Mad Max (2015 video game)

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Mad Max
Mad Max 2015 video game cover art.jpg
Developer(s) Avalanche Studios
Publisher(s) Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Director(s) Frank Rooke
Producer(s) John Fuller
Designer(s) Magnus Nedfors
Programmer(s) Fredrik Lönn
Artist(s) Martin Bergquist
Writer(s) Odd Ahlgren
Composer(s) Mats Lundgren
Series Mad Max
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Release date(s)
  • NA 1 September 2015[1]
  • AUS 2 September 2015[2]
  • NZ 3 September 2015
  • EU 4 September 2015
Genre(s) Action-adventure, vehicular combat
Mode(s) Single-player

Mad Max is an action-adventure video game set in an open world environment and based on the Mad Max film series. It is developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on 1 September 2015 in North America, 2 September 2015 in Australia, 3 September 2015 in New Zealand, and 4 September in Europe.

The game is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, which features terrain like deserts, canyons, and caves. Players control Max Rockatansky as he progresses through the wasteland to seek revenge on a gang of raiders who robbed him, and to build the ultimate car, called the Magnum Opus. The game puts heavy emphasis on vehicular combat, in which the player uses weapon and armor upgrades on their car to fight against enemies. The game features soft boundaries leading to an area called the "The Big Nothing", a theoretically endless place players can explore. The game's story is not based upon the films in the series, but took inspiration from its universe.

Avalanche Studios found developing a vehicular combat video game "a challenge" due to their inexperience with creating games in that style. Mad Max's narrative and story is more "mature" than other titles developed by Avalanche like Just Cause. Announced at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the game was "retooled" during development, and the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions were cancelled due to their hardware and graphical limitations. Originally set to be released in 2014, the game was later delayed to 2015. Upon release, the game received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Praise was generally directed to the game's environment, direction, vehicular combat and graphics, while criticisms focused on the game's quest design and story.

Gameplay[edit]

A gameplay screenshot of the game, showcasing the vehicular combat element of the game. The game is powered by Avalanche Studios' in-house Avalanche Engine.

Mad Max is a post-apocalyptic action-adventure game, with a heavy emphasis on vehicular combat, in which the player takes on the role of eponymous character Mad Max (Bren Foster). According to the publisher of the game, up to 60% of the game's campaign requires the player to drive.[3] Weapons, such as flamethrowers, a mounted cannon and a grappling hook, can be added to the Magnum Opus. The harpoon can be used in-vehicle with Chumbucket, Max's mechanic, riding along. Max's Magnum Opus can be combined with a V8 engine and a powerful ramming ability to destroy enemies' vehicles and weaponry.[4] Nitro boosts are featured for acceleration.[3] When simultaneously driving and aiming, the game enters slow-motion[5] and allows the player to toggle between targets. The game mostly uses a third-person perspective but allows players to switch to first-person view when the player is engaging in combat with enemies while driving the Magnum Opus.[6] Chumbucket will repair the car once the player exits.[7]

In order to encourage exploration, the Magnum Opus can be upgraded by using scavenged materials found in the desert, hijacking enemies' cars or collecting their car parts.[3][8] Enemies sometimes will hop on top of the Magnum Opus in an attempt to make it explode, but the player can avoid that by adding dangerous hazards, such as spikes, around the car.[4] The player has access to the garage screen throughout the game, allowing them to customize the Magnum Opus for any occasion. Max's garage can be used to change and modify the car's engine, chassis, wheels, body work, paint job, and the "shell" of the automobile.[9] However, upgrading one aspect of the car will negatively affect other aspects. For example, upgrading the engine will allow Max to drive faster, but it will make handling more difficult.[10] The sound produced by the engine changes when players change, add, or remove certain pieces from the Magnum Opus.[11] Max himself, as well as his armor and weapons are available for customization in the game.[12] Players can unlock new skills and upgrades for Max as he progresses through the game and earns experience points.[13]

