Marvel's Avengers (video game)

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Marvel's Avengers
Avengers 2020 cover art.png
Developer(s)Crystal Dynamics[a]
Publisher(s)Square Enix
Director(s)Shaun Escayg
Morgan W. Gray
Producer(s)Rose Hunt
Designer(s)Michael Brinker
Philippe Therien
Patrick Connor
Programmer(s)Scott Kortz
James Loe
Artist(s)Brenoch Adams
Josh Bapst
Writer(s)Shaun Escayg
John Stafford
Nicole Martinez
Marek Walton
Hannah MacLeod
Composer(s)Bobby Tahouri[1]
Platform(s)
Release
  • Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia
  • September 4, 2020[b]
  • Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5
  • March 18, 2021
Genre(s)Action-adventure, role-playing game, beat 'em up
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Marvel's Avengers is a 2020 action role-playing brawler video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix's European subsidiary. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, the game is mainly inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe's iteration of the group, but also incorporates elements from the team's long-running comic book mythology. The plot follows Inhuman teenager Kamala Khan, who gains superpowers during A-Day, a celebratory day for the Avengers, which ends in tragedy following a terrorist attack. Blamed for the disaster, the Avengers disband, and allow science corporation A.I.M. to take their place. Five years later, when A.I.M. threatens to eliminate all Inhuman individuals, Kamala embarks on a quest to reassemble Earth's Mightiest Heroes to combat this new enemy.

The game is played from a third-person perspective and has both single-player and multiplayer modes; it features an online co-op mode, allowing players to assemble a team of heroes of their own. The initial roster consisted of Steve Rogers / Captain America, Tony Stark / Iron Man, Bruce Banner / Hulk, Thor, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, and Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel, with more characters being added in free post-launch updates, which also added story expansions and new regions to be explored. Each hero possess a variety of costume customization features, as well as the capacity to upgrade their powers and abilities using a skill tree.

Marvel's Avengers was released for Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia on September 4, 2020. The game received mixed reviews upon release, with critics praising its combat and story, but criticizing its repetition, lack of substantial content, user interface, and technical issues. It was also released on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on March 18, 2021, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players being able to upgrade to the next-gen version for free.

Gameplay[edit]

Marvel's Avengers is a third-person, action-adventure game that combines an original, cinematic story with single-player and co-operative gameplay. The game features a unique combat system chaining attacks, dodges, abilities, skills and elements to succeed a combat phase. The game can be played offline as a single-player experience or online with up to four people during certain aspects of the game.[2] The game will feature customization options including abilities and costumes, which can be upgraded using a skill tree. Costumes have been sourced from "all corners of the Marvel universe" and can be earned in-game or bought separately as DLC.[3][4] Players will also be able to receive free updates containing new regions and characters.[5]

Synopsis[edit]

Characters[edit]

Marvel's Avengers features a roster of characters drawn from the Marvel Universe, including multiple playable heroes. The initial roster consists of Steve Rogers / Captain America (Jeff Schine), Tony Stark / Iron Man (Nolan North), Thor (Travis Willingham), Bruce Banner / Hulk (Troy Baker / Darin De Paul), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Laura Bailey),[6] and Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel (Sandra Saad).[7][8] Following the game's initial release, more superheroes were made available via free DLC, including Kate Bishop / Hawkeye II (Ashly Burch), added in December 2020;[9][10][11] Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Giacomo Gianniotti), added in March 2021; T'Challa / Black Panther (Christopher Judge), to be added in August 2021;[12] and Peter Parker / Spider-Man sometime in 2021.[13]

