Pro Cycling Manager 2017 accurately recreates many of the intricate elements that fans of the sport of cycling will recognize, and it’s available on PCs now.
A niche sport in most of the world, cycling is about more than just the Tour de France, and this game’s developer Cyanide understands this. In Pro Cycling Manager, you take control of a team and take them throughout an entire season – in which it’s your choice to determine what you’ll focus on. Of course, this can be the big summer event that is the Tour de France where you can chase the yellow jersey – but you can also assemble and manage your team to go for stage wins or success in the many one-day courses that exist.
Winning everything isn’t realistic, so it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to focus on since this impacts your choices when assembling a team. For a lot of people, this will probably involve attracting a highly talented “general classification rider” who can compete for the win in the big tours of France, Italy and Spain. To win, this is a rider who needs excellent time trial and mountain stage skills – but that’s not going to be enough either.
You’ll need to assemble a team around him to ensure a chance at victory, and this is especially true for mountain stages. One your opponents start attacking, you can instruct your rider to chase after them right away – but you’ll risk blowing all of his energy and he might not be able to parry an attack from a second rider later on, losing precious time in the process. A much better strategy is to protect him and have teammates try to close the gap or keep it manageable – but you’ll need strong climbers to even have this option.
It’s the kind of stuff that cycling fans will definitely recognize, and it’s situations like this where the game shines brightest. This is especially true if your tactics result in your rider actually beating the big favorites that were expected to win. You can also try your hand at winning some of the spring and fall classics, but those races are much more about individual strength and a little bit of luck – and I found them less rewarding.
The recreation of the sport doesn’t just apply to the tactics that many casual viewers aren’t aware of, since the game is also a visual treat when playing in stages in the Pyrenees and Alps of Europe. Beautiful vistas and some of the most iconic climbs are all included – though they’re often reserved for the latter parts of a stage. This is true for the real sport as well, and can make the early stages of a race relatively boring. Again, this is synonymous with the real sport too – where the action really tends to explode in the last hour and a half of a race.
Besides the in-race dynamics, you’re also in charge of training and setting up the calendar for your racers, making sure they’re in shape and well rested when the time comes to shine. It’s been a long time since a rider won more than one big tour in a single year, and this game shows you why. Attracting the right sponsors and staff members can definitely help create better conditions for winning as well, but a race is rarely won by itself (although you have the option to simulate the outcome instead).
What’s a shame is that, in its current state, Pro Cycling Manager 2017 features a fairly high number of bugs that hamper one’s enjoyment. I completely understand the need to get this game out there in time for the start of the Tour de France in July, but feel like it’s a game that probably won’t be the game it was intended to be until the Vuelta starts in a few months. Cyanide’s putting out patches left and right to fix issues, but things like serious clipping issues or silly/unrealistic AI behavior (off-roading or getting trapped inside the peloton for ages) shouldn’t be here in a franchise that’s been running for a long time.
Luckily Cyanide has proven that they’re dedicated to fixing their bugs in past years, and this year looks no different. I’m confident that when I revisit the game post-Tour de France, I’ll find an experience that will make me want to see if I can manipulate the race into having a different outcome. Until then, I’ll play around with a few scenarios and enjoy myself, but I’ll stay away from fully committing to a deep simulation for fear of the AI messing with my experience. I can’t wait until that’s no longer a concern.