In case you didn’t know, Gran Turismo 7 requires an internet connection to play the majority of its content — and yes, that includes single-player stuff. Unfortunately, that little bit came to a head two weeks ago when a new title update caused an issue that prevented the game from going online, which then resulted in it being unplayable (for the most part) for over a day.
Naturally, this didn’t sit well with gamers. Not only did the game get review bombed on Metacritic resulting in the lowest user rated PlayStation game in history, but Polyphony had to issue two apologies to gamers, and even promise freebies to try and placate gamers. The thing is, does the game really need to be always-online? We dive into that right now.
What Is the Reason for Gran Turismo 7 to Have an Always-Online Requirement?
In an interview with Eurogamer last year, series creator Kazunori Yamauch had this to say concerning why Gran Turismo 7 would require an always online connection for nearly every mode.
The requirement for the online connection isn’t specific to the Cafe per se — it’s just to prevent cheating overall from people trying to modify the save data, so that’s the reason for the online connection,
What Exactly Is This Referring To?
Some of you may be a bit confused, considering that Gran Turismo 7 is only available on PlayStation consoles and not PC where cheating would be more accessible and rampant. Well, for those of you that didn’t know, the PS4 has the capability of allowing users to transfer their game saves onto a USB flash drive. This is a feature that has somewhat always existed with PlayStation, though with the PS1 and PS2 it was through proprietary cards. With the PS4 hacked, it has lead to a number of issues for Sony, from piracy to online cheating, both of which they have continued to combat with every new firmware released. And while PlayStation, as well as leading members of the PlayStation hacking community, have kept “jailbroken” consoles at bay from accessing online features by ensuring that they can only be used offline by supporting older firmware only, that unfortunately hasn’t prevented game saves from being hacked. Specifically a popular save editing tool has always tried to stay ahead, as for every new firmware update that PlayStation release, this program has continued to work, even if it doesn’t for the moment.
Still, the program itself is limited, and by design, the developers behind it have been openly vocal about not allowing the tool to be used for online focus games. A majority of the cheats revolve around only being used during single-player, and for games with multiplayer or some form of online connectivity, they are limited as the program locks cheat functionality to solely quick codes, cheats designed by them, locking out users from potentially circumventing online features, such as gifting themselves paid currency or DLC, or being given an unfair advantage online.
However, it does go without saying that some titles have slipped through the cracks in the past. Take Nioh for example, when it got its online multiplayer component users would one-hit kill players online during PvP matches. Marvel’s Avengers, although doesn’t feature PvP, would see players join co-op matches via matchmaking and ruin the experience for others by breaking the game with overpowered characters. Souls game are notorious for seeing hacked characters during PvP, though FromSoftware has resolved this by implementing an anti-cheat system that is near fool-proof, Modified saves in Elden Ring are often met with an immediate ban if they try to go online.
Gran Turismo Sport didn’t have any cheat support, but it did have save reassigning (open to any title with a save). While not the same and a bit more complicated than other titles when it comes to reassigning, users could in ways obtain almost everything in GT Sport if they followed a correct method. Understandably that would be a bit of a concern if a user just cloned someone else’s progress onto their online file, but this does beg the question: is it really that big of a deal in the end?
Does Cheating Matter in a Racing Game, Yet Alone in a Solo Campaign?
Look, I won’t beat around the bush and say that cheating is a good thing. It’s not, and it sucks when you encounter it. Games like Call of Duty or other cross-play supported titles with PC is proof enough that cheating is absolutely horrible, having to deal with aimbot users, god mode, ect. It’s frustrating. But looking at a racer specifically, one does have to question exactly what kind of cheating is Polyphony worried about.
Well, to understand that all one has to do is look at Polyphony’s past title, Gran Turismo 5.
When the PS3 first got hacked, the means to achieve it were so open that anyone even on the latest firmware could do it if they wanted to. It was very easy, and PlayStation didn’t really have any real means to ban these users like they do today. Once the system was open, the network was compromised with console cheaters. Fast forward to the PS4 and that story is a different one as there has yet to be a way for jailbroken console to access online, at least publicly. But looking back at the PS3, it certainly was a mess.
In Gran Turismo 5 case, users would modify their vehicles stats, giving them unrealistic values. Have a look at it yourself.
Now, Polyphony tried to combat this with a few patches, but no matter what they did it seems users were still able to work around it and ruin a few online matches. However, as I noted, that was mostly due to the openness of the PS3 hack where anyone could do it. This is a far different story on the PS4 side of things, as it took many years for a newly supported firmware to support hacks, and it will take many more before we even see it achieved in the latest firmware, which by then the console will be on its last legs, and most likely on a higher, non-hackable firmware.