Many gameplay choices are given in the game, such as either playing silently or aggressively. Despite allowing players to perform silent takedown with a knife, the game emphasizes action instead of stealth.[14] Mad Max features a variety of weapons which Max can pick up and use to defeat his enemies. The 'Thunderstick' is an explosive weapon that can be lanced into an enemy's chest, blowing up the victim. Though Max has a shotgun, ammo is scarce, so melee options are usually used more often.[15] The game features a free-flow combat system that utilizes professional wrestling attacks mixed with boxing techniques, similarly to Warner Bros' previous Batman: Arkham series of video games, in which indicators are shown on enemies' heads to remind the player when they should strike, counter or perform finishing moves. Attacks performed by Max during the "frenzied" state become more powerful than usual.[16][17] Max can get guidance from Chum about how he can complete his objectives strategically.[18][19]

The landscape of the game is made up of canyons, caves, deserts and abandoned wastelands. The game's world is broken up into several regions, with each region having its own unique backstory and landscape. Unique landmarks and ruins can be discovered in each region. Side activities, such as races, time trials,[20] invading enemy forts and eliminating enemies' convoys, can be found in each region of the game. The 'threat level' of the region is lowered by completing such activities, and thus allowing players to navigate the world more easily.[16] Each region in the game has its own boss, who can be found and defeated in their base.[21] Some of the strongholds in the game are friendly. Establishing a friendly relationship with them through eliminating hostile strongholds will provide Max with new quests and rewards.[22] Max can ride up in a hot-air balloon, which is permanently attached to the ground, to look for new objectives and locations. After viewing these objectives with binoculars they will highlighted on the map.[8]

Most resources in the game are scarce besides gas, as the game's core emphasis is driving. Players can collect one jerrycan at a time, which can be stored at the back of the Magnum Opus.[23] Players can find collectibles called history relics throughout the game. They are mainly photos and notes of the wasteland created before the apocalypse, allowing players to get a better glimpse of the world.[24] Food and water are vital for Max's survival in the game. Players can collect them in the wasteland and use them to replenish their health.[25] Max can also eat small animals such as rodents and maggots from decomposing corpses to replenish his health. Areas where Max can find food and supplies have crows flying around them.[26] Max can venture into "The Big Nothing", an unmapped volatile area of the wasteland, that is consumed by dangerous sandstorms without any food or water present. Rare parts for the Magnum Opus can be found there. According to Avalanche, due to the presence of "The Big Nothing", the game's map size is infinite.[27] A dynamic day-night cycle and weather system, as well as a variety of environmental hazards, are included in the game.[28] The terrain of the game's world is affected by the weather and the natural disasters featured in the game.[3]

Plot[edit]

In search of fuel, ruthless survivalist Max Rockatansky (Bren Foster) journeys to the Plains of Silence. His voyage takes an unexpected turn when he runs into a group of War Boys, led by Scabrous Scrotus (Travis Willingham), the psychotic son of Immortan Joe (Fred Tatasciore) and ruler of Gastown. Scrotus and his War Boys run him off the road and steal his clothes, supplies, weapons, and car before leaving him to rot in the desert sun. Max quickly chases them, and challenges Scrotus to a duel while on the War Rig. Max stabs Scrotus in the head with his own chainsaw, but Max is no match for Scrotus, who kicks Max and his dog out of the War Rig.[29]

Together with the dog, Max obtains a weapon and clothes from a dead Wastelander. While wandering around the desert, Max finds an overzealous hunchbacked mechanic, named Chumbucket (Jason Spisak), who calls Max 'The Driver'. Chumbucket then tells Max of Scrotus and his War Boys whereabouts, and leads Max to him. Chumbucket also tells Max that he made a car named the Magnum Opus, before he goes on his quest for revenge. However, Chumbucket informs Max that the car has a few missing parts that need to be located; Max agrees to search for the parts. To do so, Max must first liberate various Wasteland leader's territories from Scrotus' Warboys: Jeet (Josh Keaton), whose stronghold is in an old lighthouse, and Gut Gash (Liam O'Brien), whose followers believe that they will be protected from a coming flood in their ship stronghold. Max must break through the "Jaw", a massive gate protected by War Boys, which he can get through once the Magnum Opus is outfitted with the "Thunderpoon", a harpoon add-on rigged with explosives. Once through the Jaw, Max and Chumbucket must save Pink Eye (Adrienne Barbeau), a woman whose mechanical skills may rival Chumbucket's, from an invasion led by Stank Gum, one of Scrotus' Top Dogs, to conquer her silo base.

