by Howie Howard
reviewed on PC
It's Time To Race!
Tour de France 2021 is the newest installment in a computer game series that depicts probably one of the most famous sporting events in the world. The sporting event starring in this cycling simulation is none other than the Tour de France with other cycling classics being present. The main event takes place every year in France around July 1 and a new installment of the game by French developer Cyanide debuts a couple of weeks before the big race itself starts.
Tour de France 2021 as a pure simulation game began in 2010 and this is the 12th edition. Just like it's sister title Pro Cycling Manager, TDF also concentrates totally on professional bicycle racing. Where the two games differ is that PCM consists mainly of team and single rider management while focusing on the development of both. TDF on the other hand has the focus of simulating the actual participation in bike racing events. Both games use the mantra of professional bike racing in Europe and select other parts of the world as a backdrop and both do very well with their presentations. For this review we will take a look at some of what Tour de France 2021 has to offer.
Riding A Bike Is So Much Fun
Bicycle racing would seem to be appealing only to a very narrow sports minded base in countries like the US where it's viewed more as an activity. It's not viewed that way in Europe though. Bike racing in Europe and especially in France is a major sport. With that said, one might tend to think that playing a simulation of riding a bicycle would be boring. In real life bike racing there are moments of sheer boredom and other times where the effort required to simply stay in contention for the win can be monumental. TDF-21 depicts every aspect of real world bike racing perfectly and it shows what it's really like to be riding fast on a bike with the intention of crossing a line on the road first. Being on the road with over a hundred other extremely trained and motivated athletes can be very exciting at times. During the times that it's not exciting you can simply speed up the game, but watch out because your riders could falter and you won't know it until the end of the race.
New Riders Need Time To Work Out Muscle Soreness.
Just about everything in life that might be new requires a period of adjustment in order to become proficient with it. Since I have a background in amateur bike racing I knew the basics of how to ride in a peloton with other like minded athletes. Plus I know a bit about bike racing tactics and what it takes to be successful in the sport. Folks that aren't into bike racing might have a difficult time with this title but if you want to learn about the sport then playing TDF-21 is the way to do it. The game contains a lot of in-depth detail. One important aspect of racing is that being able to manage energy expenditure is what it's all about and TDF-21 simulates that very well. Learning how to simply stay on the road in this simulation wasn't easy for me at first. I played the PC version of the game and I quickly learned that the keyboard and mouse as a control device is not supported. So you will need a game controller. Information on the game itself doesn't mention that fact and after I installed the game I eventually figured that I needed to find my old controller. Perhaps Cyanide should mention that in information about game requirements.
I Really Need To Start Training.
There's a lot to do in this game. The first mode I tried was training and there's a good tutorial included. It teaches how to ride a bike and how to be able to manage other aspects of bike racing such as basic bike riding, energy management, advanced controls (attacking, sprinting, etc.), using team communications and riding in time trial races. Each riding task comes with a time limit. Once you accomplish the task you can unlock and advance to the next one. As an example, the first basic task was to ride a bike from point A to point B and to do it in a certain time. The point of this training is to be able to learn how to apply enough pedaling effort and brake action so you can navigate your bike successfully around corners, down hills and straight sections. Sounds easy but it isn't. After I did some training I decided that riding in an actual race would be better so I did that and I soon became proficient at riding a bike in the game.
Should I Ride Or Fly?
The main point of TDF-21 is to simulate the riding of a bicycle in a professional bike race so just like flying an airplane in a flight sim, that's what you need to do and it's detailed. As you ride with the peloton the sights are very appealing. The fans lining the road cheer in French as you pass by. You can hear the wind whistle past as you speed up and the surrounding world seems to become a blur. This effect is very realistic and I felt like I was actually back in the peloton! All of the cyclists, complete with their real world name and team kit, are available due to Cyanide's licensing agreements with professional racing federations and equipment suppliers. Since Cyanide is the only cycling game in town, that means that they have sole authority over creating as realistic an experience as possible and they generally are able to accomplish that task each year.
It's All About Racing Your Bike!
The main mode is called Race. Race Mode includes the Tour with classic cycling races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Criterium du Dauphine and others. There are objectives in Race Mode with goals being to win the Tour, finish in the top 10, win the climbers or sprinters jersey, etc. To accomplish the different objectives you need to use different riders and different teams because pro cycling teams are specialized as to whether they are a sprinting, climbing or time trial based team. It's a lot of fun when trying to do the different tasks because they all require a different approach and tactic.
There are other modes of play other than just training and riding in the Tour. There's a mode called Pro Leader which is actually a career mode that requires the game player to take just one rider and to use him while trying to dominate the Pro Cycling Rankings or PCR. Since cycling is a team sport you need to have strong team mates in order to support your leader. The Pro Rider mode is interesting because the rider does not immediately start out as leader, he has to prove himself first and he does that by winning! There's an Editor Mode where you can configure your own team kit (jersey), rider names, specific equipment and you can create your own database that will contain custom riders and teams!
It's A Nice Day For The Tour!
Yes, Tour de France 2021 is a very robust and engaging cycling simulation but why is a new edition needed each year? Since the Tour has a totally different route every year then that would be a good reason for a new edition. Along with the new race routes it's always necessary to improve the AI in order to increase realism. Realism is what it's all about but some things seem to stay the same. Although the in-game visuals look fine as is, the riders seem to look the same as last year. Also, since TDF-21 appears to be ported from game consoles, screen loads lag a bit. You don't see it during the racing game but new menu screens take a while to load, just like on consoles.
Tour de France 2021 is a very good entry into the simulation genre of video games for this year. It may not be suitable for all sim game players simply because the game player might not be interested in the subject. Unfortunately that fact might relegate the title into the niche realm of computer simulations. It's not really a racing game, it's a pure sim that requires a character to gain experience and levels in order to progress to bigger things and new game areas. There's a lot to like in this year's edition. Sure it's basically the same as last year but I for one don't want to be riding on an old bike when I race. I want to ride this year's Tour route and I want to ride with the riders that will be in this year's race! Viva la France!
Very accurate and realistic on bike simulation.
Riders look the same as last year, non race screens load slowly.