So the only real concern that Polyphony has is the save editing tool (thus the reason given), one that would most likely would restrict cheats to ones they’ve created given the huge online nature of Gran Turismo 7. This means that if it did support cheats, it’s likely we would only see cheats for currency. Of course that would break the economy that Polyphony intended for GT7, but that’s an issue on its own that many users have been calling them out on, especially after the recent nerf patch that is getting reversed. As it stands, you can either grind it out, or, if you were rich enough, you could just buy your way into owning every car and tuning parts. It’s an expensive — roughly $2,000-$4,000-dollar-expensive — but nonetheless removes that in-game grind. Is that really a better solution for players? I certainly don’t think so.
And going back to the whole modded cars thing, given that Gran Turismo is available on a closed platform, things like anti-cheat can be put in place. Consoles aren’t like PC where a user can just build a new program to workaround those anti-cheats deployed by developers. It’s a lot harder, especially in the PS4 case where users are limited to working with a game save file, rather than files of the game itself. Unless jailbroken, which can’t access online anyway, this isn’t like the PS3 where everything on the system was hackable. Which this brings up another point, what’s the excuse for always online for the PS5 version?
Why the Provided Reason “Falls” Apart, At Least on PS5 and Why Legit Players Suffer for the Few.
One of the big changes with the PS5 was that PlayStation actually removed the ability to export game saves for PS5 games onto a USB flash drive. Now you can still copy PS4 saves from the console to and from a USB, but when it comes to those game saves for PS5 specific games, owners only have the option to back-up via PS Cloud. See where I’m going here? It’s a non-issue on the PS5 when it comes to the idea of users modifying their game saves because they have no means to do so, at least solely from the PS5.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that it’s impossible to cheat with hacked saves on the PS5, because it is entirely possible. There may have been a reason why PlayStation was somewhat reluctant on cross-gen save, that being around cheating. Because you can modify a PS4 game save, a lot of games allow you to transfer (via in-game option) those modified saves to the PS5 version, thus bringing with it any cheats. That’s how cheats are currently being done on the PS5, which is unfortunate to see, but I’ll add that PS3 allowed developers to lock their saves from USB transferring, a possible alternative that PlayStation can offer to implement on the PS4 than just choosing to be always online.
However, it still begs the question: Is that reasoning truly a good one for owners on the PS5? A vast majority of PS5 owners out there aren’t going to download the PS4 version just so they can cheat. It will happen, but that number in the grand picture of things is minimal. You’ll have more legit players in the pool compared to the PS3 days where it was completely open. And given that the saves are stored in-game online, that kind of goes back to the whole anti-cheat of things. If cheating on the PS5 side of things was a big concern, why not implement some sort of save transferring check in-game? If it see’s hacked vehicles, or saw that currency was obtain in a way outside of the intended ones, then ban it, or modify it to reverse those modifications.
For a series that has always had offline play in it’s fullest form up until Gran Turismo Sport, and now Gran Turismo 7, I personally don’t think users should have to suffer due to the few bad apples out there. While yes, most of everyone today does have online connectivity where the whole “always online” shouldn’t be much of an issue, we saw exactly what happened when servers had to go down for an unexpected amount of time, resulting in the loss of a full day. Seeing that I’m a solo player, and never really dabbled much in the competitive online arena in a Gran Turismo game, I just don’t see a good reason why I should be at the mercy of the servers. Me playing solo races against AI bots has no true bearing on the online modes. This isn’t like Destiny where if there was offline play I could save scum and try to get different loot rolls to bring in the online modes. Nothing really tied to RNG (random number generator) in GT7 outside of the roulette tickets, and even then those aren’t all that major if someone was going to save scum them.
If the next Gran Turismo game is indeed a full exclusive for the PS5, and for whatever reason has the same excuse of why it’s always online, then that’s one excuse that doesn’t hold up. After playing GT7 and seeing how many other features are implemented with online mechanics, or how the economy of the game is all balancing on the control of Polyphony themselves, I just wonder if the modified save reason given was an excuse in its own to not let players know that they have a strict plan for earning credits, and that they wanted full control over it. It sure seems that way as the recent farming methods that were harming no one ended up hurting the players more after the changes.
The whole online thing also brings another question; Where will Gran Turismo 7 be in the next 20 years? I can go back and play any of the past Gran Turismo games, and sure some of you might say why would anyone do that, but as many fans have pointed out, some of the older Gran Turismo are “better” in some areas over the new ones. I personally feel that GT7 is a great return for the franchise (my review of GT7 says exactly that), but is it a game that will still be playable in 20-years or will it suffer the same fate of so many old online games where the servers eventually get shutdown to make way for the new? Who knows, but I, for one, hate the idea of it always being online and can’t see the provided reason as a good one to keep it that way.