Climbing A Second Category
HIGH Increasingly-tense 3D racing.
LOW The code is poorly built and prone to crashing.
WTF Egan Bernal is way too overpowered.
I consider reviewing an annual sports franchise to be a fairly difficult task. More often than not, I find myself scrounging for new things to say about games which usually conceal novelty with shinier visual spectacle. The Pro Cycling Manager series is different, however, as it’s not created by a big budget team. The result is a yearly release with subtler changes, although still definitely improved.
PCM is the simulation of a road cycling career, either as a manager or a cyclist. As manager, the player spends their time handling a commercial team in a menu-based sim. Cyclists have to be selected for participation in races, sponsors request particular results, and this year’s addition features morale that impacts a cyclist’s performance. Overall, it’s a laid-back, stats-focused approach to cycling.
As a cyclist — my preferred way to play — one can enter global competition starting as a 19-year-old semi-pro. Contracts have to be managed, specialized training like sprinting or climbing is simulated, and races can optionally be run as 3D third-person events that deal with positioning and stamina. My simulated manager would sometimes give me a particular role to fill in a race (e.g. stabilize the peloton’s pace for a bit) but the mode is at its best when the player is free to shoot for victory.
As a character’s attributes improve, the player can take part in some of the world’s most competitive events like the Tour de France, build a top-quality team, and race against the best. This year’s edition really captured this spirit by offering AI that has more aggressive driving, leading to some exceptionally tense mountaintop finishes and unanticipated attacks that demanded an answer.
However, apart from this small (but impactful) addition, many of the issues I’ve had with PCM in the past are still present. The loading screens for 3D races still take several minutes and are prone to crashing, any alt-tabbing can cause a crash, and the in-race visuals are in need of work.
Luckily, the 3D race option is never required and results from uninteresting stages that I didn’t want to play can be simulated in a menu. On the other hand, I found that letting the game simulate a race rather than running it myself would sometimes corrupt my character’s standings and cause harm to my progress.
Another issue is that while it’s exciting to take a newcomer and turn them into a star, the skill point system for building up attributes allows for the creation of an invincible champion who hardly ever gets fatigued. By the end of my fifth in-game season, I had won all grand tours and both world championships at a simulated age of 23 — suffice it to say that such a feat in real life doesn’t even seem plausible, and no one has ever come close to achieving it. Once my character reached this superhero status, the value of playing PCM 2020 felt lost to me.
At the end of the day, it’s true that PCM 2020 delivers the series’ most realistic version of either managing or being a professional cyclist, but issues of technical quality and system design mean that it’s far from the experience it could be. Rating: 6.0 out of 10.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Nacon. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 75 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and several seasons of the pro cyclist mode were completed. 0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E for Everyone, with no descriptors. The official description reads as follows: This is a pro cycling simulation game in which player assume the role of a professional cyclist or a team manager. Players can select and supervise their teams’ staff, calendar, and equipment as they compete in international training and racing events.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options, but colors can be customized to some extent.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I kept the volume at minimum when playing and have not noted any vital audio cues during 3D races. Audio is absent in the simulation modes. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The entirety of the game is played with a computer mouse.