In his search of a V8 engine for the Magnum Opus, Max learns of a race being held in Gastown which offers a Big Chief V8 as one of its rewards. After winning the race against Stank Gum (Crispin Freeman) and defeating the fighter Tenderloin in a Thunderdome duel, Max receives the engine and the concubine Hope (Courtenay Taylor), whom he had met earlier, as his rewards. His victory is short-lived, as a still alive Scabrous Scrotus comes to deliver the prize and engages him in combat. After being shot with a crossbow and thrown down a shaft, Max is saved by Hope, who takes him to the Organic Mechanic and Scab (Orion Acaba) the Bloodbag. While undergoing surgery, Max has a hallucination, during which his wedding with Hope is officiated by Chumbucket and a man with a dog's head. After waking up, he steals the Big Chief with Hope's help and drives to the temple of Deep Friah (Robin Atkin Downes), a friendly fire cultist.

At the temple, Hope asks Max to find her daughter, Glory (Madison Carlon), who had fled to Buzzard territory. He initially refuses, but eventually accepts, and travels to the Underdune. After rescuing her from the Buzzards, Max returns to the temple only to discover that Chumbucket, in a fit of jealous rage, had taken the Magnum Opus back to his old southern dwelling. Max goes after him in one of Deep Friah's cars, but arrives to discover that Scrotus and Stank Gum had been there before him. Chumbucket, tortured, had revealed Hope and Glory's location and their ties to Max. After killing Stank Gum, who had stayed behind, Max rushes back to the temple and finds their tortured bodies on its floor. Glory is only alive long enough to utter her last words to Max. Max swears vengeance against Scabrous Scrotus.

Max goes back to Gastown and interrogates Scab to learn Scrotus' location. Max and Chumbucket find him, and use the Magnum Opus to crash his War Rig. The War Rig is pushed to the edge of a cliff. Max intends to ram the Rig off the cliff with the Magnum Opus, but is stopped by Chumbucket, who considers himself the protector and savior of the car. Max ignores his comments and rams the Rig at full speed. This process results in the death of Chumbucket, and the destruction of both the War Rig and the Magnum Opus as they are pushed down. Scrotus escapes with The Interceptor, Max's own car from the start of the game and challenges him to fight. Max wins the battle and rips the chainsaw blade out of Scrotus' head, killing him. The game ends with Max entering The Interceptor, and putting his family picture on the dashboard.

Development[edit]

A video game set within the Mad Max universe was mentioned by George Miller, the creator of the Mad Max franchise, in an interview in 2008.[30] Miller partnered with Cory Barlog, the director of God of War II, after the departure of Barlog from his former employer, Sony Computer Entertainment, to develop the game. The project was originally set to be a tie-in of a Mad Max animated film and set to be released simultaneously. The production of the movie was put on hold so as to give additional time for the game to be developed, in order to maintain the quality of the video game.[31] Barlog announced that they were seeking a publisher for the game in 2008, and no more information about the project was revealed afterwards.[32] In 2010 Barlog worked for Avalanche Studios as a consultant but later left in 2012 for Crystal Dynamics.[33] Another Fury Road tie-in video game was also in development by Interplay Entertainment, but was later scrapped as Electronic Arts acquired the rights to develop video games for the franchise for $20 million.[34]

On 14 February 2013, a blurry screenshot of the game was released as teaser by Avalanche Studios' founder Christofer Sundberg.[35] The game was officially revealed at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 on 10 June during the Sony press conference. It was slated for release for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2014.[36] However, during the Expo, CEO of Avalanche Studios, Christofer Sundberg, revealed that the project between Miller and Barlog is not the Mad Max game Avalanche Studios is making. However, he admitted that Barlog had worked on a Mad Max game when he was working at Avalanche in a later update.[37] Despite the unclear relationship between the two projects, Miller, according to the game's design director, had collaborated with Avalanche Studios during the pre-production period of the game.[32]

