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I have never played a Tour de France title yet nor do I have the slightest notion or understanding as to the ins and outs of competitive cycling. So when le Tour de France landed on my door mat I had two thoughts running through my head, it was either going to be a bugger of a game to master and get to grips with or it would be so simple so as to leave me mindlessly bored. So it was that after a mercilessly short install I sat down to sample the latest iteration of this franchise and honestly I was not expecting much. I was expecting it to be a button mashing extravaganza reminiscent of Track & Field. I was wrong.
As the game begins you are greeted with an easily navigable menu which lays out the game modes and options. I stumped for the tutorial due to the fact that I was ( and pretty much still am) clueless as to the ins and outs of professional cycling. The tutorial does an admirable job of guiding you, the player, through the controls and what to look forward to in the game proper. The good thing about the tutorial I found was that it would not let you progress until a certain aspect had been mastered. Therefore, once a section of the training had been satisfactorily completed a tiny sense of achievement was felt and at the culmination of the tutorial the game gives a further pat on the back well done in the form of a 30G achievement. In all honesty without the tutorial it would have just ended up an exasperating button smashing event when I began the game proper, so it is something I fully recommend you do before launching your glittering cycling career.
Once the tutorial is over it is time to settle down to le Tour and the first task is to pick your team. I went for Team Sky as it was the only team I vaguely recognised. The funny thing is that it has a kind of PES of old feel about it as the game has not licenced any of the big stars names, so for example you can look forward to playing as C.Froost instead of C.Froome and there is also B.Waggons instead of B.Wiggins. Now I had a chuckle at this but most likely the purists among us will be a bit put out about it.
There is the option, like I have already mentioned, of picking an already established team or starting your own in the Pro Team mode. Here you can pick the team name and colours and who will be a part of the starting team. As you complete stages in the tour your team earns reputation points and cash for completing certain challenges and reaching certain targets. This money and reputation then attracts the bigger names to the team and then offer them deals and buy them. I admittedly have not tried the co-op as I have yet to find someone else with the game.
This to me as a cycling novice (I do not even own a bike) is a very technical game and there are so many options, sub-menus and buttons to get to grips with that for the first few legs, see there I go again being all noobish - they are stages, a one-legged donkey could have beaten me and did. Maybe it was due to my lack of subject knowledge that I felt some of the stages were a slog to get through and became rather tiresome at points. However, having said that I am sure that aficionados of the sport and genre will enjoy the whole strategic process involved in taking down le Tour de France.
The audio in the game is also of a rather technical nature as the team boss is constantly giving orders, encouragement and just general information in your ear and I must admit that at points it just faded into an annoying background drone. Initially interesting and informative but soon becoming dull and tiresome. Well, I do suppose that there is only so much different dialogue which can be squeezed in. Graphically I was honestly expecting a whole lot worse than what I was presented with. The riders all look and behave how I suppose riders should and the scenery which you pass through on the different stages is certainly appealing if maybe a little bland and bleak in places. This is not an AAA title but then again it never claimed to be.
Overall this is not a terrible game neither is it a good game. I did in places find it incredibly dull and tedious but also had some exhilarating moments during sprint finishes and when about to hit 'the wall'. If you are into cycling, and by into cycling I mean in a BIG way, then this is a must have title for your collection. Everyone else go buy Peggle. I had to give this two scores, 1 for those that love cycling and 1 for those that don't (including me).
CYCLISTS - 6 EVERYONE ELSE - 4
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