Every July, hundreds of the world’s best cyclists race 2,000-plus miles across France in pursuit of the coveted yellow jersey. But there’s more to the Tour De France than pedaling and not falling over – there’s actual strategy involved as the different teams battle it out on the road to Paris. That’s where Extra Live‘s official Tour de France 2012 (universal) game comes in, creating a seriously addictive sports strategy game that will not only satisfy fans of the sport, but introduce new ones to the nuances of the game, as well as the men who play it.
Starting a tour is quite simple: after selecting one of four different save slots, players select from a number of real-life teams and riders to navigate, each with a 5-man riding team players are responsible for through the game’s 21 stages. As in any other sport, a team is comprised of members with specific strengths and weaknesses, and managing these carefully is the key to winning the famous colored jerseys along the way.
I mention the game’s four save slots because its tutorial does very well in explaining the gameplay mechanics, but not necessarily what those mechanics mean in terms of strategy. For example, each of the team’s five members has defined roles like ‘Climber’ and ‘Baroudeur’ which affect the rider’s in-race abilities, and understanding things like counter-attacking and managing heart rates is more trial-and-error than it necessarily should be for those new to the sport and its different terms.
But it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s important: managing a player’s energy while completing accomplishments during each stage, which awards points that help players recover for the next stage. It’s certainly not a short game, with each stage taking about 5-10 minutes to drive through – sadly, there’s no ability to speed up the game optionally, although there is a lot of tapping of on-screen icons needed in each stage, so it makes sense the speed is throttled somewhat.
On the surface, Tour de France 2012‘s (universal) simple visuals might not appeal to gamers not deep into cycling’s idiosyncrasies, but its strategic gameplay really replicates the slow, physiological grind of the real-life event, making it a fantastic addition to any sport or strategy fan’s game collection.