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Football games are great on the pitch, but lacking everywhere else

OPINION: Nathan Irvine wants total immersion in soccer games

This article originally appeared in Xbox World magazine.

The two console games I've ploughed the most hours into over the last decade - without a doubt - are PES and FIFA. Lunch breaks, evenings and every spare weekend minute for the last ten years have been occupied with one of these football games and even won me the (ahem) 'prestigious' honour of PES Media Cup Champion '07.

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No two matches feel the same and there's always some drama that unfolds and sucks you into the moment - whether it's an against-all-odds last-minute victory or a heroic foul and red card to stop your opponent breaking one-on-one with the goalie, there's plenty of excitement. But all this joy comes from the multiplayer - and in all honesty, I find the single-player experiences as vacuous as a make-up-drenched WAG.

Over the past few games, EA and Konami have tweaked and tuned their charges to deliver decent career modes, but the on-pitch action is clearly the number one priority when it comes to changes. It's Player ID this and Total Ball Control that, and while it all helps to create a great game of football, the entertainment surrounding the world's most popular sport is sadly lacking.

ONE-MAN MISERY

Solo matches limp lifelessly from one game to another, and leave you feeling less involved than England's Stewart Downing at Euro 2012. You only have to watch Sky Sports News or Football Focus to see just how much off-field attention, analysis and stories are built around the sport before and after games. Even seeing pictures of families in the crowd clad proudly in their replica kits adds to a sense of occasion that just isn't captured by FIFA or PES.

But how to fix this solo problem? The solution, or the benchmark at least, is staring them in the face. Just look at US sports games. Madden, NBA 2K and MLB The Show are all great examples of an entertaining single-player experience that also captures the game day feel with ease.

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From visual treats like seeing fans dressed up in ludicrous costumes in Madden, to NBA 2K's bustling courtsides and TV presentation, through to The Show's player and coach interactions, the US sports games do an amazing job of creating buzz for the solo player.

Snippets of info about each baller in NBA 2K12 from the commentary team paints a superb picture of what their career has been like thus far, whereas FIFA trots out the same line for Gareth Bale as it would another fast player in League One. Yes, I know there are fewer players to concentrate on in basketball than football, but it can't be impossible.

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