Tour de France 2017 is Focus Home’s console version of their cycling franchise, which is available for Xbox One and PS4. We’ve reviewed the PS4 edition.
Aside from Pro Cycling Manager, cycling fans who own a current generation console can also get their fix with Tour de France 2017. Based on a fairly lackluster PS2 game based on the same race, I assumed this was going to a fairly arcade-oriented experience, but it’s actually not too unlike it’s big PC cousin with a high emphasis on in-game tactics.
Where Pro Cycling Manager can be described as a full-on strategic to tactical simulator, Tour de France is much more focused in the races themselves – which considering the interface and target audience is probably a good thing. There is less to worry about in terms of staff and sponsorships, but you’ll still need to manage things once the race starts. When it does, you have much more direct control over your riders than you do in Pro Cycling Manager – although you’ll find that you’re focusing teammates rather than your star performer for most of the race.
As is the case in the PCM, you’ll need to “sacrifice” some of your guys to catch breakaways, or perhaps you’ll want to send them along with one of these breakaways to provide a stepping stone for your main rider. Local split-screen gameplay is also available, and this is great fun when you’re playing with two strong climbers and have the social interaction of who is going to chase after a rider that just attacked. This is always a decision that could mean a stage win but could also spell disaster, if you blow through your energy reserves too quickly.
Energy management is key in this game. You can explode right from the start of a stage, but you’ll likely come up empty-handed at the finish line. Despite what the highlights tell you, cycling is an endurance sport – and as such probably a tough sell for a console game. It’s why the early PS2 games based on the race didn’t work, and probably why this year’s version has a lot of those tactical elements inserted in it.
Since so much of the race is dedicated to just keeping the riders relatively close together until the decisions are made by the big riders near the end, the option to fast-forward is a very welcome one once you become comfortable with how to set up your riders and their behavior – and you always have the option to disengage fast-forward and make changes again.
Presentation-wise, Tour de France 2017 looks smooth with its TV-inspired visuals (including on-screen graphs of the stage profile) and accurate representation of team jerseys and some of the better known riders. The audio isn’t terribly exciting, but this should be no surprise to fans of the sport – most of the big stages on TV only become exciting through camera switches and “this just in” time gaps that are reported by the commentators. The videogame version has a tough time delivering this excitement, instead visually showing you the position of the various groups and riders using an on-screen ranking system.
While it’s great that cycling fans have a Tour de France game to play on consoles, this is a game that’s probably completely lost on those who are not fans of the sport. If you’re a fan then you can either play through an entire season day by day, or pick stages that are interesting to you. With its simplified mechanics (compared to Pro Cycling Manager), just picking the most interesting stages is probably where the long term appeal for me personally will be. As a full simulation Tour de France 2017 doesn’t quite cut it, but it can provide fun in small doses to fans of the sport looking for a bit more direct control than the TV (or management sim) experiences provide.