Non-playable characters in the game include Hank Pym (Danny Jacobs),[14] Phil Sheldon (Walter Gray IV),[15] J.A.R.V.I.S. (Harry Hadden-Paton),[16] Nick Fury (Charles Parnell), Maria Hill (Jennifer Hale),[17] Dum Dum Dugan,[18] Jimmy Woo (Aleks Le),[19] Dante Pertuz (Michael Johnston), Cerise (Cherry Thompson),[20] Shuri (Erica Luttrell), Okoye (Debra Wilson), and Zawavari (Dave Fennoy). Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), headed by George Tarleton / MODOK (Usman Ally)[21][22] and Monica Rappaccini / Scientist Supreme (Jolene Andersen),[23][24] as well as several other enemies, including Emil Blonsky / Abomination (Jamieson Price),[25] Tony Masters / Taskmaster (Walter Gray IV),[26] and Loki (Travis Willingham). The game's DLC missions introduce more villains, namely the Super-Adaptoid,[27] Lyle Getz, Maestro (Darin De Paul), and Ulysses Klaue / Klaw (Steve Blum).[28]

Plot[edit]

On A-Day, five members of the AvengersCaptain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Hulk — celebrate the unveiling of a second headquarters in San Francisco and their own Helicarrier, the Chimera, powered by a Terrigen Crystal. However, the ceremony is interrupted by a terrorist attack led by Taskmaster, resulting in most of San Francisco and the Chimera being destroyed and Captain America's apparent death. The Terrigen Crystal's destruction also produces Terrigen Mist, which turns countless people into Inhumans. Blamed for the tragedy, the Avengers disband.

Five years later, superheroes have been outlawed while a science-based corporation called A.I.M., led by former Avengers scientist George Tarleton, takes the Avengers' place in society. They establish a virtual police state in the country, promising to find a cure for what is dubbed the "Inhuman Disease". At her home in Jersey City, teenage Inhuman Kamala Khan discovers damaged video footage apparently revealing Tarleton locking Captain America in the reactor room before it exploded. She is soon contacted by "Tiny Dancer", a member of a Resistance movement against A.I.M., who warns her that A.I.M. has tracked her down. She attempts to meet Tiny Dancer at Heroes Park, but is captured by A.I.M. scientist Monica Rappaccini and brought to Tarleton, who was mutated following his exposure to the Terrigen Mist. Tarleton and Rappaccini try to convince her that A.I.M. wants to help her understand and control her Inhuman abilities, but Kamala escapes and makes her way to Utah to find the Resistance.

Kamala's search brings her to the Chimera's hidden wreckage, in which she finds Hulk, who attacks her before reverting back into Bruce Banner. She shows him the footage and eventually convinces him to assist her in proving the Avengers' innocence despite his reluctance. Traveling to a former S.H.I.E.L.D. compound to retrieve J.A.R.V.I.S., the two are confronted by A.I.M. and one of their operatives, the Abomination. Hulk defeats him before he and Kamala return to the Chimera to reactivate J.A.R.V.I.S. and set out to reunite the Avengers, starting with Tony Stark. While they find Stark at his family estate, he is reluctant to help as Banner's testimony of A-Day incriminated the Avengers. Upon learning of Kamala's evidence, Stark agrees to join them and works to restore the Chimera.

Amidst their search for parts to help him, Kamala and Banner stumble upon the Ant Hill, an Inhuman sanctuary and the Resistance's headquarters run by Dr. Hank Pym. While assisting them, Kamala disobeys orders and attempts to raid an A.I.M. prison on her own to rescue Inhumans, but is captured. While in custody, she learns Rappaccini's efforts to make an Inhuman cure were unsuccessful, leading Tarleton to prioritize the manufacturing of Adaptoids. Having worked undercover within A.I.M., Romanoff infiltrates the facility, captures Rappaccini, and frees Kamala, revealing she is Tiny Dancer. Banner attempts to interrogate Rappaccini about the Adaptoid lab's whereabouts, but she resists before A.I.M. forces attack the Chimera and retrieve her. Witnessing the attack, Thor intervenes and rejoins the Avengers. However, J.A.R.V.I.S. restores the footage, which shows Captain America ordering Tarleton to seal him inside so he can destroy the reactor, apparently causing the explosion. Believing A-Day really was their fault, the Avengers fragment.

