Climbing A Third Category
HIGH Going all-out on a downhill section for the first time.
LOW Frequent control issues.
WTF Egan Bernal is way too overpowered.
Cycling competitions are highly complicated affairs. Riders race in commercial teams, frequently with certain roles, and have managers, feeding stations or material men scattered throughout the road ahead – often for more than 100 kilometers. It’s truly spectacular how cyclists can keep up with this bizarrely intense competition for a few days, let alone three whole weeks of racing against the greatest in the world.
This legendary competition, the Tour de France, is captured in its official 2020 videogame, TDF 2020. Rather than the simulation-based Pro Cycling Manager 2020 from the same developer, TDF 2020 is predominantly dedicated to 3D third-person racing, and is more sophisticated in that regard. However, it comes with its own flaws – some merely frustrating, while others actually corrupt the experience.
Unlike PCM 2020, TDF 2020 comes with only a few stage races to participate in, but the tradeoff is that they’re all more detailed and realistic. The player’s control over the race is also greater — they can precisely determine their rider’s position in the peloton and there are additional tools for managing energy. Since the player not only controls the cyclist’s pace, but also their sideways position on the track, the challenge is more technical.
TDF 2020 quickly familiarizes the player with the core mechanics by providing a solid tutorial and additional challenges to practice certain mechanics such as downhill racing, which is also my favorite part of any race — I could hear the wind blowing past my driver’s face as I had to carefully steer, brake and accelerate to make the quickest descent possible.
However, I’m sad to report that I’ve experienced frequent control issues. The option to follow a cyclist, for example, often results in a fall at the descent since my cyclist would inexplicably get off-track, whereas the followed driver would not. Things like this led to major issues, so I often relied on fast-forward simulation to skip descents in the peloton altogether. Related, the fast-forwarding is significantly limited, leading to a lot of waiting.
Another issue worth mentioning is ‘effort’ management. There are manual and automatic modes for determining a cyclist’s pace, but switching between them could result in a temporary effort of 0, making me stand still within the peloton and losing my position.
Finally, it has to be mentioned that while I’m all for an array of variables determining the outcome of a cycling race (as in real life) this version seems to have 2019’s TDF winner Egan Bernal as the predetermined winner of every mountain stage, and I was never able to seriously challenge him.
On the plus side, every stage of the Tour de France is introduced with a short clip outlining the route on satellite footage of France, introducing the stage’s profile accompanied by epic introduction music. I really felt as if something big was about to go down after watching these, so they’re successful in generating hype before a stage.
However, other aspects don’t feel as fleshed out. The manager’s commentary during and after every stage is poorly performed, to say nothing of the terrible and repetitive victory ceremony featuring around three static commentaries, making it a must-skip.
All of the aforementioned issues are especially notable considering TDF 2020 is dedicated to providing a realistic 3D race. The other modes, which include a professional career mode and other races, are hardly worth the time and effort. Tour de France 2020 is therefore greatly outclassed by Pro Cycling Manager 2020 in terms of content, and hardly makes up any ground with a better presentation.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Nacon. It is currently available on XBO and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and 1 complete TDF plus 1 career season were completed. 0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E without description. A description reads: “This is a cycling simulation game in which players compete as cyclists in the Tour de France. Players can take on the role of a team manager or professional cyclist performing both offensive and defensive maneuvers on the road (e.g., lead protection, relays).”
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Racing doesn’t require audio, but a team manager gives audio cues that are only partly subtitled. The subtitles are small and not resizable. This game is therefore only not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.