FIFA 11 demo impressions

I've been playing a lot of FIFA over the years, and the last couple of 'em, I've also been gathering some experience with Pro Evolution Soccer. I've pretty much ignored the marketing campaign for both games (because looking at trailers or dev interviews is something that bores me immensely, with their slanted and PR-manipulated views on the game), but I'll always jump at a chance to play the demos when they get released, because how the new games play is ultimately what matters most. I've downloaded both on my PS3 (a controller that I am not at all accustomed to, considering I only bought it recently and thus have always played FIFA on my 360 and PS2) and am here to briefly report to you my findings. I will admit I own neither Pro Evo 2009 nor 2010, so I can't offer any useful comments on the new features PES2011 possesses. What I can do is comment on the gameplay itself, and compare it to the new FIFA. Off we go.


The FIFA 11 demo

Kaka has not had a terribly good season over at Real last year, plagued by injury and an all-round bad form. However, EA have decided to use him as poster boy, as he's your player in the Arena. Much like every other demo EA Sports demo, most of the features are greyed out, and then most that aren't simply lead to promotional blocks of text detailing what new features they put into the game. There are three real features here: you can mess around with some of the players in the Arena, trying to score goals, free kicks, penalties and looking at some of the new tricks. Or you could play a short match of 3-minute halves with one out of seven high-profile teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid. The most notable addition, however, is the new "Be A Pro Keeper", the gameplay mechanics of which you can try your hand at by switching sides in the Arena.


Playing as the keeper feels a big gimmicky, however. They did a decent job of making it work: you can move around the keeper, dive at a shot with the right stick, press Triangle/Y to run out and slap away a cross and press Square/X to slide into a ball. To help you with this, plenty of aids are included, such as a line that predicts the trajectory of the shot. It works quite well as a diversion, but I honestly can't see it being fun for an entire match, let alone for one, if not multiple seasons of Be A Pro. In the Arena, the player is constantly coming at you, but could you imagine constantly standing around waiting for the dumb AI to get to you? Seeing as the opposing goalie is a part of the AI, he will no doubt be better at it as well, and seeing as you'll have practically no direct control over them other than the rudimentary "you might want to give a pass dude" commands that have been in there since FIFA 08, I reckon we'll have frustrating matches on our hands. But that is, of course, purely speculation.
What is more interesting is how the game plays when you're taking control of the ten outfield players. FIFA 10 was arguably the best footy game ever made when it came out a year ago, marking a small but notably improvement over FIFA 09. Much in the same vein, FIFA 11 makes some changes that change the game, but overall, I'd say none of the changes here are big enough to warrant immediately putting down another 60 to 70 euros or bucks. If that's what you were wondering, there it is. None of the gameplay changes are of the same magnitude as the touted "360 degree dribbling" that was introduced in FIFA 10, just to give you an idea. Since the game is coming out at the end of the month, we can also assume the game will have long gone gold by now, so what is here can be seen as representative of the final game. 


So, what is actually new? EA made a big deal of the new "player personalities", which give each player certain traits. Real-life playmakers are far better at through balls and long balls than your average left-back, for instance. At least, that's how it's supposed to work. Whether the personalities will still be anywhere near realistic when you go down to the lesser-known clubs remains to be seen. There are a lot of players represented in FIFA games these days, with its over thirty leagues and bands of international teams. Will your favourite Coca-Cola Championship playmaker even have the right hair colour? Doubtful. Alas, EA is, contrary to popular belief, made up of humans who can only do so much. However, even in the demo, some inconsistencies have been found. Players like Drogba aren't deemed 5-star tricksters when the man is one of the most technically gifted strikers I've ever seen (and I'm not even a Chelsea fan, mind you), which makes you wonder just how big the margin for error is. What this system means on the pitch is that player build, speed, shooting proficiency, passing proficiency and technical ability is even more pronounced. People complained about the so-called "tick-tack passing" being too easy to perform in FIFA 10, and EA responded by grabbing the system by the neck and dragging it completely in the opposite direction. Stringing together passes in this game is quite challenging. The whole thing's been made significantly slower, and players tend to let passes go completely awry a lot more than you'd expect from players of this stature if you don't turn and face your target. The system felt slightly clunky at first, coming from many, many matches of FIFA 10, but I grew accustomed to it and now actually consider it an improvement. However, the new "free-form" passing can also act somewhat funky at times. I've already had multiple instances where the game quite simply didn't listen to, turning a short tap that I'd aimed directly at a fellow player into a humongous through ball into no-man's-land. In the same vein, I've actually been enraged a couple of times by players who somehow interpreted my pass towards the center as the command to back-heel the ball straight out of play... which is stupid no matter how you look at it.

