The most prestigious cycle race on the planet celebrates its centenary in 2003, and to mark the occasion, Konami has released its game version of Le Tour on the PS2. It seems like a fair partnership - Le Tour is arguably the most arduous endurance race ever, and Konami is a relative powerhouse in the gaming market, with some great titles to its name. This game follows hot on the heels of Le Tour de France, the original version of this game, which was out in June 2002. Now to be honest, I can't compare the two versions of this game, but if you have the first, you probably have had enough to not need to look at the Centenary Edition. This is the official game of Le Tour, so carries all the correct branding and so on, and no surprises - Konami is an official supplier to Le Tour, supplying ... I don't know what, presumably, not this game.
So what do we have? TdF: Centenary Edition has all the normal aspects to racing that we see in car driving games. You get the chance to practice, play arcade mode, or take the career option compete in local races and enter Le Tour itself. A lot of the detail and enjoyment of the game is in the set up. Just like in every other car racing game, you can select the options according to your budget. However, you only start with $20000 (or was it Euros? Does it matter?). You can buy things like pedals, wheels, lightweight frames. The options here will get the bike fanatic excited as they try to construct the ultimate carbon fibre and titanium monster. You even get to pick your choice of headgear - and for once, you can ride with no helmet. You can pick your team, with all the correct teams and colours being present. Of course, you can't just leap into the US Postal Service team as Lance Armstrong, you have to earn that right. Racing and winning earns you more money, so you can upgrade your bike.
So once you have toyed with the various options, you finally get a chance to out into the fresh air and race. It is a normal rolling start, you at the back, like so many F1 games of the past. Gameplay is what is important here, and unfortunately, therein lies the problem. The controls are fairly simple. Press and hold to pedal, press fast to sprint. Press another button to drink, or press and hold throw entire bottle of water in your own face. What you have to watch is the balance between speed and fatigue. Basically you can sprint, but then get tired and wobble off to the edge. Find the balance, and you are on to a winner. Using your bottles of water, you can refresh yourself or heal the damage you sustained by crashing into the pavement. Exactly how a bottle of water fixes the crack in your skull, I don't know.
Detail has been included here, such as slipstreaming behind or beside other riders. If you are cunning, you can tuck behind someone and save the energy as they pedal away. Overall, the concept is quite good, and everything has been thought of here. Most aspects of cycling in a race are included, except the actual hard work. But something isn't quite right. The graphics are so-so, the background mountains are ... interesting. The soundtrack is terrifying with really bad music during the race - perhaps to fill some dead sound. There is no engine to roar, just the rattle of the bike and a few claps from any spectators. The attention to detail needs both praise and criticism - the teams are all correct and so on, but Le Tour itself is nothing like the real race, and there is no good reason for this.
I am a self-confessed bike geek. I have a road bike and I race it. Perhaps that sets me at a disadvantage - knowing that this game cannot recreate the excitement of really riding a bike at speed. I don't think that is the case. The gameplay lets this game down - it’s just not very exciting at all. It feels like a remodelled car driving game, and there’s a plentiful supply of bad car racing games to choose from. Overall, some racing fans might enjoy this game - if you like some of the F1 racing games, then this might be up your street. The target gamers, the bike fans and Tour fanatics, will probably not get too excited once they get this home.