Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bark: What did I tell you?

They pick the name first and then find a ludicrous way of making it into an acronym.

Bark: Second rate

I'm back at work after a long weekend up in Edinburgh. I was up there to watch the Scotland vs New Zealand match, and overall, I had a fantastic time, despite a few gripes. The biggest of these was the fact that Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, decided to rest 13 first team players for the match, because he wanted to be sure that the team that will face Italy this Saturday will be fully fit and prepared. While I can understand why he did it that, I do not approve.

I did not spend 14 hours on the motorway driving a 830 mile round-trip to see Scotland's 2nd team play the All Blacks. Especially after I'd paid FOUR TIMES the price of an equivalent ticket for the Scotland vs Romania game that was held the previous week... Considering that the All Blacks put out a practically full-strength side (just two changes), it seems a little disrespectful that Hadden didn't put out the first team - not just disrespectful to the opposition, but to the fee-paying public as well. I know a lot of people came out of that match feeling short-changed, because Scotland never had a hope of even making a decent test match out of it by fielding such a weak side. I at least wanted to see Scotland attempt to try and win, not just conduct an exercise in damage control. If I was one of Scotland's first string of players, I'd be pretty pissed off as well, because you don't get to the chance play against the best side in the world very often, so it was a missed opportunity for them, too.

New Zealand clearly weren't impressed with Scotland's team selection policy either and gave them the "We're really going to fuck you up" Kapa O Pango Haka. I'd never seen this one before, and even from the top of the South stand, we could hear them over the crowd. When you're standing ten metres away, it must be unsettling as hell. It definitely had an effect, because Scotland were absolutely GASH. It's not even a case of New Zealand making them look bad, because even the mighty All Blacks were having a bit of an off-day. They scored a few really beautiful tries, but the midfield was littered with handling errors - dropped balls, knock-ons, and the like. The New Zealand fly-half, Dan Carter, was having a bad day with the boot - he missed more kicks than he scored, but that was nothing compared to his opposite number, poor old Chris Paterson. Paterson had an absolute shocker: he fluffed an early drop-goal attempt and and it just got worse from thereon. He couldn't find touch to save his life and his distribution wasn't much better. It was a relief when he went off injured - I'd never been happier to see Dan Parks, and I think he's rubbish. Scotland never looked like scoring and the only consolation was that at least when South Africa shut out England, England were playing their first team...

I did enjoy the game (despite the 40-0 hammering) as Carter, Richie McCaw and Doug Howlett, three of my favourite players, all got on the scoresheet, but it wasn't half the test match it would have been if Scotland had put out a full-strength side. Still, the atmosphere was fantastic - everyone was really friendly and in good spirits. I've never been in such a small place with so many people in it (the attendance was just short of sixty-five thousand), but it didn't have any of that thinly-veiled atmosphere of menace you get with football crowds. Supporters from both sides mixed freely with each other and neutrals, and everyone seemed determined to have a good time. After the match when everyone was walking back into town, rugby balls were being pinged about, twenty to thirty feet in the air, across roads, bouncing off walls, cars and coaches, to the soundtrack of cheers - or boos when a kick was particularly wayward and ended up on a roof or in a tree. Most of the locals seemed to be in the spirit of things, except for one especially dour Edinburgh matron, who was distinctly unimpressed when a rugby ball landed on the top of her car. She immediately got out, pouted like a supermodel sucking a lemon, and looked around indignantly for a few seconds before climbing back in the car, getting out her mobile phone and dialing 999... as I walked past her car I read her lips and saw that she was asking for the police. Like they were going to be interested or would be able to do anything about it.

"So, it was someone wearing a New Zealand shirt? Well, that narrows it down. To about 40,000 people..."

There was also some time for some sightseeing on the Saturday before the match, so I took Eugenie (my girlfriend's cousin) and Seb (her boyfriend) on a Project Gotham Racing 2 tour of Edinburgh. Unfortunately, they've closed off Princes Street to everything but taxis and buses, so we couldn't take the car to try and beat any lap times, but we had fun looking around the city, which is rather nice - it was my first (non-virtual) visit to Edinburgh. The farmers market they had was brilliant - I had my first buffalo burger there, and it was TASTY. Seb and I also tried the wild boar burgers as well; two burgers in the space of 100 yards might seem excessive for some, but these things have to be done, you know...