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Another problem surfaced: the new handball feature. I can understand that this feature is extremely hard to implement for a developer. In the past games, no distinction was made between the hands and any other part of the body, which led to truly ridiculous situations in which balls bounce off hands made of rock and go flying in random directions--without the player being able to do anything about it. I've scored hilarious goals and own-goals this way, though they really shouldn't have existed. But then again, the rule is subject to interpretation in real life, with face protection and player intention being things that have to taken into account. You can't really translate this into such an unscripted game, however, so pretty much any contact leads to a hand ball. This turns into a major problem when a free kick bounces onto the hands of a player in the wall--a penalty is instantly given. Thrice now have I seen this happen, two times of them against me.  I was probably just unlucky, but you as a player cannot control this, and it is rage-inducing when a players of yours randomly hits the ball with his hand in the box, especially with the animation system and ball physics becoming more advanced--and thus more unpredictable--with each following iteration. You can turn the handballs off, but then, what is the point of the new feature?
The biggest change, to me, is the new, looser feel of running with the ball and jostling for it. As I said, with the ever-evolving ball physics and animations comes a new sense of realism, but also some pitfalls. Trapping a ball looks and feels more realistic now, as does muscling past defenders. More than ever, the players' legs and the ball feel like different entities, interacting with each other but also being completely separate. This is entirely personal opinion of course, but too much of this may in the end make FIFA less fun for me. The more basic and scripted these games are, the easier it is to execute complicated maneouvres and make the game look cool in general. In FIFA 11, these moments are more rare, but also more satisfying. It is a matter of preference I suppose. In the end, I feel FIFA 11 seems to have made some gameplay changes for the better, but while I have described them in drawn-out fashion here, they still feel small in the grand scheme of things. Whether the modes have changed positively is also impossible to judge from the demo, of course. Although, really, all that should ever matter is the gameplay.

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A cool new addition has also been implemented in the Replay feature. First off, the entire match is now recorded, allowing you to go back and view it in its entirety--though only while you're still in the game. You can save videos that still have the same standard 11 to 12 second limit for uploads, to be viewed on EA's website. I've made a quick and bland one for  the purposes of this blog (and I couldn't get it to embed properly, so here's the link.) Furthermore, the game will automatically select 10 match highlights, the replays of which you can view and edit in the après-match menu. These replays typically only show goals and attempts at goals, unfortunately, leaving successful tricks and such by the wayside, but it finally allows you to upload online goals onto the site. This is a great feature.
And with that, I am going to conclude this blog. I know I said that I would post impressions on Pro Evo 11 as well, but time constraints force me to push that back to a later blog. I hope this information will help anyone curious as to whether FIFA 11 is a worthwhile game to put down for.


Sending in my XBOX to Microsoft for repairs gone horribly wrong

  So, fuck. The eject button on my 360 is broken, so I had to send it in for repairs. I had called up customer support last night, and was helped by a friendly Dutch employee. Things were going more smoothly than I had expected them to; customer support was more of a pain to navigate back when my Box red-lighted on me.

But today, I get home from school, and I hear that a UPS dude has already come by to pick the damn thing up. It's nice that they're moving so fast now, but my dad... forgot to take off the harddrive and to take out the game inside, FIFA 10.

It sucks. I don't blame my old man, of course; he knows next to nothing about consoles or electronics in general, and the HDD is integrated into the XBOX's design in such a way that it's hard to think off it as something that can be taken off if you don't know what it is. The eject button is also broken, so he couldn't have easily checked whether or not the drive still had something inside. It's not his fault at all. And yet, I still feel frustrated. Given the precedent set by UPS (it took like a week last time for a dude to come and pick it up) there was no reason to expect this to happen.

