Tour de France first appeared as an Xbox Live arcade game back in 2009.
It always had a small following, but it's only really in the last few years that the franchise has really started to stand out as a reputable series.
With Tour de France 2017, Focus Home Interactive have tried to improve the game and garner even more positive reviews.
While cycling might not sound like the most action-packed title, there's a lot of strategy when trying to push your team to the finish line. There is also more than enough action especially over the pre-defined action zones and towards the finishing line. Hitting your team 'comms' button will allow you to instruct your team to support your attack, or take the lead to give you a breather. Holding the follow button allows you to recoup some energy by sitting behind another cyclist in their slipstream.
This year, there's a handful of new features, many of which greatly improve on the foundations laid down previously. These include a more realistic race tempo and conditions such as narrow roads and zones exposed to wind, combined with improved AI which help track and judge potential threats dependent on their success over past sections and potential further down the line. The simulation options that really help to make the game feel better.
Firstly there's the option to skip an entire stage, so if you prefer the sprints over the hill-climbs you can make the game simulate a section for you. Best of all are the 'key zones'. Rather than racing each section from start to finish, you can select a key zone which will speed through at 16x speed until you reach the start of this area. It's these parts which provide the most excitement as you push to win the small sprint or climb sections to gain a few extra valuable points, and of course the final quarter of the race is often a juggle between team position and trying to break for the line ahead of the pack.
There are 23 teams in total, and while most are complete with accurately-named racers complete with a photo, there are a few omissions include the Team Sky riders and a few others such as Mark Cavendish, who's instead called M.Civendash. Thankfully, there's a pretty substantial editing option.
Once through the main menu, you'll find various options for racing. Tour allows you to cover the full 21 stages of 2017's Tour de France, as well as 2016's event and four other Tour events. These can also be done via split screen co-operatively or versus another player.
Pro Team is available solo or co-operatively and offers an in-depth chance to manage your own team. You start off hiring racers, building up funds from completing events and satisfying your sponsors until you can afford to enlist better riders. From there, hopefully you can place higher for greater rewards and eventually win an invite to major events and the Tour de France itself.
While packed full of events, I found myself a little underwhelmed by any sort of fanfare or podium shots when winning races.
Overall there's a wealth of content to get through, and if you fancy a change from the larger events, there are also challenges to work through such as short time trials to earn medals. There is also a training mode to help you get to grip with the various team controls and tactics as well as the basic gameplay mechanics and finally 'My Tour' which allows you to create your own custom tour using any of the 60+ stages featured in the game.
Graphically it's always tough judging a game with so little in the way of competition.There is no 4K/HDR support, but scenery looks pretty well detailed and realistic and I didn't encounter any graphical glitches even with dozens of other riders around me. Sadly there aren't any weather effects on show.
Audibly there's not an awful lot to mention. the menu music is a little repetitive but thankfully it's not annoying either. Cycling through the streets and villages you'll hear plenty of fans shouting as you cycle past, and the rumble of the larger crowds adds to the tension of the sprints and finish.
It's always going to be tough to recommend a game about the Tour de France, as it's not a sport like Football that's been in video game form for decades, but fans of the Tour and eve those looking for a relaxed experience with the option to pick up the pace for more action occasionally could well fall in love with Tour de France, without a doubt this is the best incarnation to date, and pave's the way to even greater things in the future.