Le Tour de France is the Super Bowl of the cycling world featuring an annual 21 day 2000 mile race covering the various terrains of France in a circuit. Its grueling show of endurance is only eclipsed by the beautiful vistas that participants cycle through, single testicled cancer survivors, and more doped athletes than a MLB All Star Game. The problem is that cycling by its nature is a more of a participant rather than spectator sport. Sure there is strategy, team play, and periods of intense action but all of that is mixed with even longer periods of monotonous actions… the whole endurance portion of the event. This leaves Cyanide Studio a gargantuan task of translating the event into a playable and fun experience in Tour de France 2013 – 100th Edition.
I imagine there is very little crossover between cycling enthusiasts and gamers because most enthusiasts I see spend what would be their game time emulating the professionals on the back roads risking both their life and the grill of my Ford F150. But let us assume there is an audience of both gamers and those in the know of the intricacies of multi-day team-based cycling for Tour 2013 because that is clearly who Cyanide is targeting with this game. Players will have to attempt to choose their cycling team and the number of stages they wish to play with little to no guidance on maneuvering the complicated menus. Mixed with the lack of tutorials on how to actually play the game, Le Tour ends up being an experience of figure it out even for that target audience.
The teams consist of a small group of cyclists. The lack of proper licensing keeps the game from having any real names in the rosters but obvious pseudonyms hint at whose likeness the cyclist is meant to represent. That of course is the only hint you will get as the cyclist models are all identical outside of their uniform skins. With EA being sued over their NCAA games containing likenesses of student athletes, Cyanide may need to worry a bit when Braulio Waggons and Chris Vroome don’t quite mask the likenesses of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
After choosing your fake *wink wink* star, players are tasked with choosing just how much of the Tour they want to play. This is no easy task because even after I was in the actual race, I was unsure if I had chosen just a stage, segment of stages, or the whole tour. Of course Tour 2013 might be the first game where figuring out the complicated menus is more exciting than the gameplay— which amounts to holding the trigger for a extremely long period of time watching your cyclist pedal through some of the most generic alpine vistas this generation with only the sound of the wind for a soundtrack. The game of course recognizes this and alerts you to the fact that you can skip ahead in the race from the pause menus. Yes, the game knows the bulk of its gameplay is boring and just lets you skip it.
That leaves the only gameplay being the management of endurance and utilization of your teammates to ensure victory. That of course is where being a cycling enthusiast might come in handy by knowing when to eat a piece of fruit, break away from the pack, or send a teammate to bully those around you. Not being an enthusiast, the experience can be summed up as hold right trigger, pause and skip ahead, hold right trigger, nap a bit because you didn’t skip far enough ahead, and finally wonder why everyone passed you at the end of the race despite still having a pile of endurance.
As mentioned earlier, the cyclists models are all the same. That low budget quality runs through the rest of the graphics leaving us with a title that matches the graphical fidelity of games from early in the previous generation. The one area where they game could have shined with beautiful French vistas, looks like any other random mountainous track from just about any other racing game.
A majority of players will pick up the game and spend their time clumsily setting up a race and taking a nap midway through citing the dull experience as a cure for insomnia. There is just not too much to get excited about in Tour 2013 even for die hard cycling fans. A low budget feel runs through the whole game from graphics to audio to menu design. Add in the lack of licensing which keeps players from playing as famous cyclists and I am left wondering why Cyanide even tried with this game.