Since appearing as an Xbox Live arcade game back in 2009, Tour de France has been around home consoles for a while now, while it had a small following, it’s only really the last few years that the franchise has really started to stand out as a reputable series.
With Tour de France 2017, Focus Home Interactive look set to improve on the ever improving reception from gamers and critics alike.
While cycling might not sound like the most action packed title, there’s a lot of strategy when trying to push your team to the finish line, and still more than enough action especially over the pre-defined action zones and towards the finishing line. Hitting your team comms button will allow you to instruct your team to support your attack, or take the lead to give you a breather and holding the follow button allows you to recoup some energy by sitting behind another cyclist in their slipstream.
This year, there’s a handful of new features, many of which greatly improve on the foundations laid down before now, a more realistic race tempo and conditions such as narrow roads and zones exposed to wind, combined with improved AI which help track and judge potential threats dependent on their success over past sections and potential further down the line, these all help to make the game feel better, but it’s the simulation options that really help to make the game feel better.
Firstly there’s the option to skip an entire stage, so if you prefer the sprints over the hill-climb’s you can have the game simulate a section for you, best of all are the ‘key zones’. Rather than racing each section from start to finish, you can select a key-zone which will speed through at 16x speed until you reach the start of this area. It’s these parts which provide the most excitement as you push to win the small sprint or climb sections to gain a few extra valuable points, and of course the final quarter of the race is often a juggle between team position and trying to break for the line ahead of the pack.
There’s 23 teams in total, and while most are complete with accurately named racers complete with a photo, a few emissions include the team Sky riders and a few others such as Mark Cavendish, who’s instead called M.Civendash. Thankfully there’s a pretty substantial editing option that allows you to change a team name, who’s wearing distinctive jerseys for event champions, rider names and even their overall stats.
Once through the main menu, you’ll find various options for racing… Tour allows you to cover the full 21 stages of 2017’s Tour de France, as well as 2016’s event and four other Tour events. These can also be done via split screen co-operatively or versus another player.
Next is Pro Team available solo or co-operatively and offering an in depth chance to manage your own team. You start off hiring racers, building up funds from completing events and satisfying your sponsors until you can afford and enlist better riders and hopefully place higher giving even greater rewards and hopefully getting an invite to major events and the Tour de France itself, while packed full of events, I found myself a little underwhelmed by any sort of fan-fare or podium shots when winning races, with only the narration congratulating me on beating all odds by winning when starting off as an outsider, but the cash flow and continual development at least work towards a sense of accomplishment.
Overall there’s a wealth of content to get through, and if you fancy a change from the larger events, there’s also challenges to work through such as short time trials to earn medals. There’s also a training mode to help you get to grip with the various team controls and tactics as well as the basic gameplay mechanics and finally ‘My Tour’ which allows you to create your own custom tour using any of the 60+ stages featured in the game, with plenty on show for solo, versus and competitive play the only downfall is the lack of online features.
Graphically it’s always tough judging a game with so little in the way of competition, there’s no 4K/HDR support, but scenary looks pretty well detailed and realistic and I didn’t encounter any graphical glitches even with dozens of other riders around me, sadly there’s not really any weather effects on show, but with the dawn of HDR, I’m pretty sure improved lighting and realistic weather are on the cards sometime in the future.
Audibly there’s not an awful lot to mention, the menu music is a little repetitive but thankfully it’s not annoying either. Cycling through the streets and villages you’ll hear plenty of fans shouting as you cycle past, and the rumble of the larger crowds adds to the tension of the sprints and finish. Road and wind noise is in the background without being distracting and while it often sounds a little basic, there’s enough to compliment the action while keeping the more relaxed parts quiet and tranquil.