Say you're a busy working mother with little time to find those ideal holiday gifts for your sports-minded, technologically enlightened family. Your needs are specific. When your husband isn't fishing for sports programs on cable, he's gleefully playing with his new multimedia computer. And when your kids aren't programming the VCR for Dad, they're mastering every known video game. So you must find the perfect sports video game/CD-ROM/accessory this Christmas, or you'll hear endless moaning and whining. And the kids will be disappointed too.
Fear not. Here is a guide to the best new electronic sports titles—great gifts for the techno-hip sports fan.
FIFA International Soccer ( Electronic Arts, $59.95). This outstanding soccer simulation is available for a number of different formats, including Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and PC CD-ROM, but it is the 3DO version that will have you lifting your jaw off the floor. This is simply the best sports video game ever made. Forget that you couldn't tell the difference between a sweeper and a broom if your Beckenbauer depended on it. The stunningly realistic 3-D graphics, the flawlessly engineered Dolby "surround sound" and the fast-paced game play will have you yelling Gooooo-al!
Slam City with Scottie Pippen (Digital Pictures, $59.95). A playground basketball game for the Sega CD and PC CD-ROM, Slam City is a cleverly stitched-together interactive movie. Instead of playing against animated characters, you make your moves with video footage of real players. By timing your responses to what is taking place on-screen, you can force a number of filmed outcomes: a basket, a slam, a rejection, etc. The real fun lies in the, uh, colorful and witty exchanges between players, which give this game a gritty urban feel.
Front Page Sports: Baseball '94 (Sierra On-Line, $59.95). For you poor, deprived baseball fans, here is a realistic and highly flexible game for the IBM PC, one that will never quit on you in the middle of an exciting season. Baseball '94 is a statistically sophisticated and graphically detailed simulation. You will be busy for hours as you figure out how low Greg Maddux's ERA might have been or how the Cleveland Indians really would have finished the season.
Batter Up (Sports Sciences, $69.99). For you poor, deprived baseball fans, here's a way to act out some childhood fantasies. Batter Up is an interactive baseball bat. That's right, this 24-inch foam-covered plastic bat hooks up to your Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo system and lets you take cuts against the teams of your choice. O.K., so this isn't true virtual reality: The bat doesn't sense swing speed or location, only timing. But you would be surprised at how well real-life batting principles hold true: You'll do better if you keep your eye on the ball and your head steady, and if you play in hitter-friendly parks with short rightfield porches.
NHL '95 ( Electronic Arts, $64.95). For you poor, deprived hockey fans, here's the best imitation of NHL action since the Hartford Whalers first took the ice more than 20 years ago. NHL '95, available for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo stems, re-creates every detail of :he NHL: players, teams, logos, even rink organ music. The game's controls are satisfyingly precise. You feel as though you are skating on the ice and taking part in the action, which is more than can be said for NHL players his season.
Live Action Football (Accolade, $69.95). This PC CD-ROM game is perfect for all you armchair Don Shulas. You send in plays from the sidelines and then watch a filmed outcome. Real players (on loan from the Arena Football League's Orlando Predators) were filmed as they ran dozens of plays for the game. These clips, along with play-by-play commentary from Al Michaels and Pat Haden, give this program the authentic look and sound of a network telecast. All it lacks are beer and car commercials.
Virtua Racing Deluxe ( Sega, $69.99). Racing simulations are a dime a dozen. What separates this Sega Genesis game 'from the pack are outstanding graphics, accelerated play and an adjustable driving perspective that allows you to manuever as you watch from either inside, behind or above your car. Note: To play you need Sega's new 32X hardware attachment for the Genesis, and that will set you back an additional $159.99. Air bags optional.