Finally, BIG THANKS to Keza, Alex and Steve for putting us up (and putting up with my snoring, which Alex generously described as "adorable" - I think he might have been being ironic. Possibly...) - we had a great time, especially with the four-player Bomberman and Meteos sessions. Also, thanks to Keza and Alex's inspiration, my Animal Crossing town tune is now the opening few bars of the Robocop theme. How awesome is that, eh? SUPER-AWESOME.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bark: The Internet Quiz I've Always Wanted

The could you be a cult leader Test:


You scored: 57 charisma, 58 lunacy, 54 narcissism

How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 99% on charisma

You scored higher than 99% on lunacy

You scored higher than 99% on narcissism

You like yourself very much, but you are neither crazy enough, nor charismatic enough, to start your own cult.


Byte: Stephen Fry shows the blogsphere how it's done...

As my friend Keza said when I linked her to this: JEEPING FECK!

This may well have set a world record for the longest (and most painstakingly researched) blog post ever. If the sheer length wasn't daunting enough, the really scary thing is that he's undoubtedly bought every single one of the devices he mentions in the post...

Keep up the good work, Stephen. I approve!

Byte: All things being equal, I'd rather be playing on 2Forts....

After spending another couple of hours on Team Fortress 2 last night, yeah, I can see what all the fuss was about. I'm still painfully rubbish, but I am still learning all the maps, and I think I'm suffering from being too much of a games generalist: I've not played an online shooter for such a long time I've forgotten the dark arts of pulling off lag shots. No doubt things will improve after I've spent a bit more time online and learnt the ins and outs of each class.

I'm mainly playing as Soldiers or Heavies at the moment, as they're the two classes that are really working for me so far. I haven't tried Engineer at all yet, and only had the briefest of flirtations with the Scout and Medic classes. I found playing as a Spy last night really quite tricky, and the hit range of the dagger when you're trying to do a backstab seems really flaky (I say "trying" because I've failed miserably so far in that respect). The Demoman seems like quite a useful class. I did a fair bit of damage last night around choke points with the grenade launcher, but on the more open parts of maps they're pretty useless from what I've seen so far. The Sniper Class really isn't working for me at the moment. I really don't know how people are hitting anything. I'm doing more damage with their SMG than the scoped rifle, and that's just plain wrong. And there always seems to be a Spy lurking around the good sniper spots, just waiting to give you a knife in the back of the head. Though that's not really a surprise - just good tactics. I think I need to play about with my mouse sensitivity or something, because I'm finding the sniper scope just terrible - slow, laggy and the less said about the reload rate, the better...

*bang!* ... Okay, I'll just go and grab a beer from the fridge and make a four course dinner while you reload, shall I?

I'm also a little frustrated with the Pyro. As cool as it is to hear enemies screaming "I'm on fire! I'm on fire, people!" in terms of actual damage dealing, the Pyro's absolutely fucking useless unless you're within about three feet of the guy you're trying to kill. I had one encounter with a Demoman last night, where I ambushed him above a control point, set him alight, and we did about 30 seconds of circle strafing where he still managed to kill me before the flame damage did him in. Pyros are definitely best employed as ambush predators, because as one-on-one combatants, they're worse than useless.

This is why I've been playing mainly with the Soldier and Heavy classes, because you know where you stand with a big fucking minigun or rocket launcher. Well, you do, don't you? As I've been playing on public servers thus far, there's not really been much evidence of teamwork going on, which also makes things difficult when you're playing a game based on teamwork and mutual support. It's still a hell of a lot of fun, of course, especially because the map design is excellent and the overall aesthetic of the game is just so brilliantly over the top. "Pixar does The Dirty Dozen" isn't far wide of the mark, I think. This will be eating a lot of time away from WoW in the coming weeks, I feel.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Byte: Let's Get Steamy

Add me to your Steam friends list, and help me boost my pathetic TF2 stats... And if anyone knows of a decent TF2 server that doesn't lag like a bitch, please let me know where to find it.

Byte: Team Fortress 2 Beta

I only got about an hour in on TF2 last night, because I had to let it finish downloading for most of the evening, and I have to say it's really rather good. Unfortunately - for the moment, at least - I completely suck at it; mainly because I haven't learnt the maps and aren't used to the playing style of most of the classes yet, but I was languishing in the bottom third of public server I was playing on last night.