While reviewing the interrogation, Kamala realizes A.I.M.'s Adaptoid lab is on their satellite and relays this information to the Avengers, rallying them with a heartfelt speech. Stark upgrades his suit to achieve space travel and infiltrate the satellite, where he discovers Rappaccini put Captain America in suspended animation so she could harvest his blood and use it to power the Adaptoids and covertly accelerate Tarleton's mutation. Thor helps his fellow Avengers escape, during which Captain America reveals he destroyed the reactor because it was unearthing something underneath the bay that threatened to destabilize the San Andreas Fault and destroy California. Meanwhile, Tarleton discovers what Rappaccini has done to him and seemingly kills her.

Reassembled, the Avengers deduce Rappaccini hired Taskmaster to hijack the Chimera and steal the Terrigen Crystal, which unearthed the unknown object. They soon learn that Tarleton, now calling himself "MODOK", plans to exterminate Inhumans around the world, including himself afterwards. The Avengers storm his San Francisco fortress, but MODOK activates the buried object in the bay — a massive Kree Sentry — and overpowers them. Kamala grows to giant size and destroys it, sending MODOK falling into the bay. With the Avengers reunited and MODOK defeated, Kamala returns home and rejoins her father, who secretly allows her to join the Avengers.

In a mid-credits scene, a still-living Rappaccini becomes A.I.M.'s new Scientist Supreme, while the Kree Sentry launches a pod into space.

In a post-credits scene, Maria Hill informs the Avengers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has discovered A.I.M.'s activities. Upon completion of the "Reigning Supreme" campaign, a cutscene shows Kamala being officially named an Avenger.

Story Expansions[edit]

The following are expansions to the video game:

Taking A.I.M.[edit]

After a series of tachyon storms occur across the world, the Avengers investigate and discover their relation to A.I.M.'s experiments. Whilst investigating an A.I.M. facility, they encounter Kate Bishop, Hawkeye's protégé and former Avenger-in-training. Meeting with her at a S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost, the Avengers learn that Hawkeye had been captured by A.I.M. while investigating Nick Fury's disappearance and its relation to the tachyon storms. Capturing A.I.M. scientist Lyle Getz, they interrogate him and learn that Rappaccini is attempting to master time travel. After Captain America offers her a chance to join the Avengers, Kate leads the team on a raid, during which they discover Rappaccini is in contact with a future version of herself and that Hawkeye is apparently working with her.

Consulting Pym, the Avengers agree to travel back in time to rescue Hawkeye and end Rappaccini's experiments before they tear reality apart. With help from the Resistance, they construct their own time gate and go back to before Hawkeye initially went through A.I.M.'s portal and rescue him, whereupon he reveals that he was attempting to contact Fury, who is with the future Rappaccini, and that they are working together to avert a future apocalypse. Agreeing to let Hawkeye travel to the future, the Avengers return to the present to ensure he succeeds and take control of Rappaccini's time gate after defeating a Super-Adaptoid created by her future self. Once Hawkeye returns to the present, Kate destroys the gateway, and agrees to join the Avengers as a full-time member.

While debriefing the Avengers, Hawkeye reveals that Rappaccini was trying to thwart a Kree invasion with Fury's help. After the latter realized the battle was a lost cause, he sent Hawkeye to the past to prepare the Avengers for the invasion before it occurs. Before he can tell the Avengers more, Hawkeye suddenly falls unconscious due to the effects of time travel.

Future Imperfect[edit]

Several weeks after falling into a coma, Hawkeye has a dream about his future self searching for Fury and coming across a time gate built by Pym. Hawkeye then suddenly awakens and formally rejoins the Avengers as they resume their mission to save the future. Hawkeye goes to his home in Brooklyn to retrieve an important package, only to find that most of his belongings have been stolen by the Watchdogs, A.I.M.'s hired guns, to lure Hawkeye into a trap and capture him. The Avengers manage to recover Hawkeye's belongings before meeting with Pym at a S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost. Hawkeye gives him a SIM card to analyze, discovering it contains information about tachyons' ability to alter time.

