Ah! The excitement, the joy, the thrill of the sheer speed as you whizz around the track and…hold on. Prawn Prime has a note for me here. Let’s see…NOT a motorized vehicle game? Bicycles? Seriously? Man with one testicle?
Oh. Ok. Let me start again.
Ah! The beauty of the French countryside, the wind blowing through your helmet, and the introduction of such nouns as “peloton”. This is the 2013 edition of Le Tour de France, the video game. I guess there’s a lot less speed here than I’d hoped, but I’m nothing if ever the video game optimist. I grab my bagels and baguettes and go see whether the video game version of the Tour is anything like the real Tour.
Bicycles and video games don’t usually go together unless we’re talking stunts, boobs, BMX bikes, or an (un)healthy combination of all three. So it was with a bit of mixed interest I ripped open the packaging and popped Le Tour de France 2013 into my Xbox360. Would it be any of the three factors? A nice mix? Sorry to disappoint, but there are no stunts. No BMX bikes. Just men in tights and the French countryside. (Ed: That will probably be enough for some.) I have to admit that I know a sum total of five things about the Tour de France: 1) it’s a bicycle race, 2) it takes place in France, 3) having a single testicle is key strategy, 4) bicycles are the ones without engines, and 5) I know nothing else about the sport.
So, in the Le Tour de France video game, you’re given a chance to re-enact the famous race. You even get your own bike and team and everything. Even snacks! I’m not too sure about whether they rip off one testicle to make you more streamlined or…hang on, got another note here from Prawn Prime. Not racing anymore? Drugs? Huh. No more ball and gag ball gags? Ah. Gotcha. On with the review, then!
The problem with Le Tour de France 2013 is there isn’t much substance to the game. You get to race around, and take in the sights of France, but there’s no real excitement here beyond the men in tights and the toned calf muscles (which I must admit are lovingly recreated). In point of fact, you’re dumped into the Super Mega Deep End Of The Game II Special Wonder Hyper Championship Edition (Revised) with nary so much as anyone mumbling “tutorial!” A little hand-holding at the beginning would have been nice, instead of working on the assumption that “gamers will know how to play it”. It feels very much as if developers Cyanide Studios weren’t given enough of a budget to get a decent game going, really.
On the other hand, there are a number of really nifty features that makes racing a little easier. One of them lets you follow the lead rider, allowing you to relax and loosen your grip on the controller a little. Another lets you fast-forward the race, but even this takes a fair bit time, given the sport involved. What’s fairly fun is that if you’re losing, you can easily trade places with a team member who’s better than you, and sit in front for a while. Until you fudge up a sharp turn and watch as the rest of the peloton overtakes you. As expected, you also have the ability to change gears (although it took me a short read on Wikipedia to figure which one was for which situation), switch up with members of your team, and eat snacks. On the point of snacks, the various ones all have different effects on your racing, but you’re limited in the number of snacks you can take, so a careful choice at the outset can mean the difference to the race.
The graphics engine looks a little dated, and far from what we’ve come to expect from consoles ten years into their lives, the scenery, although probably accurate, is missing a certain injection of something to make you say “oh wow!” Inevitably, you find yourself underwhelmed, and even given the sedate pace of a bicycle race, you’re seldom given a chance to gawk anyhow. Furthermore, by the time you’ve clocked around 3 minutes of play, you’ve probably heard every bit of voicework available in the game, and this doesn’t bode well for much later. I feel that in games like this, the voices are just there because it’s the impression that all games have voice tracks.
Truth be told, this one is probably really strictly for the fans, and if you are, I’d wait until it hits the bargain bins before you give it a whirl. It’s not terrible, mind, but if you don’t know a peloton from Pelmanism from a pelargonium, I doubt you’ll have a good time with this game. The lack of tutorial-type information puts this sort of thing out of reach of even casual players, and you’d have to be fairly hardcore into the Tour de France to give this game a go. Which is a shame, really, because if it had been pulled off as more than just a cash-in on the race, it could have brought more fans to bike racing.
Final score: 5 yellow jersey prawns out of 10
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Distributor: Apex Interactive
Platforms: Xbox360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Age Rating: 3+