I'm learning to really hate the Spy class already, as it seems to be ridiculously overpowered. I'm going to coin a new term to describe people who just spam the Spy class: CAD-whore (the 'CAD' standing for Cloak-And-Dagger, naturally). The Spy's backstab is seemingly an insta-kill regardless of what class you're playing (for example being a Heavy with 450 health when you're being supercharged by a Medic, yet being killed in one hit by a cloaked Spy is super-mega-annoying) - it's worse than getting your head taken off by a Sniper on the other side of the map, which actually doesn't happen so much - mainly because the people who would normally play as Snipers are playing Spies instead, and also because the sniper rifle is so hideously laggy (at least on the server I was playing on last night) and the reload rate is so slow you barely have a hope of hitting anything anyway...

The Pyro would be fun if you didn't have to be standing right next to someone to do them any serious damage at all - by which point they've either hit you over the head with a wrench or (inevitably) backstabbed you because there was a cloaked Spy you couldn't see hiding behind a corner. I didn't play as an Engineer or a Scout, as I spent most of the time playing as a Soldier or Heavy. I had most success with the Soldier, though I didn't quite master the rocket jump... The map design looks pretty good, but I do have to be convinced by some of the class balancing - it kind of goes against the grain that you can bring a knife to a gun fight and consistently win. I'm also mildly concerned by some of the reload and fire rates of the weapons, though maybe that just could have been the lag. One thing I really don't like, however, is weapon switching using the mouse wheel. Needing to use a confirming left-click to switch weapons when you're in the middle of a hectic mêlée can make the difference between you living and being killed. Especially if you don't want to (or can't) take your fingers off the WASD movement keys to use the keyboard shortcut instead. Also, I'm not sure whether it was just the server I was on, but I had a few concerns with bugs. Some of the clipping is a bit suspect, and I got caught on a few edges here and there which made the lag jump through the roof, and once I got stuck to the front of a passing train (which should have killed me instantly) and it took the server about 45 seconds to decide I had actually been hit and should be dead. By the time it made up its mind, we'd gone into Overtime and I couldn't respawn. Annoying. Still, I guess it is a Beta and I should play on a few different servers before coming to any real conclusions, but it does look like it's going to be a hit, even if there are a few glitches. I'm going to play it a bit more in the coming evenings, and I'll give you some more thoughts as I have them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Byte: Your order has been posted

I logged into MSN this morning and it said I had mail - so I give it a quick check. Oh. Super Paper Mario for Wii. In the post. I'd forgotten about that. /dance

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Byte: A novel interviewing technique

Doing my daily morning round up of the big games websites this morning when this caught my eye.
The tag line on the front page was "On Hellgate, Diablo and Lewisham." and I immediately thought, "oh, I know who wrote this." before I even clicked on the link.

Sure enough, it was Ellie from Gamesindustry.biz. I've had the pleasure of meeting Ellie a couple of times on jollies to Normandy and Leipzig last year, and she's a real games journalist's games journalist: knowledgeable, charming and a thoroughly nice person, plus a talented writer, to boot. The article comments are rather amusing - mainly because most of the people don't know that Ellie is from Lewisham, which is why she rather gratuitously puts in references to it in any article where she can conceivably get away with it (and even a few where she can't).

I love the reaction from the guy from Flagship when asked about a Lewisham expansion pack: "We'd love to go down there." Clearly, he's never been to Lewisham...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bark: A constant surprise

It doesn't matter how long you've known a particular person - sometimes they will just turn around and react to something in a way that's completely contrary to how you expect.

When I picked her up from work this evening, I told my girlfriend that I was planning on going to the party this weekend as a ninja and that I'd bought a katana, fully expecting her to go nuts, and the first thing she asks is whether we can actually mount the sword on the wall over the desk instead of the photo of New York and the Brooklyn Bridge that I have there currently. Didn't bat an eyelid...

Bark: Ph43r!

A minor disaster with my party plans - the ninja suit I ordered earlier turned out to be out of stock! Aieee!

So I did another hunt, and found this instead.


Bark: I cut you!

Pardon the gratuitous Deus Ex quote, but I am now officially a ninja-in-training.

