This year’s edition of the Le Tour de France is one to remember as the tour reaches its 100th anniversary, one of which many will hope deliver the yellow jersey to a fellow Brit known as Chris Froome, who’s the current holder as I write this review. We all remember the fantastic achievement by Bradley Wiggins at Team Sky last year, which forced more of us to get on our bikes and cycle around. It even improved sales of the 2012 edition video game. But does this year’s edition take the franchise forward?
Once again I begin this review with Britain’s cycling achievements, which seems to be a trend recently, however other countries are catching up if you’ve been following Le Tour de France on TV. During stage 12 Mark Cavendish was pipped by the young German Marcel Kittel, who features in the game. Based on our fantastic achievement in cycling, I felt it was only right to go as Team Sky since we have more British riders featured in the team than any other. Unfortunately the licensing for names at Sky wasn’t available, so you’ll see some similar names used instead of the real ones. It’s a shame, but there’s a name editor in the main menu which lets you change these names if you want to have Chris Froome instead of Craig Vroome in your team.
What you have to remember about Le Tour de France are the distances these cyclists have to go, with many stages broken up into various sections such as hill climbs or flat sections where you can pick up the pace if you’re chasing a break away in the peloton. The range in terrain is what makes the tour so exciting and challenging for these cyclists and it isn’t portrayed in the game very well. Hill climbs were slow and steady. While going down hill at high speeds felt dangerous as a red trail line indicates you need to hit the brakes on your bike to slow down and make the turn. It just didn’t feel right and the poor quality graphics didn’t aid it in any way.
During one race I even had the humorous spectacle to witness a crash involving around 20 riders on the second to last turn of the stage. It’s great that events like these can randomly occur, although I’m still not completely sure if I was the cause of it. One of the downsides to this was that I could just simply ride over them without even falling off my bike – it was almost as if they didn’t exist and the fallen bikes and riders had become a part of the road.
Once again, the tutorial doesn’t get any better than the last game with screenshots and lots of text to keep your eyes feeling tired. For a game such as this, it feels only right that the tutorial should be some sort of short gameplay section that you can play through and get used to. Even though I’ve played the previous edition of the game, I still couldn’t remember most of the controls and tactics I needed to use. I must have played through the first four stages without even using any team commands.
The main tip is to maintain your fitness throughout each stage and use your team mates to place yourself in the best position to get a good finish on the stage. You’re not going to win every stage, that’s impossible unless you’re some sort of super doping cyclist. But you will need to win a few stages if you want that glamorous yellow jersey. During the 21 stages offered, I think I won about four stages and they were mainly time trials, which seems to be an area which you can excel at. The times set around you don’t seem to be very competitive and you don’t need to really worry about your stamina because you’re offered more than enough to get to the end. Something in the past game which bugged a lot of players was the very competitive times set, so that seems to have been addressed.
Le tour de France 2013 sticks with the two gears of attacking and standard, however it now also allows you to tuck in behind riders and follow their lead, which is particularly useful if your fingers are getting tired from tapping buttons just to stay at the front of the peloton. Team commands are as equally important as maintaining your speed – you shouldn’t have to do all the work, so let your team mates take over if they’re near the front. Most of the time they’ll obey your commands, unfortunately though, they do sometimes get pulled too far back to do anything to help out.
A new dynamic to your racing strategy comes in the form of new snacks, in last year’s edition I think there were only two snacks which were a banana and energy gel, well now there’s a whole range of snacks which have properties such as for long stages or for short bursts of attack. It’s not a game changer, but it can certainly help out for the 180km+ stages where you need a burst of energy to get you through to the end.
Particularly on the longer stages you might find the gameplay rather tedious, as it’s not really a game which you can play for a few hours without getting bored. However, there is still a fast forward button, which effectively simulates the stage to the end, although you may be sat around waiting for about 5 or 10 minutes waiting for it to end, since it simulates throughout the stage and allows you to drop back in to control your rider at any point.
One of the features that did get me excited was co-op, just the prospect of competing in the same team with friends sounded appealing. The only problem being that it was offline co-op only, which was also the same for versus. Surely we’re at a stage now where games should provide us with both offline and online co-op!
Graphically the game does still feel dated at times and it fails to present the beauty of the tour. Random bits of screen tearing and frame rate issues here and there all add to the poor quality of graphics, but as a cycling simulation title, it does what you expect it to do. By that, I mean that it delivers competitive cycling gameplay and demonstrates some of the strategies adopted by teams, even if it does feel like you’re doing most of the work. Another thing Cyanide Studio removed were the annoying spectators that used to roam in the road cheering you on, they were particularly annoying when you went straight through one of them.
Le Tour de France 2013 100th Edition builds upon last year’s edition of the title, which will leave many fans in praise of the small changes, yet they’re probably still left asking for a bit more. That’s at least how I felt, especially after finding that co-op and versus was only pinned to offline play. With some changes, I feel this game can be improved hugely and actually introduce more real life strategies to the game.