In April 2014, Avalanche announced that Mad Max would be delayed until 2015,[38] making it one of the titles to be released during Avalanche's "biggest year since the inception".[39][40] The game was "re-tooled" at some point during the development.[41][42] Despite releasing in the same year, the video game is not directly connected to the 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road, and was never planned as a tie-in.[43] As a result, the game's setting and story is original and standalone.[14] The reason for the decision is that the publisher of the game Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, learning from the success of the Batman: Arkham series, considered that making a standalone game can bring more benefits to gamers than making a "play-the-movie game".[41] Despite that, locations that have appeared before in the movies, such as Gas Town and Thunderdome, are featured in the game.[44][45] Unlike previous Avalanche Studios' games like Just Cause 2, the tone of the game is more mature,[46] and more focus was applied to the game's narrative and story.[47]

Similar to the films, Max seldom speaks or expresses his emotions, but his thoughts are reflected through his actions. The team aimed at building a complex character and personality for Max. According to the game's director, Max is traumatized by some of his past experiences, such as losing his family, which is the thing Max valued the most, and such experiences led him to become "insane", "unstable" and "mad". Such qualities are reflected in the gameplay, leading to a "rage" mode. When this mode is activated, Max deals extra damage when attacking enemies.[48] Chumbucket is Max's mechanic and companion in his journey, who accompanied Max as he had an obsession to build a powerful car like the Magnum Opus. According to the lead writer of the game, Chumbucket "has a pseudo-religious/sexual relationship with engines".[49] Scabrous Scrotus is set to be the game's main antagonist. He is one of the warlords featured in the game and was designed to be a "bloodthirsty monster that only can find solace from his own pain through the suffering of others". Enemies' faces are painted and scarred. Frank Rooke, the game's director, explained that such appearances "is kind of the approach of how this civilization merged into this kind of state.”[50]

Lead designer Emil Krafting revealed that the gameplay of the game was the top priority in the development. Similar to the Just Cause series, the developer aims at giving players autonomy and freedom, as well as providing tools for players to allow them to make their own events.[51] The studios also aimed at creating a dynamic world by creating "a seamless series of events".[23] Inspiration for the game was drawn from the atmosphere of the Mad Max universe instead of any of the movies in the series. The developer revealed that they did not plan to draw inspiration from other post-apocalyptic video games such as Fallout, Rage and Borderlands, as many of the ideas of these games were drawn from the original Mad Max.[29] They stated that one of the challenges they faced was to build the vehicular combat element of the game, due to their inexperience in creating a game in that style.[29]

Different regions feature different landmarks, so as to create a variety of environments according to the developer. The team used vibrant colors in depicting the game's sky, as opposed to the brown color of the game's ground.

The world-design of the game was also inspired by the Just Cause series, which features large sandboxes for players to explore. In addition, the CEO of Avalanche Studios, Christofer Sundberg, hoped that players would draw comparisons between the game's desert setting and the western setting of Red Dead Redemption. The world's size is scaled according to gameplay's density and frequency; the company put emphasis on creating a world with choices and distractions instead of the size of the world.[41] The world of the game is designed to be dead, threatening and hostile, but exciting and engaging, which encourages exploration.[52] A challenge they encountered when developing the game is to build a wasteland which was "stunning and varied enough", as Mad Max is the first game developed by Avalanche to feature a post-apocalyptic environment.[29] As a result, the developer spent most of their time designing the ground of the game's world and terrain variations so as to prevent the landscape of the game from being too repetitive.[41] As the game is set in a desert, which is mostly brown in color, the team in Avalanche used more vibrant colors when creating the game's sky.[53] Avalanche Studios also sent a team to visit a jungle in Costa Rica to inspect local landscapes and environments for creating the worlds of multiple open-world projects, and aimed to apply their findings as inspiration for the creation of the game's sky.[54] Like the films, the game does not explain the origin of the apocalypse, as they wanted to give "a sense of mystery" to the wasteland, to leave room for players to imagine how the wasteland had evolved and came to be.[55] Garages, which allow players to upgrade and repair their cars, were once set to be featured in the game. The idea was later scrapped as the studio thought that the element "interfered with gameplay".[26]

