Ah, early summer! Trips to the beach, enjoying lazy Sundays by the pool, and, of course, Le Tour de France. What? You don’t watch Le Tour de France?!?! The world’s premiere cycling tour that has been going on for the last 114 years?!?! You are missing out, my friend! Prior to the actual tour, Cyanide Studios and Focus Home Interactive release their yearly game, and this year we get Le Tour de France 2017. Similar to the Fifa or Madden series, each year brings new riders, new tweaks to gameplay, and new features, but pretty much the core gameplay remains the same. While I have been a fan of the Tour for years, this is the first time I have every played Le Tour de France, so I won’t be comparing it to last year’s edition, but really focusing on what is in this year’s version. Let’s get into the game and see how it shapes up.
Like almost all sports games, Le Tour de France 2017 does not have an actual story line, per se. You are pretty much just trying to hit your objectives for your team, and win Le Tour. It’s not that easy though, I’m afraid. The race stretches over the entire month of July and stretches over 21 stages, across 3 countries, and will travel a distance of 3,500 km. The race is organized by cycling teams. Each team has nine riders of differing skill sets. Like other sports, cyclists has roles and positions that they must play to perfection in order to reach their team’s objectives. Some riders are better at sprinting, some are better in the mountains, while others are great at protecting their choses rider for the overall victory. In Le Tour, there are six different objectives that riders can aim for and try to be first in at the end of Le Tour; the Overall Winner, the King of the Mountains, the Sprint Points Champion, the Young Rider, Combative, and Team Classification.
The stages are categorized by what the racers will face that day: Time Trial, Flat, Mountain, Hilly, or Summit Finish. Depending on the strengths of the individual team, the team will choose certain stages to really attack on, and try to secure the yellow jersey as the overall leader in Le Tour. The overall leader is determined by time, so the less time you spend on each stage, the better your chances are for the entire tour. You can win the entire tour without ever winning an individual stage, as long as you are ahead of everyone based on time. When you start the tour, you get to pick a team of riders to navigate through the stages, with some teams being much better in stats than others, just like other sports games.
Once you have selected your team, or created one using current riders, you are ready to tackle Le Tour de France. There are a few options of how you can play the game, from playing the entire tour like a campaign, or selecting a particular stage to race. You can also do it cooperatively, but only on local or split screen. After a few tutorials on how to ride the bike (do the tutorials, trust me), you are ready to start the tour. Controlling the bike is actually pretty easy, considering everything you need to be aware of. You can speed up or slow down, and have an arrow on the pavement that shows your best trajectory and speed, similar to car racing games. You also have two meters you need to concern yourself with, one blue and one red. Both are stamina meters, but the blue is your overall stamina and the red is your sprint stamina. During the race, these meters can refill by either eating your power gels or by racing tactically (drafting behind riders, stamina management). This stamina management and refill becomes your biggest concern. If you run out of stamina, you will “blow up” or be unable to ride efficiently for a while and that will cost you.
The Le Tour de France 2017 is a very tactical game. Many people will jump right in and think they can just speed their way to victory, however, that is just not true. Breaking away from the peloton (French word that describes the large group of riders) is a difficult and risky proposition. You need help to break away, and that group needs to help keep you ahead of the mass of riders that constantly inch closer to you. Even understanding all of this, I was caught in my first stage of Le Tour, after leading the entire stage. I could do nothing but helplessly watch as the peloton closed in and finally passed me. You can order your team riders to perform tactics and help you move through the stage, but if you are out in front in a breakaway, you are alone and without support.
Playing a full stage will take a long time, this is like playing a game of Madden at actual speed. You have a few options here, you can play the key areas of the stage, play at an increased rate, or just simulate the stage all together. You can play Le Tour your way. The riders you race against will also make very tactical decisions, and will try to change positions during the race to keep their target team members in the hunt.
Le Tour de France 2017 feels exactly like the actual tour. I had to think tactically, reach team objectives and goals, and manage my stamina so I had enough to finish at the end. After the first two stages, I was able to have the King of the Mountains jersey and was close to leading in the Points Competition, but wasn’t even in the top 10 for the yellow jersey. While I could beat the A.I. in specific sections, cutting my overall time down to actually threaten for the overall lead was much more difficult. After Stage 3, I was almost 2 minutes off the lead, which is horrible. Playing the stage at actual time and distance is the best way to experience Le Tour de France 2017, but will be a long endeavor and should only be tackled by fans of cycling. Of course, if you’re not a fan of cycling, then Le Tour de France 2017 has nothing to offer you.
Like other sports games, Le Tour de France 2017 replicates the experience almost perfectly, both visually and auditorily. Each stage is rendered beautifully, with lovely scenery, excited fans on the road side, and great lighting effects. Speed effects help you feel the speed of the bikes, which can easily top 40 kmh, and feel the struggle of heading up a category 4 climb.
Audio is mostly just your race manager dictating tactics, or letting you know where everyone is. The audio is closer to a Nascar game in terms of commentary, you aren’t hearing the television crew comment on the race, but your own team’s audio and commentary. Ambient audio is perfect and plays it’s role well.
Le Tour de France 2017 is a fantastic game and a great representation of the actual Tour. The only major flaw in Le Tour de France 2017 is it is a niche game. If you love professional cycling, you will pick this game up, just like the NFL fan with Madden or the EPL fan with FIFA. If you do not like cycling, then you are not going to buy this game. Reviews on games like this one are funny things. If you like it, you already own it and don’t need me to convince you. If you don’t, then you are not reading this review, since cycling, and won’t buy the game anyway. For those very few on the fence and need convincing, Le Tour de France 2017 is the best place to get into the franchise, since it is the newest and best. I would also suggest tuning into the actual Le Tour de France each morning and watch the actual race occur. They just finished Stage 3 at the time of this writing, so you have plenty of time to get on board! Le Tour de France 2017 is available now.
Le Tour de France 2017 Review Score(4 out of 5 stars)