GRAND THEFT VELO

If you’ve ever tried a cycling computer game, you will understand why most games’ reviewers give bike sims very low scores. There’s fun to be had up to a very limited point, from sending pixellated domestiques back to the team car for bidons but not much.

Your cyber characters may bear the names and attributes of real life professional roadies and sport the squad colours; but the similarity to what really happens doesn’t go much further than a name and a dominant riding style, such as climber, sprinter or rouleur.

‘Sterile’ is probably a good way of describing the experience. There’s no meat or intrigue, or edge of the seat excitement. In short, there’s no cheating and there are definitely no dope tests or dopers. For the management game geek that’s not a problem. There’s still plenty to get stuck into here for them, with team selection, scouting out new riders and figuring out the best in-race strategy to follow. For the rest of us, casual gamers after a bit of a thrill, maybe the Observer’s review of Pro Cycling Manger 2007 sums this up best when it advises, “Save your money and buy a real bike instead - playing cat and mouse with cyclist-hating drivers is far more fun and exciting anyway.”

But there could be a way to inject more tension and gritty realism into the gameplay. Introduce the skulduggery which has historically infected the pro-peleton, throw away your moral compass and suddenly you might just have a cycling computer game that would be fun to play - Grand Theft Auto meets Procycling Manager.

How would it work? There are endless possible permutations. At the start of the game as you create your character and career path, you‘re faced with basic choices. Will you be a clean rider or use illegal means to get onto the Tour podium?

You could also choose from a selection of mini-games. You’re the team’s directeur sportif confronted with the problem of luring big companies and their sponsorship money into the team setup. You play as an official Tour video cameraman, following the peleton’s every pedal turn whilst clinging onto the back of a speeding motorcycle. You’re a beer-crazed cycling fan - probably Dutch - camping out on Alpe d’Huez and working out how to steal beer from neighbouring campsites and secure the best vantage point for race day - this mini-game would involve the inevitable mooning and throwing of cyber punches. Or, and this one sounds all to familiar - you’re the team masseur charged with transporting illegal substances to the squad hotel without being caught by the authorities (maybe in the game you don’t go as far as writing a tell-all book about your subsequent arrest and fall from grace).

On the general subject of doping. There’s a famous scene in the film Withnail and I - which Withnail sequence is not famous? - where the inebriated eponymous protagonist tries to fool a traffic policeman with a false urine sample hidden in an old Squeezy bottle.


Needless to say the clumsy attempt to trick the cops fails miserably and Withnail is presumably done for drink driving. However in the real world of professional cycling, Willy Voet, the ill-fated soigneur with the Festina team, who was nabbed transporting all kinds of drugs and related paraphernalia in his car, recounts in his amorta-busting book, Breaking the Chain, how cyclists used to hide condoms of urine up their backsides to fool the dope testers. It was an extremely effective method he reports because the “unadulterated” urine (to borrow Withnail’s expression) was kept at body temperature and therefore did not arouse the doctors’ suspicions.

This really went on in cycling and if last year’s Tour de France, despite hopes that a new, younger generation of clean-minded pedallers were coming through, is anything to go by, cheating still plays a major role at the top of the sport.

So let’s inject (pun intended) some of the 18-certificated scenarios of Grand Theft Auto - the current DS version of the game features drug dealing quite prominently for instance - into a video game about teams of pampered pro roadies battling it out on the French highways - and you could have a hit on your hands.

And if you slip in a mission in which the player is tasked with tracking down a stolen time trial machine - remember the theft of Lance Armstrong’s one-of-a-kind, mega-expensive, TT bike, in late 2008 - you can even justify the game’s, Grand Theft Velo, title.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

TACKLING THE COBRA

DEIL TAK' THE HINDMOST - Commuting through London’s Richmond Park after midnight

MORE OFFBEAT CYCLING MISADVENTURES FROM TIM MOORE