Mad Max is powered by the Avalanche Engine, which is an in-house proprietary engine developed by Avalanche used by their previous games like Just Cause 2.[56] According to the lead graphics designer of the game, Alvar Jansson, new graphical features were introduced to the engine during the development of Mad Max, and that the engine was designed and optimized for developing open-world games.[57]

Previews from gaming journalists who were invited to see a private gameplay demonstration at E3 2013 noted that during the demonstration Max was portrayed with an American accent, rather than an Australian one as heard in the film series. Many fans protested against Max's new American voice. However, Avalanche Studios later confirmed that the lead character would have an Australian accent.[58][59][60][61] The location where the game is set is described as "Wasteland Creole", in which elements from different civilizations are featured. As a result, different characters have different accents.[62]

Release[edit]

The game was released on 1 September 2015 in North America and United Kingdom, 2 September in Australia, 3 September in New Zealand, and 4 September in Europe for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was announced on 3 May 2015 that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions had been cancelled due to their hardware restrictions. A Linux port was also announced.[63]

Players who pre-ordered the game can receive an additional Magnum Opus design called "The Ripper".[64] The Ripper, alongside a steelbook, a collector's box, a mini license plate and a Blu-ray copy of Mad Max: Fury Road are included in the game's Post-Apocalypse Edition.[65] Players who purchase the game for the PlayStation 4 can gain access to an exclusive piece of content, the "Road Warrior Survival Kit".[66] The Road Warrior Survival Kit contains twelve different hood ornaments for the Magnum Opus.[67] The exclusivity of this content will end on November 30, 2015.[68]

To promote the game, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment held different launch events. In Australia, Warner Bros. organized an event that invited artists to create artwork on their vehicles using dust.[69] They also partnered with Uber for a timed promotion in Seattle, in which Uber users can gain access to a free ride "straight from the post-apocalypse". The offer is free as "dollars are worthless in the wasteland".[70]

Reception[edit]

Pre-release[edit]

Before the release, Mad Max received positive reviews. Game Revolution called the gameplay "exhilarating, fast, violent, and fun" and said it would be the title fans of the series wanted to play.[71] Hardcore Gamer thought that the game could become "the Biggest Surprise of 2015", while giving praise to the vehicle customization, which they compared to the ship customization of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag,[72] while IGN called the game 2015's Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.[73] However, PC Gamer expressed concerns that the game "is trying to be too many things at once".[21] Some critics compared the game negatively to the critically acclaimed film Mad Max: Fury Road.[74][75]

Post-release[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 73.72%[76]
(XONE) 70.29%[77]
(PS4) 69.40%[78]
Metacritic (PC) 73/100[79]
(XONE) 72/100[80]
(PS4) 69/100[81]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 7/10[82]
Eurogamer Recommended[83]
Game Informer 7.5/10[84]
GameSpot 6/10[86]
GamesRadar 4/5 stars[85]
GameTrailers 7.4/10[87]
IGN 8.4/10[88]
Polygon 5.5/10[89]

Mad Max received mixed, although generally positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 73.72% based on 9 reviews and 73/100 based on 20 reviews,[76][79] the Xbox One version 70.29% based on 14 reviews and 72/100 based on 18 reviews[77][80] and the PlayStation 4 version 69.40% based on 53 reviews and 69/100 based on 71 reviews.[78][81]

The game's story received mixed responses. Brandin Tyrrel from IGN thought that the story was surprising and genuine, despite saying that the majority of the game's story only appears in the later half of the game. Tyrrel also thought that all the characters have different personalities and distant qualities, and considered them the "true star" of the entire game.[51] Chris Carter from Destructoid thought that the game's story is engaging enough for players to progress.[82] Leon Hurley from GamesRadar thought that the overall story was weak, and that it "barely exist for the majority of the game". However, he liked the game's climax, which he thought was exciting.[85] Matt Bertz from Game Informer also criticized the story. He added that the narrative of the game is thin and light. Bertz also criticized the uneven performances of the voice actors.[84]

