Review: Le Tour de France 2012
This summer has been a spectacle for cycling, with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and bagging himself a gold medal in the Men’s Time Trials. We also saw Mark Cavendish put in a consistent performance at Team Sky, whilst our British cyclists were dominant in the Velodrome and smashed several world records. What most people don’t seem to realise are the strategies and hard work adopted by road cycling teams, which is something this game tries to touch upon as a cycling simulator.
I only really got into the sport of cycling about one year ago, so I’m still learning more about the riders and tactics employed to win stages, but this game will certainly teach you a thing or two about road cycling and the calls you have to make as a team in order to win the yellow jersey. A lot of people will watch a race and assume the guy at the front is winning, but each stage is broken up into time trials, sprint races, climbs up steep hills and a few other sections. Cycling is a hard sport and Le Tour de France 2012 doesn’t make it any easier if you’ve never played a previous game before, especially when you consider that the tutorial is just a series of annotated screenshots.
One of the most important features are team commands, which can be issued at any time during the race. If you want protection from the wind, in order to save energy and keep cycling at a good rhythm, then you can get on the radio to one of your team mates and order him to come and shield you. If you want to pile on the pressure for other teams, you can always issue a team member to attack, just make sure you don’t have Cavendish using all his energy up before the sprint at the end. I learnt my lesson early on, when I told Cav to attack too early, which placed him towards the back by the finish. Your commands are crucial to winning a race and you should always position your highest ranked team mate at the front. I found that it always easier to play a team role, so someone who rides at the front of the peloton setting the pace will do a great job in helping his team mates attack and win the stage – just don’t forget to rotate with other cyclists, even if that means talking to another team’s rider at the front.
One thing that I did notice was the lack of responsiveness when turning your bike during a time trial. I was playing as the king of time trials, Sir Bradley Wiggins… Sorry, I mean Bradley Wiggins, in which he could hardly negotiate a corner, despite showing us how it’s done in every time trial he’s ever raced. You can get oversteer on a bike at such speeds, but these guys are professionals and they’re more than capable of going around a corner.
Winning the yellow jersey is the main aim, however there are other jerseys to win such as the green jersey, which is awarded to the cyclist leading the points competition. Then you’ve got the polka dot jersey, which is effectively given for the best climber after accumulating the most amount of points for reaching the top of a mountain. It gives the sport a great sense of competitiveness, especially since riders can be rewarded for winning in a variety of categories – it’s not just all about winning the entire championship.
One of the most annoying aspects of the game has to be the fact that you can’t switch racers during a race. Each team member has their own speciality and sometimes when you need them close by, they’re somewhere further back and they can’t get to you because they’ve been working too hard. That’s why it’s vital that you always check on the form of your team and you know where abouts your team members are. There’s also your team manager, who you can use to check time gaps with cyclists infront and the current standings to check where you’ll place at the end of each stage.
There are a couple of meters to take notice of in-game and those include the wind, distance to the finish and your energy and stamina bar. You can’t take your eye off any of them, since they’re all just as important as one another. So, the distance to the finish might be the least important, but it still serves a useful purpose in telling you how much further you’ve got to go. You can keep your energy topped up by changing between gears, so you’ve got the casual gear, which will serve you well riding in a relay, then you’ve got the attacking gear for sprints and break aways. Maintaining your energy is key here, so you can take up three food items such as a banana or energy bar. The only thing I will say is that your energy won’t replenish back straight away, since this is a simulator and digestion has to occur in your body, so consume foods whilst in a group and not during a sprint or attack.
If you opt for a harder difficulty by selecting a specific team, you’ll probably find yourself becoming involved in incidents such as falling off your bike and getting a puncture in your tyre. These accidents don’t seem to occur on the easier difficulties, which is good considering how close cyclists get to you. It’s also quite funny to witness an AI cyclist fall off their bike, as they become a ragdoll and roll along the road.
Onto the course itself, there’s a great diversity in locations, with the French mountains making a ride uphill tough on the legs, to the flat countryside, which allows you to take a deep breath and admire the view before realising you’ve got a race to win. On-screen the game looks spectacular, but there are a few jagged edges around riders and sometimes it looks like riders further back have two flat tyres, even though they don’t. Another annoyance would be the chants by spectators, which seem to follow a rule of three, in that they only repeat three different chants, not forgetting that there are barely any people out in the countryside watching the race. The eager fans even have the cheek to run in the road and wave their flags in your face. I must have mowed about four fans down.
If you fancy taking the game to another competitive level, then you can always try multiplayer, which you can play across various stages in the Tour de France. You play as one of the licensed team members and compete against other online opponents in sponsored teams. The AI are still thrown into the mix, so they continue to make things difficult, but it’s great to get the satisfaction of beating someone who’s actually a real player. Mind you, I hardly managed to find a real player online, until I actually created a game myself, where only one person joined.
Le Tour de France 2012 is a game that delivers a popular event without all the glimmer and realism it deserves. An avid fan that follows cycling will feel isolated by the steep learning curve, but give it time and you’ll pick it up sooner or later. If you’re new to the Tour de France games or the sport, then it’s probably best to stay away, since I doubt you’ll win the yellow jersey too soon.
Review: Le Tour de France 2012 Results
What we liked:
Key elements of road cycling included
What we disliked:
Steep learning curve
Not the sharpest graphics
Multiplayer isn't active