Pym modifies a Quinjet to travel through time so that the Avengers can go to the future and find Fury. As Hawkeye leads the Avengers in their search, they encounter a group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents besieged by A.I.M. robots and save them. Learning the robots serve someone called the "Supreme Leader", the Avengers avoid them as they make their way to another S.H.I.E.L.D. hideout. There, they try to put together the clues they collected to locate Fury, but are forced to fend off an attack by the future Taskmaster. After defeating his troop, the future Hawkeye appears and offers to help the present-day Avengers change the future out of guilt for refusing to help when the Kree invasion happened and inadvertently allowing the other Avengers to be killed. With his help, the Avengers learn Fury's last known location — Substation 99 — and go there to investigate. However, they encounter the Supreme Leader, the Maestro, this timeline's Hulk who was driven mad with power after absorbing excess radiation from the nuclear fallout that destroyed most of humanity. Maestro reveals that he knows about the Avengers' plan to alter the future and attempts to stop them, but is ultimately defeated.

Venturing further into Maestro's territory, future and present-day Hawkeye find Fury, Rappaccini, numerous S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. agents, and Kree Sentries frozen in time by the Cosmic Cube, which Rappaccini built to help defeat the Kree. However, the cube trapped her and those around her in a time bubble while the rest of the world collapsed into chaos. With no hope of rescuing Fury, future Hawkeye asks his present-day self to never give up on the Avengers so that this future does not happen. Hawkeye vows do to so, abandoning his retirement plans as he and the other Avengers return to the present.

Cosmic Cube[edit]

Following the Avengers' venture into the future, a Roy model A.I.M.Bot assembles the team for a briefing to stop Monica from using the cube's unstable power on her Project Omega, which would bring about the events that Hawkeye's future self warned of. When Monica's machine becomes more unstable, she uses the cube's power against the Avengers despite potentially threatening reality and Hawkeye's warning. However, the future Hawkeye arrives in the present and sacrifices himself to send him and Monica into a void, leaving behind the cube. While mourning for the future Hawkeye, the Resistance, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Avengers work to find the present Fury's whereabouts and properly use Project Omega to stop the impending Kree invasion. Later, the A.I.M.bot holds the cube while securing it, causing the latter to activate and affect another nearby Roy model A.I.M.bot.

War for Wakanda[edit]

The expansion's storyline will center around Black Panther namesake T'Challa as he fights to defend Wakanda from Klaw. Players will get to explore the royal palace overlooking Wakanda's "golden city" of Birnin Zana, as well as Shuri's laboratory, Zawavari's chambers and the Wakandan War Room. "In addition to adding Black Panther, the third new playable superhero, the War for Wakanda expansion also brings with it two new villains, a brand new environment to explore, new enemies, the Birnin Zana Outpost, new solo or multiplayer Drop Zone and Threat Sector missions and more. It is scheduled to release on August 17.[citation needed]

Release[edit]

A teaser trailer was released on Marvel Entertainment's YouTube channel in January 2017 which announced the game. The game was under the working title The Avengers Project.[29] More than two years later at E3 2019, Square Enix hosted a press conference that shared more details on the game, including a full trailer and release date. The 14-minute presentation showcased a trailer made from in-game footage, a brief description of the gameplay including characters, multiplayer and customization, and a preview of the actors behind the game.[30] A playable demo was available to show floor attendees behind closed doors.[31]

A closed beta was available for those who pre-ordered the game. This began 7 August and ran until 9 August for PlayStation 4. The closed beta then came to Xbox One and Microsoft Windows from 14 August to 16 August, with an open beta for all PlayStation 4 users also being available during this weekend. A final open beta took place from 21 August to 23 August for all launch platforms apart from Stadia.[32]

Marvel's Avengers was originally set to release on Stadia, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on 15 May 2020, but was pushed back to 4 September, in order to adjust and polish the game.[33] The game was released in four editions; a Standard Edition, an Exclusive Digital Edition (only for PS4), a Deluxe Edition, and an Earth's Mightiest Edition, with the latter three editions being playable from 1 September, and the standard edition releasing on 4 September.[34] The game is set to be released on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in 2021.[35] PS4 and Xbox One players will be entitled to a free upgrade.[36]

Post-release content[edit]

