GT Sport Asks You To Be Always Online, But For What Reason?

Many a PlayStation racing game fan is eagerly awaiting this week’s release of GT Sport, but between last week’s limited time demo (and gaining early access to the game for review), those eager to try it out have had plenty of time to sample the various aspects the game has to offer. While we’re waiting for the full launch and some more time racing online before our review, one particular decision with the game has really narked me. GT Sport is essentially an online only game.

Now yes, the game is geared towards online play, but there is plenty of content there to test yourself against when playing solo, and in fact you’re actively encouraged to learn your race craft and be a considerate driver with a pair of sportsmanship videos that you have to sit through. However, so much of this single player content is locked away from you if you don’t have a connection to the servers, cutting you off from the Campaign that includes the Beginner’s School driving lessons, Mission Challenges and Circuit Experience sections, and even from capturing pictures in Scapes! The photo mode in GT Sport is not for you people without an internet connection.


All that you have access to is the Arcade mode, and to be fair this can offer you access to the lion’s share of the actual core content in the game. All of the cars, all of the tracks, races and time trials, even split screen and the VR mode are shuffled into this section of the game… but you first have to unlock all of this stuff in order to access it, and while you can do so by playing in Arcade, you can’t then save your game until you’re back online.

There’s really no sound reasoning to have this kind of prohibitive lock on the game’s content and player progress, and it feels like a cynical move to stall any attempts to pirate the game, even if Kaz has previously pointed to the ties with the FIA and making this a fair online competition. Simply put that’s a nonsense excuse, but has led to GT Sport having saves held on servers and your PS4 only having a local copy as a kind of backup.

Would offline play factor into hacking and cheating in the game? Well it shouldn’t when cars are awarded randomly, conform to various classes, online races see vehicles balanced down to match a Balance of Power rating, making the game skill based both in terms of driving and vehicle set up. It’s not like this mandating people be online during the demo stopped there from being lap times logged on the leaderboards in the seconds as opposed to minutes.

On the one hand, none of this really matters when the game is so clearly directed toward online play and sporting competition, and the wide proliferation of internet access that should mean that most players can simply log in and play, but it does matter in the long run and puts an unknown expiration date on the game.

When Sony flipped the switch on Gran Turismo 5’s servers, you could still play A-Spec single player races, take on the Red Bull X2010 and challenge Sebastien Vettel, and still enjoy practically the entire game, outside of multiplayer. When the servers for GT Sport are turned off, it will lock away the vast majority of the game’s challenges and actively engaging content, leaving you with the Arcade. That’s not inherently bad, considering how broad the Arcade is, but if you don’t have a save file with all those cars and tracks unlocked, and without a way to save your progress here, you’re left with a twisted digital paperweight.

This is a similar problem that will rear its head more and more regularly over the coming years as games deal with online functionality in different ways. Obviously something like Destiny is ultimately destined to die a digital death as its servers are replaced in the years to come, but for games that are largely or partly single player experiences that don’t intrinsically need an online connection, it makes no sense and is anti-consumer.

Sony might decide to reverse this decision and make the game more fully playable offline, and we hope they do, but we’ll also be savouring the delightful irony that you’ll need to get online to download a patch in order to do so. A patch you can only download while Sony are hosting it on their servers.

Our full review of Gran Turismo Sport is a work in progress right now, and while we are enjoying it on the whole, it’s been held up partly thanks to the online restrictions and the servers having been unavailable for testing over the weekend. You can catch our thoughts on the VR Tour here, and we’ll have our review ready soon.

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  1. In fairness, this was reported over a month ago and Kaz stated something along the lines of being necessary to prevent inconsistencies in driver ratings, rankings, and results. So if people quit a race, it will still be counted against them.

    The structure is a bit like Destiny in everything is hosted online so everything is tracked/updated in real time.

    Honestly I’m surprised you can access arcade mode. The servers went down on the timed demo and the entire thing was bricked. Couldn’t even access the settings menu. It seems silly to include the campaign in it, but it’s hardly much of a campaign to start with so it hardly matters.

