Pro Cycling Manager Season 2008: Le Tour de France
- Developer: Cyanide Studio
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
If you're surprised to learn that there's a sports management game based around cycling, imagine how surprised you'll be when you discover that this is the latest entry in a series that has been belching up yearly updates since 2001. This surprised.
You'd assume that a series which has been going for this long would have arrived in 2008 as a fairly well polished product, bristling with refinements and features accrued over years of development. Given that the 2008 model is an ugly and often impenetrable slog, with graphics that would look outdated on a 1994 educational CD-ROM, you have to wonder what it looked like eight years ago - and who the hell keeps buying them.
The aim is to manage a team of international cyclists through various events around the world with particular focus on the Tour de France, this being the officially endorsed game of the race. All the usual management sim options are here - all orbiting around the calendar that tells you which events are coming up and your inbox, where incoming messages update you on your team's status. Scouts can be sent around the globe to spot new upcoming talent, while riders can be encouraged out of their contracts to join your pedalling crew.
It's all presented through bland menus, bristling with opaque options. You really shouldn't need to refer to the instructions in order to understand the basic functionality of a management game, yet at all times Pro Cycling Manager feels more like a spreadsheet than entertainment software.
Still, the races themselves should brighten things up - or so you'd think. Events themselves take an age to load, with the loading bar dutifully informing you as it prepares terrain, textures and riders. Quite what it's actually doing during these long loads must remain a mystery, however, since the sight that awaits you on the other side is so laughably poor that it can't possibly justify all the hard-drive chugging.
A featureless grey strip slices through a grubby green expanse. This is your countryside. From your aerial viewpoint, hundreds of identical cyclists bunch together, clipping through each other and generally merging into a weird bike-themed optical illusion. You can change the camera angle, but that just reveals their weirdly-shaped heads and torsos in even more grim detail.
Icons for all of your riders clutter the left of the screen, while tiny buttons across the bottom can be used to give them orders. You can set their effort as a percentage, getting them to move up the pack, and then tell them to hold their position or react to an aggressive overtaking manoeuvre. Heart rates must be monitored, water can be dished out, and yet it's all so...uninvolving.
If you're so deep into professional cycling that you'd want to play a game where you navigate sterile menus and tell other people how to ride bikes, then there may be some small morsels of enjoyment to be found here, provided you accept that your own enthusiasm will be picking up the slack for a drab and technically sloppy game.