The Tour de France is the most renowned cycling race in the world. A true test of skill and endurance, the race covers France and beyond with some of the most grueling race challenges around. Along the way there have been some thrilling and shocking stories told, including controversy both on and off the road.
For starters, Tour de France 2020 certainly feels like a loving simulation. The game includes the 21 official stages of the Tour de France, and visually these look strikingly similar to the routes themselves. From winding mountain roads to shuttered townhouses, Tour de France 2020 looks very authentic, and about as French as a Jean-Luc Godard movie marathon.
The core gameplay also consists of the essential aspects of professional cycling. Tour de France 2020 contains lengthy stages, where energy conservation and tactical nuance are key. Teamwork is also a big factor, with the player needing to ensure that they get support from their teammates to try and claim victory by the end of the stage.
However, this also a limitation on exactly how much fun a player could have with Tour de France 2020. Although cycling enthusiasts will get a lot out of the slow build-up of each stage, having to decide their actions extremely carefully to avoid running out of steam, a lot of the time it’s about falling into the right rhythm and staying the course. Because of this, Tour de France 2020 almost feels like a microcosm of pro cycling enjoyment as a whole: it’s great if you get into it, but onlookers could find it repetitive and linear.
Something that breaks this up is the introduction of a new and improved time trial mode. This puts more of an emphasis on a single rider and their ability to gain speed and control their bike with precision. It’s here that newcomers could find a little more to enjoy, particularly the challenge of balancing speed against cornering function while keeping an eye on endurance.
The other addition of note is that of a new first person mode. This gives the player a better sense of the speed that the Tour de France can reach, making the game more exciting than sticking with the default view. There are downsides, though, particularly in that it allows the player a closer look at the animation of their competitors, which can feel quite robotic.
From an animation perspective there are also other limitations that break immersion, in particular when it comes to the crowds. The audience of Tour de France 2020 isn’t necessarily animated any worse than the crowds of other sports games, but because of the proximity and duration that the player spends with them you will get very close to their stilted and occasionally glitchy movements. It’s not a game breaking issue, but given how important crowd interactions have been to the Tour de France over the years, particularly the passionate fans and protests of the Pyrenees, it is something that feels missing here.
In short Tour de France 2020 hits a lot of the same difficulties that other more niche sports have with video game adaptations. It’s not easy to make a complex and lengthy mode of sport into something that can be enjoyed in shorter time periods; after all, you can’t exactly turn the Tour de France into a ten minute gameplay experience like FIFA without losing what makes it unique. However it’s fair to say that Tour de France 2020 hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot of the Codemasters F1 games between staying true to the sport while making deviations to make it engaging in its own right to outsiders.
Nonetheless Tour de France 2020 is certainly still a good game for fans of cycling. Those with even a basic knowledge of professional cycling could get a lot of out of it, particularly given that the real, postponed Tour of 2020 is going to be very different from what has come in years before. Although it’s clunky, fans of the sport who look beyond its technical struggles will find and earnest and loving recreation.
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Tour de France 2020 is out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a PC release planned. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.