So what will come of this? Well, I'll definitely lose my FIFA disc. Assuming it doesn't break outright during transport (and it probably will), I expect the engineers will simply toss it once they open up the drive and find a disc in there. The harddrive could potentially get back here, but I expect it to be wiped in such a case. And god, if my Box shows up here without a fucking harddrive on it, I will call up Microsoft and yell at them until they give me a new 60GB harddrive.

Agh! Fate hates me, it seems. No one is to blame in this. Not Microsoft, because they repeatedly tell you to take off the harddrive. Not my father, because there was no know he could have known. And not me, because I couldn't have known either. But fuck, it happened.

Eh, guess I'll have to shell out for a new disc. And transfer all my licenses and crap to a new or wiped harddrive.

*Is annoyed.*


So, do I want to get all five Fallout 3 DLC packs on March 22nd?

  So I've been toying with this Fallout 3 DLC content in my mind for the past few days now, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. The content will be cut in price during the week of March 22nd ( as was announced by Major Nelson), which means that if I'm ever going to buy DLC for Fallout 3, I should do it during that week.

Thing is, the five packs amount to a total of 2000 MSP. A single points card would cover that amount, so that's not the problem... but I find myself torn between thinking that while I enjoyed Fallout 3, I didn't enjoy it enough to warrant spending an additional 25 euros on what could be considered one big expansion.

On the other hand, I could settle for buying one or two packs, but then I might find myself falling in love with Fallout 3 again and hitting myself over the head with my controller, because I didn't get the other DLC packs at a strongly reduced price when I had the chance to.

The final possibility is to simply forget Fallout 3 ever entered my life, and play the game without any add-ons. This would free up money for other matters, at least.

These three possibilities keep taking over in my head, leaving me utterly confused as to what I actually want. I tried starting a new game of Fallout 3 today, but the start of that game is boring as hell, and made me want to stop playing and never buy anything relating to it again, including Fallout: New Vegas. Argh!

Anyone have any suggestions? Also, Castle Crashers. Is that game good? The demo felt kind of plain too me, but then again, don't they all, aside from Just Cause 2?

Fuck, I wish I had a real job. I always cause my braincells to die prematurely when I start pondering whether to just fucking buy a game or save the money.


I like writing user reviews: help me become better at it.

As the topic title states, I enjoy writing reviews of the games I play. I'm getting better at it too. As someone who does not have English as his native language, I grapple with the language every day, though it is, of course, ever improving. And so as well with my reviews: I've come a long way from this review to this review. 
But there is still a lot of room left for improvement. So I'd like you guys to help me out. I have recently written a Mass Effect 2 review. What I'd like you to do is to read it, and then offer me feedback on what I can do to improve the readability of my reviews. Your gripes may concern anything and everything, from poorly explaining a point I try to make in the review to over-using certain words (which I know I do.)
The review is here. Please help me out by telling me what is wrong with it, so that my future reviews continue to evolve and improve.
Much appreciated.


Dudacles's comprehensive list of gaming goals, v4.0

This is my fourth "gaming goals" blog. I was bored today, and felt like finally making a comprehensive list of stuff I wanted to get done in my games. It's a pretty damn long list, but I've got time. Provided I don't get hit by a bus tomorrow, I should be able to finish by the time I'm in my forties.

The "Franchise Goals"

  - I intend to do a full run-through of all the franchises I own every main game of. I've already made a list of these franchises, but here they are again. I might do a marathon if it's a franchise like Prince of Persia, because those games aren't too long and I know them by heart, or I might take it a bit more slowly, completing a franchise over the course of a week or two. The reason I want to do this is because with so many sequels coming out that require playing, lots of details that connect the two games are lost on me. Therefore, I'm going to complete these full franchises in order to get that sense of connectivity, and to see the links between the games.

