I’ve been playing the Tour de France games for the best part of a decade. A huge fan of both gaming and cycling, it’s an annual franchise that just about manages to get the legs pumping, before coming to a halt, forgetting to unclip and falling to the ground.
See, for all the promise that a new Tour de France game brings, for the most part a copy and paste job gets delivered the way of the gaming community, with very little ever added or built upon.
Unfortunately that’s pretty much the case yet again for Tour de France 2022. In fact, if you’ve played any TDF game from the last eight years, and especially the last couple, you’ll struggle to find too much that is different here.
Of course, the latest route of the most anticipated of French bike races is in place, and the twenty-one stages of the Tour de France 2022 are playable. Each stage seems well created too, taking you through the real-world locations as has been decided for this year’s route. It’s strange that the overall distance calculations are somewhat amiss though, with each segment of the virtual Tour never quite capable of matching the exact distances the Pro Tour riders will cover. It’s a weird little oddity that has afflicted the Tour de France games for some time, and I’m not really sure why Nacon and Cyanide Studios cannot get that basic element right. I’m all for shortening things to allow for a more fun gaming experience, but when you’re knocking just a few kilometres off of a 200km race, it just doesn’t make sense.
Aside from that, we’ve got some set-up videos which accompany the build up to each stage and these are nice for the few seconds that they play out. It’s similar in terms of the directeur sportif briefings and inclusion of some factoids from the commentator, but even with the decently high level of detail being spouted out, once in a race you’ll struggle to ever really pick out one stage from the next.
The latest teams and riders are in place as well, or at least little thumbnail images that represent those riders who are most likely going to feature. With the full team line-ups only ever decided a week or so ahead of the Tour rolling out, it’s a tricky job for the development teams, but they have done a decent one in getting the biggest names included this time around – you’ll find Roglic, Pogacar, Yates and Quintana all leading their teams. If you’re really that fussed about missing names, altering the line-ups as you see fit is doable. You can even fit Cav in then, all in hope of saving TDF 22.
Not that it really matters one iota because once again, when you are in a race, things come across as a bit of a letdown. The control scheme is exactly the same as before – a hold of a trigger to pedal, a mash of a button to sprint and a hold of another to down an energy gel or two as you get tired. From there, the best gaming plans will see you moving into in-race menus, switching your way through the team, picking out the best rider at any set point, whilst fast forwarding through the rest of the stage until the final sprint. It’s something that the TDF games have urged players to do for a while, and there is no difference here.
Repetition is felt in the visuals too, especially those utilised for bike models and rider characters; they are full-on cookie cut from the likes of Tour de France 2021, with the same generic looking lycra luvvy found frequenting start lines and podium procedures. I fully understand cycling is a bit niche sport – especially in video game terms – but would it be that difficult to craft a few different styles of rider, or at the very least some different facial looks or change in rider size. That would go down a treat.
It’s a similar issue with the bikes that these guys ride – and they are all guys as not a single girl gets anywhere near Tour de France 2022. To the layperson, one bike may look like the next, but to a cycling enthusiast, that’s like saying a Ford Focus looks like a BMW, which in turn looks like a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini. Those creating Tour de France 2022 have seemingly just slapped some different colours and wordings onto a generic bike frame, crossing their fingers in hope that no one would notice. Unfortunately, we do and again it kills the immersion.
That repetition and lack of immersion is something which is pretty much the case across the board in TDF 22 in fact. Audio is limited but again highlighted by the same old menu music and simple “Allez” calls from the cookie cut crowd, whilst those menus themselves have been ripped, near identically, from games of the past. I guess navigation of a few square boxes is a simple task, but would it be too much to ask for an injection of joy into this cycling flagbearer?
So is anything actually new? Well, there’s the much vaunted Race of the Moment, which promises to throw the player into some of the finest moments in cycling, taking part in limited time competitions. The problem is, it’s extremely limited to specific times and days, and so there’s a chance that you’ll blink and miss it. Waiting days for it to roll around again just in order to play a specific game mode is something we shouldn’t have to do.
There is also the addition of falls, injuries and illness included in Tour de France 2022, and finally you’ll find that your rider is actually capable of ditching his bike and being left to gain a few friction burns. Or at least that’s what we hoped would be possible, but again, in reality it’s all a bit half-arsed. See, switch on the falls – and injuries and the like – before you head into the race of your liking and you’d expect these to pop up frequently, especially as you can set their occurrence levels. But we’ve struggled to find any real difference in how races play out and any crashes we’d expect to see are non-existent. In fact, yet again (and I fully understand I’m constantly going back over and over again here, but it’s what Cyanide and Nacon have done, so I will too), but your rider can morph into other riders without falling off, can ride through the crowd without having to dodge an ‘Allez, Opi-Omi’ sign, and into barriers without a care in the world. The worst that is ever going to happen is that they come to a bit of a stop, lose a few places and then get going again. At least that’s how it’s played out in our time with Tour de France 2022.
It’s safe to say that, for about the eighth year running, I’ve been left wanting by what has been delivered in Tour de France 2022. It’s obviously nice to be able to replicate the real world Tour, but aside from that, you’ll mostly find yourself skipping races at super speed – something which has always been encouraged by the commentators and developers – just popping back to the real racing as the final few kilometres of a 300km race look to play out; mashing your sprint button in hope of making it to the end. Perhaps that’s a cycling issue, as even the most hardened bike racing fan would struggle to sit through the race lengths that we are accustomed to, but it does always feel a bit cheap in gaming terms to hit that fast forward button.
Of course, anyone looking for more could go deeper into the racing world with the Pro Team and Pro Rider options which are included, but again, a quick flick of CTRL-C and CTRL-V, will mean you’ll know what to expect from those – manage a team to glory in Pro Team or take a rider from season to season in Pro Leader. It’s fun, but there’s nothing special here.
On a personal level it’s the Race options which are most appealing, and then only really as side dishes to the main Tour. We’ll never get bored of hitting the cobbles of Paris–Roubaix, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège is obviously well worth a spin around. We’re also a little partial to the multi-stage Critérium du Dauphiné, and to the well ridden route of Paris-Nice. When you include a few other one-dayers like those of Giro di Como, Imola, Dusseldorf and the Primavera Classic, as well as the Euro Tour, an Open Tour and the Breizh Cup and there’s certainly a fair old whack of races in place. It’s a shame that you’ll rarely ever be able to appreciate – or care for – the differences between them.
There’s definitely a market for a decent bike racing game, particularly one that focuses all efforts on the grandest of Grand Tours. But once again Tour de France – The Video Game isn’t that game. Unfortunately, until the current zero level of competition tries to raise the bar, we may well only be able to look forward to another annual release which is consistently minimal in terms of change.
Here’s to Tour de France 2023 then. Perhaps that will be the year we get a fully fledged cycling game that will let us fulfil our lycra clad needs and do full justice to the greatest bike race of them all. Because one thing is for certain, Tour de France 2022 is left spinning up the steepest climb as the enthusiasm and energy fast drains away.
Tour de France 2022 is available at the Xbox Store