gone by.
There are a number of game options available ensuring long-term engagement with the title. In something similar to Fifa’s Be A Pro mode you can take a team of beginners and over a number of seasons build them into the modern day Team Sky (though perhaps more loved?). If you meet various objectives along the way you can unlock legendary riders, which is kind of cool. You can race the Tour De France, following the 2017 route, as one of the existing teams with all their riders - names slightly altered of course. If wanted that can all be customised so you can become Chris Froome, or you can just give that name to the avatar meant to be him in the first place - the lack of licences leads to hilarity with some names, but if you’re just put off by it at least that doesn’t need to remain true. You can play alone or cooperatively which if you have like-minded friends can make the game that much more fun. Trying to agree on race strategy, however, doesn’t always work so well. You can also play versus people locally. There are other races and some challenges to take on meaning that the package is well stocked with things to do should you wish to do so. It will keep you busy for the year until the 2018 version comes out.
The thing with Le Tour De France Season 2017 is that it’s an iteration of a game which you already know whether you’ll like or not. You’re taking the two groups of people who are gamers and cycling fans and concentrating that further by the application of whether those fans want to play this game. For those where the answer is “yes”, Cyanide SA has brought a well-done version of their signature game with substantial upgrades when looked at holistically. Overall the gameplay is fundamentally the same as before, and whilst no bad thing it does mean that if this hasn’t been for you in the past it definitely won’t be now. If it is, though, what we have here is the definitive version of everyone’s favourite cycling game.