One of Fleur's colleagues is having a house-warming party next Saturday, and the theme is that you have to go as a country. These kind of things fill me with all sorts of fear. You never really know how much effort people are going to make when there's a stupid little fancy dress theme like this. For one of the Foundation Institutes I had when I joined IBM, we had a James Bond night. Of course, only about three people actually went in fancy dress (me being one of them - I had a whole night ops suit, along with BB sidearm - the P228; not actually a weapon Bond has ever used, but most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between that and the new Walther he uses in Tomorrow Never Dies anyway) - everyone else turned up in tuxedos... Annoyingly, I didn't even win one of the fancy dress prizes - that went to the guy who dressed up as an Aston Martin DB5 (basically he cobbled together a few cardboard boxes and drew a very bad outline of an Aston on it - it was rubbish). Bloody favouritism, I say.

Anyway, I was thinking about what the heck I would go to this party as, when I had a bit of a brainstorm. I didn't want to do anything boring and go as Scotland or France - I wanted to be a little bit more imaginative than that. I know I've probably watched Seven Samurai and Zatôichi too many times, but I do love Japanese culture, so I thought it would be cool to go as a ninja. I mean, how much more Japanese can you get?

Of course, I don't just have a ninja outfit in my wardrobe, but this is what we have eBay for... Not only that, there's a shop in Farnborough in Queensmead that sells ornamental medieval weapons, and they've got quite an amazingly good selection of katanas. So off I trot at lunchtime and pick up a 110cm black katana, which even has a darkened ninja-style blade. Fleur will have a fit, but it's going to look great on the wall above my PC, as we've got a little Japanese corner there around the desk - and they're seriously beautiful things. I've been after one for ages, anyway, so this party was just the excuse I needed to go out and buy one. I drew the line at considering the no-dachi they had, because it was absolutely immense - it made a Highland Claymore look small. Some of their other stuff was really nice though - when we move to a bigger place (sometime in the next millennium or so), I may have to start a collection.

I will certainly make a splash at the party on Saturday, anyway. Assuming the ninja costume arrives in time. Otherwise a may have to go wearing my Obi-Wan Kimono instead. Which may not be pretty... especially if I get pulled over by the cops on the way to the party. Gulp.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bark: Here come The Fuzz!

I finally got around to watching Hot Fuzz last night.

When I saw the trailer back at the beginning of the year, I thought that it had a pretty equal chance of either being utterly rubbish or seriously good. Of course, my girlfriend didn't want to go and see it, so I decided to put it on our DVD rental list. I'm glad I did, because it's absolutely brilliant. I never was a really big fan of Spaced or Simon Pegg's other stuff, but the central conceit at the heart of Hot Fuzz really struck me as being rather interesting. Not to mention that the supporting cast is absolutely superb - Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Paul Freeman, Olivia Colman, Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, the inimitable Bill Bailey - even an uncredited (and unrecognisable) Cate Blanchett.

It's a singularly British film, though it's wonderfully referential of a multitude of American action films (there's a particularly good homage to a climatic scene in Point Break towards the end). The shootout in the town centre is brilliantly staged. Perhaps not quite on a par with a Michael Mann (well, nowhere close, really) but nicely done nonetheless. There are some great gags and fabulous one-liners as well - my favourite line is from Reverend Shooter (no, really) in the shootout in the town square: "Oh, fuck off, grasshopper!"

There are some nice special features on the disc, too - particularly the outtakes (Timothy Dalton's one is an absolute peach) and "Hot Funk" TV version of the scenes where they've overdubbed the swearing with pre-watershed euphemisms - "You cheeky funster!"

I'll have to put Shaun of the Dead on my rent list now, to see how it compares - even though I've never really been much of a fan of the horror film genre.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Byte: Best Game Review Ever

Consolevania's review of Oblivion.

Warning: May be unsuitable for some audiences due to strong language and even stronger Scottish accents.

Bark: Crime and Rehabilitation

Yet another reason why Norway is awesome.
"Convicts at a remote Norwegian prison are striving to save the planet while serving time. From its peaceful island location, lapped by fjord waters, the Bastoey prison aims to become a beacon for environmentally friendly incarceration. Inmates at the minimum-security facility have been recycling their rubbish and installing solar panels to shrink their carbon footprint."
Of course, this kind of thing would never work in the UK, where the prevalent attitude towards criminals is "lock 'em up and throw away the key".

