Believe it or not, there’s a great niche market for cycling games. And I don’t just mean ones featuring motorbikes or interactive exercise ones. I’m talking about fully immersive cycling culture games where you control racers in places such as the Tour de France or Vuelta a España. The latest title to fit this genre is Pro Cycling Manager 2017, to which we threw on a helmet and grabbed some drinking water in preparation for a review.
Pro Cycling Manager 2017 isn’t so much a cycling game as it is a simulator. You essentially play a team manager of a professional team from one of several countries to choose from. It is your job to put together the best team possible and win the Tour de France, who Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Entertainment partnered with as part of the story aspect for the game. While you’re not doing any racing yourself, you are controlling how the race goes with your nine members and what goes on between races. Your goal is to create one of the best teams possible, help dictate what happens during a race, and ultimately win the championship.
A lot of this game is setup and planning, which while helpful, is tedious. Choosing people, their bikes, helping with their stats, managing their contracts, making sure they’re at peak performance or if you need to change someone out, and a variety of other things ranging from staff management to monitoring stats and goals for each racer. That segment of the game alone could take a half-hour of planning altogether before you even hit the course.
When the race finally starts, everything you do is essentially AI vs. AI, with you dictating what your AI does. If you have someone leading the pack, you need to protect them by telling your crew what to do. If someone is tired or dehydrated, you push them to rest or grab water. If the pack is moving slowly, you wait for announcer cues to better position your team so that when a breakaway does happen, you can be the first to react and take advantage. Most of the gameplay feels like what you would expect from something like Total War, where you just direct people where to go and hope they do their best.
On the surface this seems fine, but then you’re reminded that this is technically a sports game. And when you’re playing a sports game, whether it be soccer or basketball or even a pro-wrestling, you actually want to take part in the sport. I found it to be an incredible waste of time managing a team that I couldn’t control for real. And when I say for real, please understand, there’s a large difference between telling a cyclist where to go and being in first-person mode doing it myself.
If you like simulated sports, Pro Cycling Manager 2017 is your bag. But to label this as an actual sports or racing game is kind of a disservice. I wish it were labeled more for what it is than what it isn’t. I got what I could out of the sim part, but even as sims go it was over-layered with content. It isn’t terrible, but it really isn’t that good either.
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