Le Tour is currently pedalling its way towards Paris, with all the glory and praise awaiting the very worthy winner. It is a gruelling event over 3,600 kilometres through some very hilly terrain with a constant stream of crazed fans yelling in your ear.
How do you turn this gruel into a video game? Well the team at Focus Home Interactive and Cyanide Studios have given it a shot.
We played through Tour De France Season 2014 on our PlayStation 4 and the conclusion is that this is not a bad effort. It unfortunately lands in the middle ground of just about every target it is trying to hit.
Let’s begin with licensing, there are 22 teams of nine riders each in the Tour, this game has snaffled officially licensing for about have the riders and the majority of team names. Looking for Chris Froome in the Sky team, you will find a Chris Froost lurking in the data base.
All of these names can be altered in game, to build authenticity. Each of the 21 stages are represented authentically, though the countryside of stage one in the Yorkshire Dales is quite similar to that presented in stage 12 near Lyon, or, for that matter, every other stage.
This leads us to the graphical representation of the game. Baring the odd puncture, or crash, there are usually 198 riders that the game needs to cater for. This is a lot of collision detection as a peloton of 100 or more riders gets awfully jostly. The game makes some gaming concessions here making it difficult to recreate the crash-carnage seen in the early stages of the real Tour.
The games camera sits close in behind the rider, and renders a number of lycra covered bums quite well. The crowds that line the riders routes are unfortunately a conservative bunch, they have campervans, but are not taking crazy selfies of themselves dressed in nappies as the riders fly by.
Playing the game involves selecting a team (or creating a new one), picking a stage to ride, loading up on non-performance enhancing food items and hitting the road.
You can recon any part of the upcoming stage, this can be important for understanding the twists and turns of the course, particularly during the high speeds of steep descents.
Most people however will drop straight into the hurly-burley of the stage race itself.
All you do to control your bike is pick a level of pedalling power and an associated gear range. The aim is to manage three types of fatigue; general tiredness, normal and attack stamina levels.
You will also need to consider the strengths of your chosen rider, pick the right time to attack (ie, get out of the saddle and go hard), chase down an attack, or conserve energy shielded by the rest of the peloton.
It kind of works, distances are compressed, and the gradients of the road don’t quite feel right with the graphical engine not able to recreate the 10 to 18 per cent monster slants of the Pyrenees, nor the range of road widths along the way.
Tour de France Season 2014 doesn’t have all the colour, drama, motorbikes with cameras or dangerous press vehicles included, but it contains the fundamentals of one of the world’s greatest sporting events realised in video-game form.