‘Day Off’ means something very different once you become an adult – it may be exactly what it sounds like when you’re a kid, but pass into your second decade and it becomes the twenty-four hour period when you try to do all your grocery shopping, get the car fixed, and maybe have dinner at your family’s house if you don’t succumb to exhaustion before 7:00pm. That is, of course, unless you’re a professional basketball player, in which case your days off are full of multi-million dollar Gatorade endorsements and golf tournaments hosted by Michael Jordan. In the new Off Days Simulation, you get to decide how your basketball star avatar spends his every waking moment, but with better options than a Netflix marathon or falling asleep in a pile of laundry.
A new addition to the series-standard MyCareer mode, Off Days lets you decide how your character is going to spend the 80 days that fall between games, giving you the option to ramp up their career even when they’re nowhere near a court. Your down-time options fall into three different categories – live practice, connections, and endorsements. On any given Off Day, you can choose to hit the practice gym, meet and make new connections with people in the business, or make sponsorship deals and improve your visibility.
In addition to vicariously fulfilling all your professional sports dreams, each category of Off Days comes with its own set of rewards for completing a task: practice boosts your avatar’s attributes and earns upgrade slots to make them a stronger player; connections net special prizes (and new connections as your avatar meets friends of friends); and endorsements put cold hard cash in their digital hands.
Veteran players will recognize practice and endorsements as series tentpoles, and in 2K16 they serve familiar functions. However, both have been expanded for 2K16 – practice mode has been randomized (will your player learn the same drill as last time, or pick up a new trick and meet Lenny Wilkins in the same day?) and you’ll have several times as many endorsement deals to choose from.
Connections, meanwhile, is an entirely new addition to MyCareer, and falls in the gap between human-focused practice and commercial endorsements. A day spent making connections is a day spent meeting celebrities, hanging out with friends, or bonding with teammates and fans, all of which come with their own unique bonuses. The prizes you get when you devote time to your connections vary widely, from signed jerseys and court packages, to improved team chemistry and tens of thousands of new fans.
Connections is easily the most complex of the three categories as a result, but it’s also the most mysterious, and it remains to be seen how much of an effect it will have on the game outside cosmetic upgrades (not that there’s anything wrong with cosmetic upgrades – that glow-in-the-dark backboard looks sick).
Overall, it’s uncertain how much the Off Days simulation (and the changes it brings to some otherwise familiar modes) will affect the feel of the game overall. There’s no playable demo currently available, and even if there was, these changes will be too widespread to appreciate in a short playthrough if they’re as advanced as 2K has suggested. However, they definitely fall in line with the 2K team’s focus on building a bigger, richer game this time around, and that’s a good indicator that they won’t feel tacked on.