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Gran Turismo Sport is basically an always-online game

Go online or go home, apparently

Gran Turismo Sport - BMW at Nurburgring
A BMW leads the pack at Nurburgring in Gran Turismo Sport.
Polyphony Digital/Sony Interactive Entertainment
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Gran Turismo Sport is finally out today, and players are starting to realize just how much the racing game relies on an online connection: A lot, it turns out.

This has been known for a while, in some sense. Developer Polyphony Digital has always pitched Gran Turismo Sport as an online-focused game because of its integration with the International Automobile Federation (FIA). You can earn an FIA-recognized driving license in the game, which means you can obtain a digital license in Gran Turismo Sport that you can use to drive race cars in real life. In addition, the game offers an online championship endorsed by FIA, so it uses cloud saves to maintain the integrity of the esports competition.

Gran Turismo Sport publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment said last month that the game “will require an internet connection for the majority of functionality.” To be clear, that doesn’t mean you need a PlayStation Plus subscription just to play — that’s only necessary for online multiplayer. But Sony said at the time that offline functionality would be limited to “portions of the Arcade Mode,” including “limited two-player split screen, single-player races on select tracks, and time trials.”

Now that Gran Turismo Sport is available, the offline limitations are out in the open, and they’re very restrictive. It is impossible to save progress without an internet connection, which is something players of the demo may have noticed last week. In other words, you won’t be able to turn off your PlayStation 4 until you can reconnect, lest you want to lose progress.

Gran Turismo Sport - Scapes mode in Paris
Yes, even Gran Turismo Sport’s Scapes mode is unavailable when you’re offline.
Polyphony Digital/Sony Interactive Entertainment

If you don’t save after the first time you boot up the game, you’ll have to start from scratch completely when you reboot — which entails rewatching the “Your First Gift Car” sequence. (There is a local save file, but it only keeps track of console options like your display calibration and HDR settings.)

We can confirm that the campaign mode, which includes the series’ traditional driving school, is unavailable when you’re offline. Here’s a list of other things you can’t do in Gran Turismo Sport without an internet connection:

  • check out your garage of cars you’ve unlocked
  • edit liveries
  • purchase cars
  • use Scapes, the mode in which you put your cars into photos of real-world locations
  • exchange Mileage Points, an in-game currency used to buy items or improve a vehicle’s performance
  • view saved items like photos, replays and liveries in My Library
  • access the Home menu, which lets you apply liveries, change cars, configure settings and more

Gran Turismo Sport’s virtual reality mode does work without an internet connection, as do custom races and drift trials. And series creator Kazunori Yamauchi said recently that Polyphony Digital plans to expand the offline portion in the future. But for all intents and purposes, it is an always-online game — and prospective buyers would do well to be informed of that fact.

Check back later for Polygon’s full Gran Turismo Sport review.