Following the initial release of the game, Crystal Dynamics developed several free downloadable content (DLC) packs adding new playable characters and missions that continue the game's story. In June 2020, the first of these expansions was revealed to focus on Hawkeye (Clint Barton).[37] Later, in July, Spider-Man was announced the second playable DLC character, exclusively to PlayStation.[38] Crystal Dynamics studio head Scot Amos stated the exclusivity of Spider-Man came from Marvel and Sony's existing partnership, and clarified that he will be the only console-exclusive character.[39]

On September 1, the third announced playable DLC character was Hawkeye (Kate Bishop).[10] Kate's expansion, titled Operation: Kate Bishop - Taking A.I.M., was the first one to be released, on December 8, after being delayed from its planned October release.[40] The second expansion, Operation: Hawkeye - Future Imperfect, which patches Clint Barton as a playable character, was released on March 18, 2021. The third expansion, Operation: Black Panther - War for Wakanda, which will add Black Panther to the game, is set to be released on August 17, 2021. Spider-Man is also expected to be added around Summer 2021 at the earliest.[13][41]

Tie-in media and merchandise[edit]

Marvel’s Avengers: Road to A-Day[edit]

Marvel Comics has published five tie-in prequel comics for the game in a collection called Marvel's Avengers: Road to A-Day.[42] Each comic focuses on one of the five playable characters available at launch, excluding Ms. Marvel.[43] The first comic to be released was Marvel's Avengers: Iron Man #1 on 11 December 2019,[44] followed by Marvel's Avengers: Thor #1 on 8 January 2020,[45] Marvel's Avengers: Hulk #1 on 5 February 2020,[46] Marvel's Avengers: Captain America #1 on 18 March 2020,[47] and concluding with Marvel's Avengers: Black Widow #1 on 25 March 2020.[48]

Tie-in books[edit]

Titan Books published two tie-in books for the game on 1 September 2020. The first book, titled Marvel's Avengers: The Extinction Key[49] was written by best-selling author Greg Keyes, is a prequel focused on the events that take place prior to the A-Day, which also sets the game's events in motion. The novel follows the Avengers as they try to prevent an ancient organization called the Zodiac from acquiring an infinitely powerful weapon capable of warping the very fabric of time and space — the Zodiac Key. The Extinction Key also introduces the game's versions of Doctor Strange and Brother Voodoo, as well as specific members of S.H.I.E.L.D.[50] The second book, Marvel's Avengers: The Art of the Game contains concept art, storyboards and artist commentary, an intimate study of the Avengers, plus a detailed view at the different environments and missions in the game.[51]

Further merchandise[edit]

Funko released a set of Pop! Vinyl figures based on the playable characters in the game that are available at launch, in addition to figures based on Taskmaster and Abomination. Black Widow received a glow-in-the-dark chase variant, with the stock of this variant being at a rate of one in every six Black Widow figures. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk also received alternate designs exclusive to certain retailers, with the first two being glow-in-the-dark variants.[52] The designs for the characters were also loosely adapted for Lego Marvel Avengers sets releasing in 2020, though the events depicted are not from the game itself.[53]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Marvel's Avengers received "mixed or average reviews" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[54][55][56]

Destructoid summarized its 6/10 review by calling the game "Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled."[58] Shacknews praised the campaign and unique character abilities, but noted the "convoluted and uninspired" menus and bug issues.[65] USgamer scored the game 2.5/5 stars and wrote: "If Marvel's Avengers was just the single-player story campaign, it would be amazing. There, Crystal Dynamics sells you on its version of the Avengers and introduces the charming and endearing Ms. Marvel to players everywhere. Combat has depth to it, and each hero truly feels distinct. Unfortunately, the endgame is where our heroes falter, with broken matchmaking, rough options in terms of progression, and endlessly reused environments and enemies."[66]