--For the record, I am currently working on the Halo franchise. I believe I'm at The Library on Heroic.--

Assassin's Creed
Viewtiful Joe
Splinter Cell
Prince of Persia
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Rainbow Six Vegas
Half-Life (Original through Episode 2)
Saint's Row
The official LOTR movie games
Gears of War
Ninja Gaiden
God of War
Devil May Cry
Lego Star Wars

The Miscellaneous Goals

- Get the achievement related to not committing any faults in Trials HD's Ultimate Endurance Run Tournament
- Play through Fahrenheit again, making other choices
- Play through Assassin's Creed II in full Italian (I didn't do so the first time round, because it broke the lip-syncing)
- Play through Left 4 Dead's campaign on the hardest difficulty setting
- Get some miscellaneous achievements in Left 4 Dead
- Get the “Play for 50 hours” achievement in FIFA 10, which is inevitable seeing as I play the game a lot
- Buy every skill in Prototype
- Get the full thousand on Halo 3: ODST
- Get to level 50 in Shadow Complex
- Complete all the challenge levels in Shadow Complex
- Play through Persona 4 on Hard
- Get every light seed in Prince of Persia
- Get every achievement for getting from point A to B in X amount of minutes in Prince of Persia
- Play a lot of GRAW2's online, which is awesome
- Play more Mirror's Edge time trials
- Play through Dead Space on Hard
- Get some more achievements in Dead Space, like the Plasma Cutter-only achievement and some of the mini-game stuff
- Play some more of Condemned 2's arena mode, which is surprisingly awesome
- Unlock Cell Jr. in Budokai 3, who is the last character I need to fill out the roster
- Get to the highest arcade mode rank in Tekken 5
- Buy and complete all pieces of Fallout 3 DLC
- Get all the bulbheads (I believe they were called) in Fallout 3
- Buy and complete The Shivering Isles
- Play through Fable II as an evil character
- Play through Mass Effect again so that I have a savefile where Wrex didn't die (for Mass Effect 2 purposes)
- Complete every mission in Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
- Replay The Matrix: Path of Neo (because I adore that game)
- Get those final Meta-game score achievements in Halo 3
- Play more Team Fortress 2. I loved that game, but for some reason, other games simply took over and I stopped playing it rather quickly...
- Play COD4 online (I used to hate that game's online, but I popped in it recently and found that I was quite enjoying it, oddly enough)
- Play more of Tom Clancy's Endwar online
- Complete Splosion Man with two to four players
- Get every agility orb in Crackdown
- Play more of GTAIV's online (which I play a lot)
- Buy both GTAIV expansions
- Get a perfect save on GTA: San Andreas
- Get my Burnout Elite licence in Burnout: Paradise
- Get every car in Burnout Paradise
- Beat Guitar Hero III on Hard and Expert
- Get the “Frank the Pimp” achievement in Dead Rising
- Go through The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in co-op
- Replay Shadow of the Colossus for the 11th time
- Replay Peter Jackson's King Kong
- Replay Bioshock on Hard
- Get all the audio recordings in Bioshock
- Replay The Darkness
- Beat Perfect Dark Zero on Dark Agent
- Beat Battlefield: Bad Company on Hard
- Replay Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary
- Beat Lost Planet on the hardest difficulty level
- Beat Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter on Hard
- Beat Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 on Hard
- Do another speedrun of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
- Beat Metal Gear
- Beat Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
- Beat Metal Gear Solid 2 on European Extreme
- Beat Metal Gear Solid 3 on European Extreme
- Beat Ninja Gaiden II on Hard
- Beat Devil May Cry 4 on Dante Must Die
- Beat Devil May Cry on Hard
- Beat Devil May Cry 2 on Hard
- Fully complete everything in Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- Beat all the challenges in 2006 FIFA World Cup (7 left!) which is worth 500 points
- Get 200G on Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
- Beat Call of Duty 4 on Veteran

The Backlog Goal

- Beat all games I have yet to complete  
So there you have it. As you can see, I have a lot of work to do...
- Dudacles (All the cool kids are signing their blog posts, so I might as well)

Wiki editing: are you still into it?