I seriously doubt you'd get quotes like this from a UK Prison Officer:
Some prisoners at Bastoey have been unwilling to leave at the end of their sentences, Ms Smith says. "Their sentences might have been reduced for good behaviour - but they will then apply to serve their full sentence, so they can stay at Bastoey. It's usually when they have no one waiting for them outside, nothing to look forward to."
A prison where the inmates would rather stay inside than return to the community? Add to that a low re-offending rate, cheaper running costs and that sounds like a prison where they're doing something right.

I think I need to find a night-class in Norwegian very soon...

Byte: Some people just can't take a hint

I spent a couple of hours in Netherstorm last night, soloing a half a dozen or so quests to raise some much-needed cash for my epic flying mount fund. I'm quite happily bashing elementals and Blood Elves when I get a whisper from one of the chaps on my Friends list. He's a mid-60s level Rogue who I met once in Zangarmarsh when I was grinding Primal Life to make a Living Crystal Breastplate for my healing gear, and I helped him out getting some Unidentified Plant Parts to kick start his reputation grind with the Cenarion Expedition, and suddenly it appears I'm his best friend for life.

I say this because on the basis of less than an hour's play together, he thinks we're such best buddies that I'll "lend" him 130 gold to buy his epic (non-flying) mount. Yeah, right, thinks I. Fools and their money and all that. So I politely suggest that he'd get a better sense of satisfaction if he got the money for himself. After all, raising a hundred gold in Outland is a matter of a few hours work.

"But I'm sick of grinding" he says. I remain profoundly unmoved. That's his fault for grinding so much. So I say, "sorry, but I'm not exactly rolling in cash here myself" - I've got less than 1000 gold and I need every copper I've got for my epic flying mount, because I've still got another 4150 gold to raise. Somehow.

"Pliz, pliz[sic] trust me, you'll get it back in a couple of days" he replies, and I'm starting to get annoyed. I explain to him that I'm firstly not an idiot who gives out large sums of cash to almost complete strangers and that secondly I'm a highly cynical person - I have absolutely no faith that if I ever send that money that I'd ever get it back. Now, if it was someone I'd been playing with for the last two years, or one my guild mates, I wouldn't have had any qualms - I might even have given it without the expectation of getting it back - but giving 130 gold to someone on the basis I've played with them once? No fucking way.

For the next ten minutes this to-and-fro keeps going on. He's using the tried and tested Bart and Lisa Simpson "canwehaveapooldadcanwehaveapooldadcanwehaveapooldad?" technique of pestering repeatedly until the person caves out of sheer exasperation. But I'm no Homer. Despite what the size of my beer gut might lead you to believe... I'm really starting to get pissed off now. So I say "I'm not known for changing my mind. So stop asking. Please." as I'm still trying to at least maintain a polite facade. But does he take the hint and change the subject? Of course not.

This has been going on for nearly half an hour now, and he's still battering away. As most people who remotely know me by now will know, I'm not a person overly-endowed in the patience department. So I give him one final warning. "Dude. If you ask me again, I will put you on ignore."

"Heh, sorry, LOL" he says, and I think maybe I've finally gotten through to him.
"Can you lend me 30g?" Oh my. Welcome to Ignoresville, population you.

IGNORED. TAKEN OFF FRIENDS LIST. I continue my evening's questing in blessed peace and quiet. Hell may be other people, but at least in World of Warcraft you can filter them out...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bark: The Tyranny of Freedom

A judge denounced the National DNA Database as "indefensible" today. Only his solution wasn't to get rid of it. No, he thinks we should add EVERYONE IN THE UK to it. Including visitors to the country.

I'm appalled on two levels here. Firstly on a technical level - a database with 65 MILLION people on it, plus goodness knows how many transients there are going through the country each year... I wouldn't like to be the IT Architect speccing out that system. The hardware alone is going to be in seven figures, never mind how much the cost of simply maintaining the system would be. And given the record of most government IT projects (we all know how well the ID card scheme is going and how brilliantly the NHS database was implemented...), I wouldn't expect this one to come in on time or on budget, either. And I'm sure it's a few billion quid that could be spent much better elsewhere. Like blowing up civilians in Afghanistan. No, damn, I meant HOSPITALS or SCHOOLS. You know, things that actually contribute something useful to society.

