As comprehensive as Pro Cycling Manager 2020 is, there’s one feature that’s sadly absent: the ability able to inject yourself with performance-enhancing drugs.
That’s not to say I endorse throwing magic pills down your neck (though I am frequently fuelled by off-brand energy drinks). But doping has become such a huge issue in sports, particularly in the light of Lance Armstrong’s admittance, that giving you the option to partake would have added a topical dose of realism to Pro Cycling Manager 2020.
Still, there’s a lot to like about Pro Cycling Manager 2020. It’s not easy to get into; load it up and you’re confronted with a daunting wall of facts, figures and text buttons. There are tutorials to help you, but it still feels more impenetrable than Football Manager to a newcomer.
As a result, it’s a blessing that Pro Cycling Manager 2020 sports a pro-cyclist mode. Here, you’re cast you as a single racer, and it’s perfect for easing you into the game. Once you’ve got to grips with the ins and outs of Pro Cycling Manager 2020, you can leap back into managing your own cycling team, training cyclists and tackling races. It won’t be long ’til the Tour de France is within your grasp.
You’ll tackle tough decisions such as whether to respect your hard-working cyclists or, like some soulless managerial monster, dispose of them as soon as you can afford to recruit a better pedal-pusher. And, when it comes to the races themselves (rendered in glorious 3D), your calls will make all the difference. There’s no arcade-style cycling mini game; instead, you’re presented with tabs which let you choose when your lead rider pushes out from the pack, and which poor sod is left handling the water bottles. If bathing their balls in Nair doesn’t make your riders aerodynamic enough, you can order one cyclist to ride in another’s slipstream. Truly, the cycling world is your lycra-clad oyster.
But as deep as Pro Cycling Manager 2020‘s managerial mode is, I couldn’t help going back to the pro-cyclist mode. It did more than just teach me the ropes; it let me create a character I cared about. Your cycling team is so large that the riders end up being oddly anonymous; playing as Charlie Shartwell, guiding the Barnsley-born cyclist up through the ranks, proved more satisfying than managing a whole team.
What makes Pro Cycling Manager 2020’s pro-cyclist mode so engaging is that you have to juggle your own personal fortunes with those of your team. You’ve not got a hope in hell of winning your first race; try going all out and your stamina bar will empty before you can blink. But there’s still that pull to win – you’re the star of the show! And then your boss tells you to pull back, to let your team-mates through. Do you follow orders, or do you up your speed and accelerate? Is the brief rush you get from clearing other cyclists worth the chewing out you’ll get from your boss?
Whether you’re a manager, peon or somewhere in between (and can handle the text-heavy front end), Pro Cycling Manager 2020 has plenty to offer. There’s even a multiplayer mode, though I doubt I’ll be diving into it; I don’t think I can cope with riding alongside other players without being able to knock them off their bikes, Road Rash style. Still, if the Tour de France makes it through the apocalypse, you never know.
Pro Cycling Manager 2020 is out now on PC, available through the Steam Store.