    Also this doesn’t strike me as a game that’ll get shutdown in the next few years, at least not until there’s a GT Sport 2 or something to replace. I dare say Destiny’s servers will get shut down at some point now that Destiny 2 is around.

    • Yup, it was said a month ago, but I don’t buy into the reasoning that Kaz outlined for what is purely single player content. The only ties that the campaign has to online that I can see is that there are leaderboards, so all that needed to happen was say that your offline times won’t be logged, but that shouldn’t stop you working your way through the mission challenges or driving lessons and earning golds. And in the Arcade, it’s fast to level up and unlock all the tracks and a good selection of cars, but without an approved save you’ve only got three tracks (five variants) and 7 or 8 cars to choose from.

      And yeah, I’d expect GT Sport to have a good few years of support, but there will be a time when Sony shut off the servers and that will effectively kill the game. You can shrug that off, but it’s still crappy.

      • Definitely the reasoning is a bit flaky.

        I guess I’m not miffed about the online-only given the whole game is centered on the online.

        It’s really sad that Polyphony have thrown everything into this, rather than split focus and make GT7. I don’t encourage GTS, and would’ve rather had GT7 with better AI/sounds and more content. They could’ve easily have done both.

  2. So where is the review

    • We’re working on it, but servers were not live over the weekend so we couldn’t explore the full online game.

  3. Urgh. I should have done my research. I generally steer well clear of online requirement games. They never feel like they are mine. Dissappointed. I hate this trend with a passion. Surely it costs more to maintain too?

  4. I really wished I could like online racing… The concept of GT sport is something that really got me excited. The scheduled races with qualifying beforehand and not only a skill level, but also a sportsmanship level (or whatever it is called…) sounded great. And then I entered my first online race… Qualified in 11th out of 24, got up to 4th, so I’m pretty happy with the race… And then, as always in online races, I get rammed into the wall on the last straight, and not only lose about 5 positions but also get a 10-second penalty. STuff like that makes online races unplayable for me! And I know, in theory, the Sportsmanship rating should help, but systems like this always can get exploited to a degree, and anyway I don’t think have the patience to level my sportsmanship up enough that I leave those kinds of people behind…

    • I’m with you, I’ve never figured out how to come out on top racing online and there’s always been enough challenge for me against the AI, I’d rather not online at all and risk get stressed out by getting clipped and spinning out when I’m doing well.

      Tef, I’m glad you mentioned the expiry date on a game. I think the popularity of the Nintendo Classic Minis show overwhelmingly that we like to jam an old disc or cartridge in from time to time, but for the only working remains to be an anaemic slice with no progress is a real downer. Just out of kindness to their fans it would be nice for companies to pay more attention to how their v1.0 on disc will play 20 years down the line.

    • By and large my experience with online in the GT Sport demo was really very positive, actually. I’ve had races near the front that have been nice and fair (but tough), and races in the scrappiness of the back of the pack, where you struggle to escape a cloud of angry cars.

      The latter end of the scale will still tend to suck, but you really shouldn’t have received a penalty for that and it’s a problem with the automated nature of online racing. The best you can do is persist and try to race cleanly, conceding fights that you won’t come out on top of, and in the balance you’ll end up with a better rating than the people that crash into others.

      That obviously won’t be for everyone, which is a shame. Alternatively, join the TSA racing regulars on a Monday evening when you can. GT Sport’s bound to be a mainstay of that for the next couple of years!

      • I’d forgotten about the TSA GT meets! Long may they continue :)

      • I might just do that! At what time are those meeting normally? At evenings I can only play when my family is asleep, which is mostly around 10 pm CET.

      • Meets take place at 8PM BST.

  5. I’m not a GT fan but i also don’t support this always-online situation.

  6. So my theory behind the always-online for GT Sport is that they were worried that game saves were going to be cracked wide open and modified cars ruining online.

  7. Time to break out GT3 and have a retro blast.

    Sadly I missed the beta last week, but online only? They create these amazing games but forget that not everyone in the UK are able to get quality internet connections for this kind of game.

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