Secondly, I'm also appalled because it completely tramples on any notion of personal liberty. I resented enough having my fingerprints taken when I visited Seattle last year for a three day press trip - imagine having your entire DNA profile being stored permanently on a database because you fancied going on a booze cruise to Calais. (Think of the wonders that would do for our tourist industry!) This is information that holds absolutely everything about you. Your propensity to disease, obesity, your racial group, who you are related to, where your ancestors came from... if we were to get existential about this, you could say that your DNA is the physical manifestation of your soul. Not that I believe in the concept of a soul (immortal or otherwise), but you get the point - your DNA profile is capable of telling you things about yourself that even you don't know. And hence, this is exceptionally valuable information - particularly to people like insurance companies, because they can use it to refuse to give you life insurance policies, if your profile shows you have a family history of heart disease or things like Huntingdon's or Alzheimer's, just as one example.

Imagine going into a bank and asking for a mortgage and being turned down because the mortgage advisor says "Oh, sorry, according to your DNA profile you're at a high risk of getting heart disease, so you probably won't live long enough to pay back the loan." People in the Government can talk all they like about the security of these kinds of databases, but that's no guarantee against some smartass lawyer working for a big multinational bank or insurance group using a loophole in the Freedom of Information Act to get hold of the data. Or someone hacking it and then hawking the data to the highest bidder.

Never mind the (im)practicalities of creating a database that big in the first place (how much would a national screening program to collect all those 65 million samples cost?) - if this kind of system was implemented, it is inevitable that the information would get into the public domain, by hook or by crook. And when you put that information into the hands of corporations, and you're looking at a world with a genetic underclass - where people aren't able to procure healthcare, insurance or credit on the basis of their genetic makeup...

Yet the arguments for this kind of utterly authoritarian action seem so reasonable (if you're a moron). "The system is indefensibly unfair as it is! So let's violate EVERYBODY'S privacy instead!" Yes! Of course! Treating EVERYONE like a criminal is the solution to everything! "Most people don't commit crime, so they don't think they have anything to worry about being on it." This just proves that "most people" don't need to be on the database at all. It also proves, if they truly think that and it's not simply political spin, "most people" are imbeciles and that you shouldn't listen to "most people", let alone decide policy around what they think. "Most people" are too blindly ignorant to think through the implications of most of their own actions, let alone what the government or judiciary do. I guess this is still why they have faith in human nature... Having everyone on the database will act as a deterrent. What, a deterrent to all those "most people" who wouldn't commit crime anyway?

The rest of the arguments are similarly specious - especially the one proposed by the Police Inspector on FiveLive this morning who said "if a child had been raped in your neighbourhood, wouldn't you want to give a DNA sample to eliminate yourself from the enquiry?" Way to play the moral and emotional blackmail card, guy! If you're against the DNA database, you must be a CHILD RAPIST! No, I just don't like living in a police state, thanks.

If the government is ever stupid enough to think that this might be a good idea, I'm booking my plane tickets out of the country and never coming back.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Byte: Teabagging

After watching this, I'm never drinking tea ever, ever again...

Byte: Twenty-Four

No, nothing to do with Jack Bauer... I am referring to how many hours it took me to get another heroic (ex-)government agent to save the world.

Yes, after no less than seven years, I've finally gotten around to finishing Deus Ex. Now I remember why I usually never, ever complete games. Oddly anti-climatic is probably the best way I can describe it. I chose the Helios "Benevolent Dictator" ending, because a) that's the way I'd be naturally inclined anyway, if I were J.C. and b) because it's considerably quicker and less annoying than the other two endings.

It does take some chops to end a game with a cutscene and quote Voltaire at you, but it was a curiously open ending. I didn't replay the whole thing - I dug out four year old save game in the MJ12 Ocean Lab and replayed the last couple of levels on Sunday night. The end game turned out to be fairly ridiculously easy, partly due to me using the experience point exploit if you talk to Gary Savage with a full inventory after you destroy the Universal Constructor in the bottom of the Ocean Lab to boost all my combat skills from Advanced to Master, but mainly because I'd spent the whole game hoarding high explosives. Large Karkians? No problem: LAM trap! Huge SpiderBot or Patrol Droid? Have a GEP Rocket! Walton Simons? Eat 20mm Explosive Assault Rifle Grenade! With that and the Ballistic Shield and Regeneration mods, I pretty much strolled through the last hour or two of the game with nary a scratch.

Still, at least it's one less game I have to feel guilty about not finishing. And it does have one of the best lines in a game, ever:

"I spill my drink!"