Just three days before Christmas, but there's no need to panic if you're without a gift for the 18- to 34-year-old male in your life. Luckily, that's the exact demographic group most likely to own and enjoy (perhaps too much) a video-game console like the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2 or Nintendo Gamecube.

What to buy? Here's a cheat sheet to help you select from four of this season's can't-miss titles.

speaks elvish and believes in the magical power of crystals...

Give: Fable, Lionhead Studios, Xbox ($50, Game Crazy, 8001 SE Powell Blvd., 771-5740, and other locations).

Every choice the gamer's character makes while wandering around the medieval world of Albion reverberates throughout the game. Want to join with the forces of evil and terrorize the villagers? Word of the character's nastiness will spread, causing children to run away and flies to buzz around his or her newly horned head. Want to throw down pints at the local tavern? The character will grow fat.

thinks it's safe to drive at double the posted speed limit...

Give: Burnout 3: Takedown, Electronic Arts, Xbox & PS2 ($50, Gamestop, Lloyd Center, 249-8672).

This isn't just another racing game--instead, it offers rewards for a commuter's standard road-rage fantasies, including driving against the flow of traffic, tailgating and near misses. With Burnout 3's blistering pace, players will wish for Clockwork Orange-style contraptions to keep from blinking.

wears team colors every

Sunday and understands the meaning of the phrase "strong-side off-tackle rush"...

Give: Madden NFL 2005, EA Sports, on Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube ($30, Fred Meyer, 100 NW 20th Ave., 721-4116, and other locations).

The longtime champion of sports games, this year's edition of the Madden franchise offers an absurd number of options to obsessive fans. In addition to the scores of offensive and defensive plays to choose from, Madden allows players to customize the frenzied crowds in the stands. Players can manage an entire season with a team--complete with waves of bad press, players grumbling about their contracts, and shifting team morale. And what would the game be without the endearing and bizarre pontifications of the esteemed Mr. Madden himself?

has a pulse...

Give: Halo 2, Microsoft, on Xbox ($50, CD Game Exchange, 1428 SE 36th St., 233-1708).

Just throw Halo 2 in anyone's gift basket, as this is about as good as a game gets. There's a reason this game is so popular that even the strategy guide sold almost as many copies the first day of its release as did Bill Clinton's memoir. The premise sounds lame--a super-soldier called Master Chief battling evil aliens--but perfectly smooth gameplay and incredible graphics make this a gamer's dream. Warning: With a new online multiplayer system bundled in, don't expect to see much of whomever you give this to for a long while.