When launched in the summer of 2008, its staff members were immediately flooded by enormous amounts of wiki edits. There are a lot of games out there, and plenty of information regarding those games in our heads. I joined in as well, adding information to games (although, really, only the ones that I knew a lot about.) Thing is, around the 5000 point mark, I sort of lost interest. 
How do you guys feel about this? Are you still looking like crazy for pages to edit, to leave your mark on? Looking at the pages now, there is still a lot of uncovered ground. Some games--especially smaller ones--have nothing more than the blurb at the top of the page filled out, lack plot sections or simply still need work in terms of lay-out. The text editor can be frustrating at times, causing many--myself included--to leave a page with those lines running all over the page, images cutting paragraphs in half, etc. There are some amazing pages on here, both in the crazy and the technical sense, but there's no denying that is far from being a comprehensive encyclopedia on games.
The talk about the whole wiki aspect of the game seems to have died down. Do you consider Giantbomb a wiki first and foremost? Personally, I come here for the content the staff puts up, which is inarguably excellent and full of personality. The unfinished nature of many of the site's pages leads to me actually using Wikipedia to find information on games more often than Giantbomb. Wikipedia encompasses all subjects, and yet just about all of the game pages are complete, look really clean and even tend to be more informative. Considering Giantbomb focuses solely on gaming-related subjects, that seems wrong.
Giantbomb started out as a gaming wiki, but it's so much more now, thanks to the staff's excellent work, thanks to a consistent stream of awesome ideas like Quick Looks, the Endurance Run, Trivia (although, this too, faded from memory rather quickly), the whole achievements tracking feature... The result is that the wiki function seems to be in the backdrop now, rather than central to Giantbomb.
How about you? Are you still into editing the site? It could be that I'm completely wrong here, this is just my experience.


Dark Void: Demo Impressions

  I downloaded and tried out the Dark Void demo today. I had heard good things about the game, the premise seemed interesting and the whole jetpack thing cool. However, if the quality of the demo is anything to go by, this game is not good. Not good at all. 

 The flying controls are terrible. In a game where the jetpack is the main draw, that's bad.
 The flying controls are terrible. In a game where the jetpack is the main draw, that's bad.
The demo started off rather awkwardly, with this dude who I assumed to be the protagonist raging about something. All of a sudden, he notices a jetpack in the corner, and wants to use it. Another dude comes running, telling him that it's not yet finished and that he ought not to use it. But he persists, and moments later, you take control, and get sent off to take the jetpack for a spin.

My first complaint had already arisen here. I know that this is a demo, but I must still wonder why the devs didn't take the time to at least cut some footage together to let any of this make sense. Dude's just like "RAGE, JETPACK, LET'S GO!!!" They could have at least provided some context. But hey, it's just a demo and maybe they were pressed for time, so I can forgive them.

A larger problem quickly reared its ugly head though: the controls. In order to fly around, you need to hit Y twice (on the 360, at least), at which point you'll leap into the air and buzz off. Pressing Y down gives you a speed boost, pressing A will allow you to hover (and land, because simply flying towards the ground at high speed will kill you), the left stick aims and steers, and the right stick is used to do barrel rolls. Finally, you can lock-on to other dudes with LB.

It does not work well. At all. I quickly got into some dogfights, and while I could track the opponents with the auto-targeting, my dude did not auto-adjust himself to face the target's general direction. Seeing as how the fighters can fly just as quick or quicker than you can turn, you find yourself trying to get them between your crosshairs and failing miserably at it. You can do a one-eighty with a needlessly complicated command (Hold R3 and press the left stick and right stick in opposite directions! I mean, seriously, what the hell?) But that makes the camera do a barrel roll, further disorienting you.

 The on-foot shooting's not much to write home about either.
 The on-foot shooting's not much to write home about either.
This is probably a force of habit, but I could not get my head around the fact that the left stick turns the character and aims his guns, and that the right stick makes him revolve in the air. In my opinion, aiming should always be on the right stick. Maybe you think that I'm just a noob for thinking so, but the control just didn't feel right to me. The dogfights were absolutely terrible. Perhaps, if I had practiced some more, I would've become more proficient at it and in turn make the dogfights more fun, but when you pull a stunt like saying "Fight everywhere!", make damn sure that the controls are somewhat accessible! You can avoid the pains of chasing other vehicles by flying past them and hitting B, which will initiate a QTE, but it's a dumb one and the same every time, as far as I can tell. In a cool twist, you can take control of the aircraft after taking out the driver, but flying them means facing those same control issues, so it's not much of an improvement.