The game's world design received generally positive reviews. Tyrrel thought that it captured the savage tone of the films. He added that the game's sandbox was a "gorgeous" setting for players to explore.[88] Leon Hurley from GamesRadar praised the game's scale, which he compared to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's.[85] Martin Robinson from Eurogamer compared the game's scale favorably to Avalanche's previous Just Cause series of games. Robinson also thought that Avalanche successfully combined the Mad Max universe with a modern open world game design.[83] Bertz praised the inhospitable atmosphere delivered by the game and commended Avalanche for adding different styles and a vibrant sky to an otherwise singular and boring sandbox. Daniel Bloodworth from GameTrailers echoed similar thoughts, and he thought that every region in the game's world feels unique and distinct from each other. Bloodworth also praised the studio for the effort put into crafting the world. Peter Brown from GameSpot praised the natural disasters featured in the game, as he thought that it set a new standard for in-game weather effects.[86] However, Philip Kollar from Polygon criticized the game's layout. He added that every location in the game feels identical, and that bland environments discourage exploration.[89]

Tyrrel considered one of the best elements featured in the game to be vehicular combat, which he thought successfully adds a layer of creativity to the game. Brown praised the car action, as he considered it intense, complex, and unpredictable, but he criticized the over-simplistic and shallow on-foot combat.[86] Carter compared the game's vehicular controls to the best racing games around, and commended its handling. Carter also praised the car repair mechanics, as he thought that it has offered players a cinematic experience.[82] Tyrrel also liked the new additions to the game's combat, such as the introduction of weapons and the Fury mode, as he believed that they successfully add depth to the combat.[88] Hurley praised the progression system, which he thought delivers a sense of satisfaction to players. He also praised the great balance between vehicular combat and on-foot combat.[85] Bloodworth thought that the melee combat used a "tried-and-true system" which works fine, despite saying that the camera angles can be awkward at times. Kollar criticized the boss fights, which he thought lacked varieties and have been reused throughout the game.[89]

Other aspects of the gameplay received mixed reviews. Tyrrel applauded the customization system for both Max and his Magnum Opus, since the customization options chosen by players have an impact on the gameplay and make the overall experience more rewarding.[88] This was echoed by Kollar.[89] The difficulty was criticized by Brown for failing to offer much challenge or a sense of accomplishment to players. Brown also believes that the health system is a redundant addition, in which resources like water and food do not have a significant role in the game and can be neglected by players easily. Furthermore, Brown criticized the scrap collecting system, as he believed that it offered a frustrating experience for most players and slows down the game's pace.[86] However, Robinson thought that the inclusion of these elements reflects the barbarian nature of the wasteland. He praised its world design, which he thought echoes the style of the movies, and he described it as "a world of twisted metal and sudden violence that's there to be survived rather than conquered".[83] Bloodworth criticized the game's stronghold system, which he thought was repetitive as players continue to upgrade it. Brown criticized the game's lack of a climbing system, which significantly hinders traversal.[84] Carter also shared similar thoughts.[82]

The game's quest design also received mixed reviews from critics. Tyrrel praised the amount of content and activities scattered across the world. In addition, he thought that all these activities are engaging for most players. However, he disliked their repetitive nature, which drags down their replay value.[88] Hurley thought that it is easy for players to get confused in the early stages of the game, as the objectives are relatively blurred.[85] Brown criticized the structure of several quests, which force players to use a certain method to complete, taking the freedom and creativity away from players.[86] Chris Carter from Destructoid thought that the game failed to offer anything new to the genre, and its quests and features bear too many similarities with the typical Ubisoft open world design.[82]

At release, the game suffered from some technical issues. Tyrrel noted that the game has an unstable frame rate and occasional texture pop-up.[88] Kollar also noted that the game suffered from some audio issues.[89]

Mad Max was the second best selling game in the United Kingdom in its first week of release, debuting at No. 2 at the UK software retail chart, only behind Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which was released on the same day.[90] According to NPD Group, the game is the eighth best-selling game in the US in September 2015.[91]

References[edit]

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