"The premise of being a cycling manager preparing for the Tour de France is a simple one: Find a team; Train them until they threaten to quit; Find a sponsor; Win."
I’ve always been somewhat sporadic in my love for management games: Often, I feel like I’m stuck in the office and being forced to analyse how much money we spent on train ticket fares within the last month. Other times, I genuinely feel immersed and enthralled by the experience; believing that every little statistic I adjust will get my team that little bit closer to victory.
The premise of being a cycling manager preparing for the Tour de France is a simple one: Find a team; Train them until they threaten to quit; Find a sponsor; Win. Of course the game adds for more depth to each stage of the experience than initially apparent; the player can exercise a huge amount of choice over any of those variables – from what riders you choose to what colour your team wears. I found myself willing to overlook the slow and confusing interface in order to make sure my media relations were going well, for example. This freedom heightens the definite impression of control, but such slider-tweaking in the pre-race stages only sets the player up for a let-down later on:
The racers have definitive statistics for their different attributes (Time-Trial, Sprint, Climbing etc.), and these figures are determined by the performance of their real-world counterparts: The strongest real-world racers (Cavendish, for example) will have the fastest times in all of the above fields already – regardless of player intervention. Therefore, providing the player doesn’t take direct control of the racer during the actual event to muck everything up, all the fastest cyclists are completely assured to win.
Assuming you don’t push your riders into cardiac arrest during a race, you can sit back and watch them win time and time again without any real variation through the stages. The cyclists with the best statistics will win without any challenge. In fact, you’re more likely to get angry at the lagging, incomplete tooltips than at other racers. After you get over the tremendous learning curve that the game initially throws at you (not helped by a buggy tutorial and unfairly low funds) then the remainder of the game turns into an unsettlingly easy walk in the park. As long as you have decent sponsors, you’ll always have the power to enter into the next ‘tour’ without any qualms. There’s no replayability, as once you’ve cleared the major countries, money just builds up needlessly until you enter for the next year. Spending time watching the races themselves is neither therapeutic nor enjoyable, as for the duration your cyclists will be leading the pack or be left far behind. Whenever the concept of immediate competition from other racers does rear its ugly head, it takes the form of them magically riding through your own. The lack of collision detection does seem to be a major developer oversight and is definitely ‘last generation’ – especially when the safety vehicles clip through the entire crowd of cyclists.
Its elements such as that which detract from what could have been a genuinely fun thing to watch. The unsightly countryside and surrounding towns are often merely more than discoloured blobs; barely an improvement on the last iterations of the series. Granted, you should be spending most of your time immersed in spreadsheets and graphics, eyeing your team’s performance with scrutiny but the graphical data is about as pretty as the scenery you hope to avoid.
In all, I’d say around half of the game is solid. Certainly, having complete control over who you have in your dream team and what kit they wear will certainly be more appealing than seeing how much your advertising manager spent on his train from Edinburgh to London last week. Watching the races becomes more of a chore than necessary, unless looped animations of gelatinous blobs peddling madly is your thing.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (August 04, 2008)
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