Le Tour de France 1903-2003 Centenary Edition

Published by Konami
Developed by DC Studios
Platform: PlayStation 2
Released – Out Now
Price : £39.99
It’s always great to review a title that is something completely different from what we have seen before. I have to be absolutely honest though and admit that I didn’t know it was the Centenary year of the Tour de France. Whilst cycling is a fantastically popular sport in continental Europe, particularly France and Italy, there is only mild interest here in the UK. Still the game of this 100 year old event promises to be something special so let’s take a look at what it has to offer.As you may have guessed, the game is based solely on the Tour de France. There is an arcade mode, a practice mode, a 2 player mode and a time trial mode but the heart of the game is the Tour de France mode, or TDF as it’s labeled on the games wonderful radial menus. The TDF mode is basically a Gran Turismo lite. You create a rider, take part in local races and gradually improve your bike and rider until you are ready to compete in the Tour de France.In TDF mode, which is basically a five year career, you have a choice of training, taking part in a local race which can earn you money and ranking points, resting to recover from damage taken, entering the bike shop to make improvements to your bike, finding sponsors and looking at the race schedule. Of course your first goal will be to improve your cyclist and bicycle. Your cyclist has six attributes (power, stamina, turning, braking, toughness and damage) that can be improved through training. It is important not to ignore the damage rating. Whatever damage your cyclist takes in training or races will remain until he has been rested to recover. If you go into a race already damaged falling from your bike even once could mean the end of the race, so it’s good to make sure that your cyclist recovers. Training and resting will take one month so you have to use your time wisely.

As well as your cyclist having attributes your bicycle has them too. They are acceleration, top speed, turning, braking and weight. To begin with your bicycle (and cyclist) will be quite poor and will not handle well at all. You can make modifications, at a price of course, to the frame type, wheels, tyres, pedals, gears etc. Doing so will of course increase your bicycle attributes. You can also unlock bicycle and wheel skins to change the look of your bicycle. It is important to look at the nature of your next race, to see whether it is a mountainous one or a sprint race, in order to set the bicycle up accordingly.

So far so good but once you begin the races you’ll end up being disappointed. The biggest disappointment of all is the graphics, which look poor. If this had been a first generation PlayStation 2 title then it wouldn’t have been so bad. The textures look very basic and the whole thing looks very angular. The locations in which you race also look pretty generic and repetitive. Get to the Tour de France and it doesn’t look too different from the local races at the start of the game. It all comes off as a bit of an anti-climax.

Your cyclist is pretty simple to control. Holding the X button performs a normal rate of pedaling whilst tapping the X button makes your cyclist stand up and perform a sprint pedal, which of course moves the bicycle along at a greater pace. Sprinting uses up your stamina much more quickly though and in order to replenish that stamina you’ll need to tap the triangle button in order to drink a bottle of water. You can’t sprint and drink water though so you’ll have to pick your moment to have a drink otherwise you’ll lose positions. Once you’ve drunk all your 5 or so bottles of water you’re allowed to request two more bottles (by pressing the L2 button) but that’s all you’ll get so you have to use them wisely. It’s a bit annoying how you always start a race in last position though. I won three races in a row and yet I still was starting in last position, which makes it feel more like an arcade game than a simulation.

There are no problems for deaf gamers with Le Tour de France. All information is shown visually either through text or symbols. A message appears when you are 1Km from the end of a race which is quite useful if you’ve got a few places to make up. Your stamina is show via a green bar on the bottom left of the screen. Damage is also show on this bar, in red and moves from left to right. The gear indication is also given by flashing the number frequently here on the top right part of the gaming zone. You can gear up with increasing speed and vice versa. Mostly during the toughest part of the road like climbing mountains, you need to gear down for getting better control over the bicycle. Your speed is also shown but you don’t really need to look at this as you can feel if you’re going too slow or fast. Force feedback is actually quite good which makes a change from the usual rumbles that you get in most racing games.

It’s fair to say that Le Tour de France could have been much more that it actually is. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination but it leaves you feeling that more could have been done. Graphically it needs much improvement and it would have been superb if it had looked like Gran Turismo 3, which is actually an old game now, but instead it looks marginally better than a PSone title. Still Tour de France enthusiasts might get some enjoyment out of it and let’s face it, it’s in a genre all by itself.

Overall Game Rating: 6.5/10
Could have been so much better but the poor graphics arcade nature of the game fail to create a lasting impression. Still the two player races are quite good and if you’re a fan of the Tour de France it’s a lot better than nothing.

Deaf Gamers comment:
All information is presented visually.

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