The demo also featured some ground combat. It too, was not good. It felt like Dark Sector, only far worse and more clunky. The enemies are bland, even more bland than the Geth dudes in Mass Effect. Anyway, I shot my way into the tower, stomped on a control panel, which apparently causes the tower to explode, and flew out of there. Then, a quick cinematic tried to tease, but my desire to play this game has been completely obliterated. The devs better get their act together, or this game will be an incredible flop. The professional reviews already up are also hitting hard, with scores between 50 to 60. No light at the end of the tunnel for Dark Void, I guess.

My gaming goals as of 29/11/2009

I did two blogs on my gaming goals in 2008, but when I looked back at them, I noticed that I hadn't really fulfilled any of the goals on there, and more had joined the fray. So I'm gonna compile a new list. Here goes.

A small list of the things I want to get done. :p Hope you enjoyed reading (even though it isn't all that inspired). There are some more outlandish goals coming up (like beating every franchise that I have the full set of games for again. (Like the four Halo games, for instance.)

FIFA10 demo impressions

 I just came back from a pretty lengthy session of the FIFA10 demo, so I thought I should write up my thoughts on it.

I'm a pretty big FIFA fan, but I have not bought FIFA09. I've decided to buy a footy game every two years, so that the additions to those games aren't too small. With two years between both games, there are quite a few differences.

 Man United is not present in the demo, despite the fact that Rooney's face is
 Man United is not present in the demo, despite the fact that Rooney's face is
First off, the controls feel much, much tighter. Instead of being constrained to eight directions of dribbling when you're running with the ball at your feet, 360 degree dribbling is now present. It seems like a minor addition at first, but when you've played a couple of matches (of 3 minutes per half, which is acceptable for a demo) with this new freedom to movement, going back to the older versions feels quite a bit worse.

The ball physics have been cleaned up as well, and the result is a passing system that feels more real and quite a bit more responsive. Crosses and corners feel like they're more skill than luck now, which could not be said for 08. Free kicks are still difficult to take, but the keepers now seem prepared for a straight lob with the "long ball" button, an exploit that made scoring free kicks far too easy in previous installments. I tried it, and the keeper had no trouble simply picking up the ball. I've yet to actually score a free kick though, like in any footy game, scoring those requires some familiarity with their respective systems and rules. Free kicks are different in every game. I still feel that FIFA07 on the PS2 had the best system for free kicks and such.

 Some great new animations freshen up the gameplay
 Some great new animations freshen up the gameplay
The new-and-improved passing system is a blessing, because the action on the pitch is much more oriented on passing. The right-stick commands for tricks have been streamlined, making it easier to do step-overs and such, but dribbling is difficult, very difficult here. The players' weight and size make a big difference now. I played most of my matches with Barça, so I tried to dribble quite a bit as Messi, naturally. It's very difficult. Not because Messi's not quick or good with tricks and such, because he is. It's just that he's absolutely tiny. I played against the stocky Bayern München defenders, and they had a real easy time taking the ball away from me simply by slightly leaning against me with their big bodies. I think that this is all for the better. Dribbling exploits like speed-running are now no longer possible, which should make for more realistic, and more fun matches online. 
There are a lot of nice new animations, and some new tricks too, though like in previous FIFA games, only two or three of the tricks here are actually useful in a match. There are less cutscenes, because of the inclusion of quick free kicks. When a card's being given, the game tends to simply leave the camera on the gameplay-perspective, much like PES does. It looks nice. The menus are still pretty much the same, which means they're still god-awful, but hey, it's not that big a deal.

I really like this demo. I think that most of the previous games' problems have been fixed--although new ones will quickly surface in this edition, of course. FIFA10 plays a great game of soccer, and if you like soccer games, like me, you should really check it out.

User reviews

I love writing reviews. I've picked up the habit of writing a review for a game after completing it for the first time. I don't think I'll ever turn into a professional review writer (though the Giantbomb crew makes it look as though it's really fun) but I still want my reviews to have some quality to them. The point of this blog; I want to find others who like writing user reviews. If you're interested, leave a link to your review page so that I can read and comment on them. In return, I'd like you to tell me what you think of my reviews as well. The goal is to improve our reviews. :)
Here's my review page, and for good measure, here's Sunking's, someone I've been trading comments on reviews with and who writes truly excellent reviews. Check him out as well if you like.

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