Tour de France 2013 – 100th Edition Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3
Ask most people about cycling, and they’ll either think that you’re talking about BMX, or they’ll mention the Tour de France. The first Tour de France was held in 1903, but due to its suspension during the two World Wars, 2013 marks the 100th edition of the Tour, and as such, Focus Home Interactive and Cyanide Studios have released Tour de France 2013 – 100th Edition for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game gives players the chance to partake in all 21 stages of the tour, starting from Porto-Vecchio on the isle of Corsica, and ending in the French capital, Paris, taking in over 3,400km of French roads in the process.
There isn’t really much to do in the game besides the Tour, but considering that each of the stages takes between half an hour and an hour to complete if raced from start to finish, there’s plenty of content here for those who really want to get sucked into what is perhaps the most famous event on the cycling calendar. There are 22 different cycling teams to choose from, including the most well-known, such as Team Sky or Omega Pharma, and each team has a number of different cyclists, each with their own particular strengths, be it sprinting, climbing or time trials. Unfortunately, although each team participating in the real-world Tour de France is included, not all cyclists are, perhaps due to licensing issues. In much the same way as Konami deals with the issue in its Pro Evolution Soccer series, Cyanide Studios here gives these riders a generic picture and a mangled version of their name, with Braulio Waggons taking the place of Bradley Wiggins and Marko Covendish replacing Mark Cavendish, for example. Similar again to Pro Evo, there is the option of a Name Editor for those who wish to replace the false entries with their realistic counterparts, which is a nice touch if you demand complete authenticity.
Controlling your cyclist throughout the Tour is fairly simple, if a little overwhelming at first for those unfamiliar with cycling terminology or tactics. Using the PS3 controller, holding R2 causes your cyclist to pedal, with different amounts of pressure causing them to pedal harder or ease up. L2 is brake, and the left and right analogue sticks control your cyclist’s direction and the direction of the camera respectively. The X button, when tapped, orders your cyclist to attack, which essentially causes him to stand and pedal harder in an attempt to overtake any riders ahead of him. L1 controls the gears (high or low), R1 orders your rider to follow those directly in front of him, triangle gets your cyclist to eat one of two pre-assigned snacks to regain energy, and square allows you to check in with the rest of the riders on your team, in the form of a pop-up that shows you their position in the race and how they’re doing, energy wise. It seems at first glance that there’s a lot to remember, but most of these buttons are only used once or twice through the duration of each stage.
Tour de France 2013 is a surprisingly tactical experience, particularly for a racing game. Much of each stage will be spent conserving your energy and evaluating the best moments to use it, often in small bursts. Though you do want to win each stage, being at the front of the pack for the entire duration of the race is nigh-impossible, and those who attempt to gain an early lead will often find themselves falling behind in the latter stages due to nothing more than a severe case of exhaustion. Your rider is allowed to equip himself with different snack foods, ranging from bananas and nuts to cereal bars and energy gel. These items go towards replenishing the energy bars displayed on the HUD, communicating your rider’s recovery (long-term energy, which depletes through the course of the race), effort (short term energy, used up when pedalling harder, but regenerates when taking it easy) and attack (which is used when you attempt to overtake other riders, and also regenerates when not in use). There is also a lot of pre-race information on display for those interested, and although it comes across as overwhelming initially, the information is presented in a simple manner. This information comes in useful when deciding which cyclist to pick, and what food to equip him with, as well as pre-planning when to go all out to gain a few places in the rankings. This isn’t your typical lazy Sunday afternoon bike ride, and Tour de France 2013 tries its best to help you out.
Aesthetically, Tour de France 2013 is a fairly mixed bag. The music is suitable for this type of game, with menu music coming across as soothing, relaxing and slow, and video music being a little more upbeat and in tune with the build up to a race. The sounds of the race itself are a little less exciting though, with much of each stage being taken up by silence, whistling wind as you go downhill, or fairly repetitive shouts from the crowds. The crowds don’t look too pleasant either, with a small selection of character models and a noticeable amount of pop-in on said models as you approach them. Considering the shouts, whistles and cheers emanating from them, the crowds are surprisingly static, and certainly don’t match the seemingly enthusiastic nature that their noises represent. On a more positive note, Tour de France 2013 is incredibly varied in terms of scenery, with farms, villages, towns, countryside and ocean all represented, along with fields of sunflowers, poppies and cows, just in the first few stages. The objects themselves could do with a touch of polish, as they’re not particularly appealing and come with some pretty rough edges, but the subtle changes in scenery mean that you’ll nearly always be looking at something different at the sides of the road.
In terms of an actual racing experience, Tour de France 2013 is a little different from your average car-based game. Of course, the speeds aren’t quite as fast, although Tour de France 2013 does convey an admirable sense of speed, especially when going downhill, as the wind whistling past you makes you feel as if you’re going at quite a fast pace. The game presents players with a racing line, much in the same way as Forza Motorsport, and this tells you the ideal place to be on the track at any one point, as well as when to brake and slow down to take a corner effectively. I didn’t notice much evidence of rubber-banding here either, with some stages allowing me to pull out in front of the peloton, and others keeping me fairly tightly reined in. These latter occasions highlighted a particular weakness of the game however, in that when a fellow rider passes you too closely, instead of jostling or attempting to avoid him, your rider will simply pass straight through him. Considering that you can fall off your bike if you hit the side of the road too hard, it’s strange that bumping into other riders doesn’t come with the same outcome, and certainly breaks the otherwise admirable sense of immersion that the game strives to create.
Overall, Tour de France 2013 – 100th Edition is a pleasing attempt to convey a sport that doesn’t get much videogame coverage, even if it does come with a few rough edges. There is plenty of content, if not much in the way of variety, and the fact that each stage feels and looks unique goes a long way to keeping each race feeling fresh, especially considering that it can take up to an hour to complete each one, which makes up for the lack of different types of gameplay. Each race can be fast-forwarded if you’re confident of not losing your position, although this sends mixed messages in terms of excitement in the game, as it openly advertises that it does contain boring parts, even if they can be skipped. For cycling fans, or fans of racing in general who want to try something a little bit different, you could do far worse than checking out Tour de France 2013, and who knows, maybe the slightly more serene pace will do you good!
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