I know lots about bikes. Bikes have two wheels. Bikes get you to the shops. Without brakes, bikes hurt. The Tour de France is a tour of France.
See? I’m therefore very well-placed to review the latest offering from Cyanide which has bikes. Bikes, you understand, are very important in cycling. In fact, apparently, without bikes there would be no cycling. So thank goodness this has lots of bikes.
Joking aside, I play sport management games to death but knew practically nothing about this sport. How hard could it be? It would have much the same interface as any other sports game, much the same mechanics as any other sports game, and therefore get 8 out of 10. I very nearly didn’t bother to play it.
Naturally, I’m glad I did. Pro Cycling Manager 2008 takes a tested formula and applies liberal quantities of options and sometimes unintentional humour (more on that later) to produce something both entertaining and absorbing. You have total control over a team of your choice, and depending on who you’ve chosen you’ll already be invited to various races. Kit out your riders, get them in training, find some idiot company who will sponsor you and then come last – that’s roughly how you’ll begin.
It’s not easy, this game, particularly if your knowledge of how a race proceeds extends to ‘pedal really hard’. The manual will probably just confuse the hell out of you even further, so it’s best to go through the tutorial and fiddle about until you work out that putting someone into ‘sprint’ and ‘100% effort’ for the whole race is less likely to result in medals than your whole squad suffering cardiac arrest.
You can simulate races, but it’s more to your advantage to have total real-time control. It’s also far more entertaining due to a development oversight which seems to have led to them forgetting about collision detection. It didn’t bother me when a few cyclists went into each other’s arms – that was to be expected. It was when the safety-car and motorbike drove straight through anyone within a metre of the kerb that it became apparent that this part needs work. I will confess; I laughed quite hard.
I thought I’d done okay in my first race, but it transpired that I was nowhere near the podium and the only sponsors I could get were going out of business. Then the Tour of Australia refused to let me compete. Then the game crashed. Be warned that it’s not completely stable, oddly mirroring me on a bike. The interface could also do with some work, given that it took me two hours to realise I could organise training camps.
There are two big features which raise this above standard titles: one is a beautifully-executed online mode called “Game Central”, which instantly links you up with players all over the world and will automatically boot the game when you register for a race. The other, however, is my favourite thing in the whole game universe: a complete editor. Want to create your own team, sponsors, kits and tours? It’s all there. Team Den of Geek will, of course, be winning the Tour of Britain after going on an excruciating course about how to ride over cobblestones.