Electronic Gaming Monthly said "Marvel's Avengers squanders the potential of what might have been a fun superhero romp by grafting on an annoying, overly repetitive games-as-a-service component. Playing as the cast of heroes offers decent thrills, and the campaign tells an enjoyable enough story, but odds are good you'll get bored long before you grind your way to the top."[59] Game Informer gave the game an 8.75/10, writing: "Developer Crystal Dynamics delivers a powerful superhero showcase that taps into each Avenger's unique abilities to light up the battlefield in thrilling ways, but when the dust settles, it slows down to show a softer, human side that is every bit as engaging, placing a character you wouldn't expect in the central role."[60] IGN gave the game 6/10, praising its combat, superhero flavor and campaign, but criticizing its technical issues, loot system and recycled, repetitive end-game.[64]

Post-release[edit]

In the weeks following its launch, Avengers saw a large player drop due to audiences frustrated at the game's current problems, such as bugs, repetitive gameplay, and lack of content in the base game. One update included a patch that fixed over a thousand player-reported issues in the game.[68] Peter Morics of Screen Rant reported around 1,190 players on Steam during a weekend in November 2020 – a 96% decline since the game's debut.[69] Gene Park of The Washington Post noted that only over a thousand players were playing Avengers on PC, which he described as "an early and worrying symptom of a dying live service game."[70] The dwindling number of players, which Paul Tassi of Forbes observed as falling below 500 players at one point, have begun causing problems with matchmaking multiplayer games on PC.[71][72]

Mike Fahey of Kotaku noted that players such as himself were growing bored with the game's repetitive features and lack of content, saying, "We need new content. New enemies. New game mechanics...The initial excitement over playing beloved superheroes has dulled, thanks to a lack of variety in late-game content," and after receiving a statement from Crystal Dynamics, he advised players, "There are plenty of other games out there to play, and as much as I would love to engage my superhero fantasies on a daily basis, nonstop for weeks on end, it’s not currently happening in Marvel’s Avengers."[73] Thomas Carroll of Comic Book Resources felt that the game had "plenty of bugs and crashes and a severe lack of content and customisation" alongside a large $60 price tag for a live-service game. He believed that Square Enix relied too much on the established Marvel brand in marketing, instead of "bothering to create a quality experience people would pay for once, then continue to pay for whenever new content was released."[74] Paul Tassi enjoyed his initial experiences with the game,[75] but over time grew frustrated over the game's bugs and underwhelming, grind-heavy loot system, concluding that it was "too broken to effectively play right now."[76] Although Gene Park commended Crystal Dynamics for listening to feedback and implementing fixes, he felt the game's lack of content in the base game highlighted that it "didn’t need to be a live service game, and it’s become increasingly clear that it shouldn’t have been in the first place."[70]

Story expansions[edit]

The Kate Bishop expansion was praised for its gameplay, voicework, and story, but some felt the added content was lacking. Fahey stated, "It’s not her powers and abilities that make Kate Bishop great in Marvel’s Avengers. It’s a combination of [whoever] is writing the game’s hero banter and the voice acting of Ashly Burch. Burch is a sassy voice actor given incredibly sassy superhero banter and she just eats it up."[77] Dave Trumbore of Collider felt it was a "too-short introductory outing" for Kate, whom he described as "[bringing] an energy on par with Kamala Khan's youthful spirit and Tony Stark's sharp wit to the team, though it's her tool kit of melee/ranged/teleporting skills that are a cut above on the battlefield."[78] Tassi was "deeply impressed" by the update's expansion on the campaign, voicework, and satisfying gameplay as Kate, but noted that this would do little to expand the game's current playerbase unless a large-scale expansion would be added.[79][80]

Sales[edit]

Avengers was the bestselling retail game during its first week on sale in the U.K.[81] In the U.S., the game was the top-selling title for the month of September, and second highest launch-month dollar sales of all-time for a superhero game behind Spider-Man.[82] The PlayStation version sold 42,979 physical copies within its first week on sale in Japan, making it the second bestselling retail game of the week in the country.[83] Despite initial strong sales, Marvel's Avengers failed to turn a profit for Square Enix, with the publisher reporting an estimated loss of $63 million for their latest fiscal period at the time.[84]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Additional work by Eidos-Montréal, Crystal Northwest, Heavy Iron Studios, and Nixxes Software
  2. ^ The Deluxe and Earth’s Mightiest editions was released on September 1, while the standard edition was released on September 4

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