The 2019 Tour De France pushes off this coming Saturday July 6th in Brussels. Yes, we know that’s in Belgium. But anyway. As if on cue, we have a review for the tie-in videogame from Cyanide Studio by way of their parent publisher Big Ben Interactive. Our man Mike reviewed the 2018 installment with an ambivalent 5, probably not helped by the fact he’s a motorsports nut. Although this reviewer is a keen cyclist and if we’re honest, would rather be out on our bike instead of playing this.
We just don’t see the point of a Tour De France game. We really don’t. We tried it on the Xbox 360 and never felt compelled to revisit it. But someone must be buying them, or Cyanide wouldn’t keep churning out yearly updates. They boast they’ve held the licence for 15 years so they must be on to something beyond being contractually obligated to release the new edition on the eve of the race itself.
The key thing to note is this game is licenced by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and AIGCP (the teams umbrella group) so you get the strips of the cycling teams who are participating in the race, barring Team Ineos (the erstwhile Team Sky). They’re depicted here as Team Sea complete with half-arsed jersey approximation. We know that Sky/Ineos aren’t exactly the most popular outfit across the channel, but still you have to wonder why Cyanide didn’t come to some sort of amicable arrangement with them.
The team rosters are largely intact, though we notice that not all the rider names are as they should be. Perhaps it’s a quirk of the AIGCP licencing or maybe the individual riders haven’t given their specific permission for their names to be used, nor are their images included.
However, none of the bikes or rider likenesses are in here, despite former world champion Peter Sagan gracing the cover of the physical copy. It’d be like playing FIFA where every single player looked the same. It’s daft. It breaks the illusion for fans of the real-world spectacle to be honest and begs the question as to who this is actually aimed at.
It gets a bit confusing when identical guys show up for the podium presentation at the end of each stage, only distinguishable by the caption saying their name and the fact they have a different kit on. Not all pro cyclists are swarthy Mediterranean types, just a few of them. If you look through the team rosters, there are pictures for most of the riders. For example, Team Michelton-Scott have Simon and Adam Yates on their books. Both being skinny Yorkshiremen it breaks the illusion a bit when one or the other is depicted as a chunky man mountain in post-stage denouements.
It gets even more ridiculous at the start of a race when the camera pans across the assemblage. But they’re all identical with the same rictus grin. Borderline scary.
You can edit the rider names and teams which helps somewhat, especially since the placeholders are largely representative of the expected team rosters for the race itself. Though to be honest it doesn’t change the gameplay that much, especially since all you ever see during actual races is the back end of a rider.
You can even edit national champions jerseys to reflect the fact that most countries schedule their national races on the weekend prior to the Tour rolls out. In the case of the UK, Ben Swift and Alex Dowsett won the road race and time trial disciplines respectively so we changed them.
The ASO licence comes into play by way of the fact that other races they own are included here as support races, ranging from the spring classic Paris – Roubaix (aka The Hell of The North) to the traditional June indicator of Tour De France form, the Critérium du Dauphine. In addition, other races are included they don’t necessarily own like the Vlaanderen Classic (aka the Ronde Van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders) and the ‘Euro Tour’, that not actually being available at the outset.
You can also race the World Championship too, traditionally held in the autumn of the particular season, again being an unlock after you’ve completed other modes.
If you’ve never played one of the Tour De France games before, you’d do well to do the tutorial beforehand, given that it goes through all the mechanics you’ll encounter throughout your race career.
Given the focus of the game, it’s understandable that the meat on the bones is the 21 days in July. You can play stages in pseudo-realtime or can simulate them, following the route of the actual 2019 race. In the case of this year, as we already mentioned it begins in Brussels. If it all gets a bit much for you, you can simply fast forward to where the action is, but as we discovered during the Paris-Roubaix spring classic it means you’ll end up missing any breaks and attacks as they happen. We ended up seven minutes down on the winner, that Sagan bloke again.
The races themselves are fairly relaxing and if you let them unwind without fast forwarding, we’d daresay it gets a little boring. Just like watching an actual live race unfold on TV, only without commercial breaks and wandering missives from commentators filling the otherwise quiet action.
You control your rider with (brakes) and (pedalling) and other than to sprint out of the saddle, it doesn’t really get much more complex than that. lets you set your effort to avoid your rider running out of energy prematurely. puts you into an aerodynamic tuck, which is useful when descending at least. It doesn’t really get much more complicated than that. In team time trials you can switch between riders by tapping , this lets you keep the pace up. A valid strategy in reality.
The first few stages of a Tour generally start out as a mixture of flat stages where sprinters win the day and time trials against the clock, just as this year’s second stage is a team time trial. It makes for a different challenge to a standard stage at least. Most three-week stage races are decided in the mountains, such as they are here with visits to the Alps and Pyrenees. These stages are another matter altogether with efficient descending almost as important as climbing.
The separate challenge mode does a good job in acting as a practice for the main event, with online leaderboards and medals to earn if you get a decent time on a descent. These leaderboards are dominated by players with PSN usernames that have a certain Gallic tinge, so we’re beginning to see where the core market for the TdF games probably lies. These bite-size events are oddly addictive and their immediacy makes them slightly more fun than the main event.
You also have sprint challenge mode which is just that. A series of sprints in different locations that do a fairly good job of teaching you the techniques you’ll need to prevail in a competitive sprint.
There’s also Pro Team and Pro Team Leader modes returning from the 2018 edition, they’re a little like Be A Pro in the FIFA games in terms of the minutiae involved. It fleshes things out a little, but to be honest there’s already tons to do so you’ll stay occupied longer than the twenty one days of the race if you so wish.
In the event you end up hopelessly addicted and want to play this game for the duration, you’ll eventually unlock legend difficulty. This makes the game harder still, with trophies for winning each of the races featured at this level. Quite why you’d want to prolong what was something of an ordeal for this reviewer is beyond our comprehension.
Graphically Tour De France 2019 is no great shakes, the graphics aren’t anything much beyond the same assets from the PS3/360 era given an HD lick and a push out of the door. That coupled with some mean pop-in (if at all) when fast-forwarding make you wonder how optimised this game actually is.
For die-hard fans who’ve bought this year in, year out, knock yourself out. This isn’t a great difference to previous years releases. For anyone else, spend your £40 on a bunch of classic Tour De France DVDs. They’ll be more fulfilling and you’ll be able to appreciate this brilliant sport that much more. May we recommend the 1980s (1985-87 especially) and any year that Lance Armstrong didn’t win it.
Or better yet, save your cash altogether and go for a ride instead. If you’ve not got a bike available, a heavy utilitarian Boris bike will cost you two pounds for twenty four hours hire, that represents better value than this to our eyes.
Ultimately, we simply don’t understand why a Tour De France game is a viable proposition. We therefore find it very hard to recommend Tour De France 2019 on any basis other than to existing fans of the series.
+ Some of the pastoral sensation of cycling on your couch
+ Not just the Tour De France, other races are included
+ Challenge modes are addictive and fun
+ Different facets of stage races are well represented
- A bafflingly popular series we're not sure we understand why
- One rider model for all riders. No variation in skin tone or build
- Graphically unimpressive with some mean pop-in