Operation Flashpoint: Red River Reviews

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It would be senseless to imply that Operation Flashpoint, console gaming's only military sim series, is anything like real war. But the emotions the game elicits are undoubtedly more nuanced and realistic than those of its corridor-shooter cousins. There are still the invisible trigger points that cause enemies to burst out of buildings on cue. But in this world, ammo is scarce, bullets drop height the longer they are asked to fly, and there's no precision-engineered path through these wide-open desert spaces to bustle you mindlessly along to your next objective.

When your gruff-voiced Staff Sergeant barks down the headset to call in mortar fire on the farmhouse two clicks north – where a clutch of insurgents are holed up with AK47s and ideological issues with your uniform – you're more likely to scan the horizon with a keen sense of stress and panic. Which one of these identical huts that punctuate the landscape is the target again? Pick the wrong building and not only will you draw the fierce blue ire of your staff sergeant, but your Alpha squad companions could be blown all the way from Tajikistan to CNN.

The US Army caught a lot of flak for friendly fire in the Iraq war. But it's surprisingly hard to tell friendly from enemy when squinting through the noonday sun. And if you're playing Operation Flashpoint: Red River on 'hardcore', with the HUD rubbed out, no respawns or checkpoints, and nothing but your eyes and radios to count on for information, Red River introduces a sense of white-hot tension that is actually very rare in video games.

Likewise, when one of your squad mates screams "Sniper, 200 metres East" as a bullet wheezes unseen past your helmet, your immediate reaction is to dive behind a nearby wall, not to scan the rooftops in search of a vainglorious headshot. If you take a bullet, in this game your head will lunge violently to one side, incapacitating you for a few seconds before you can steady your aim again.

You'll also start bleeding out, a drain of strength that can only be stemmed by ducking into safety to apply bandages before mending your wounds, a two-stage healing process that takes you out of the fight for a full 15 seconds. In game terms, these are weighty punishments for a lack of due care and attention, and they make Infinity Ward's vision-clouding strawberry jam filter seem faintly ridiculous.

So realism is built into the Red River's code, but now – far more than in its predecessor Dragon Rising – it's written into its script too. It's clear Codemasters has feasted on a diet of contemporary war TV and cinema in arranging what turns out to be one of the strongest battle stories in gaming. There are echoes of HBO and David Simon's Generation Kill in the reams of dialogue that couch each fire team encounter here, while providing cover for an explosive ordnance disposal team attempting to disarm an IED in a car is lifted straight from The Hurt Locker. Missions are introduced by exquisitely produced motion-comic cut-scenes, but it's in-game where story and interaction meld with rare effectiveness

It's a game of long, meandering walk and talks, not least since you play as a four-man infantry unit whose job is often to run ahead of Humvee convoys clearing roads. The constant radio chatter and banter back and forth between fireteams and the steadying voice of the staff sergeant have a keen authenticity.

Although you are constantly receiving orders and directions, this is still a game with wide-open play options. As well as controlling your own character, you can direct the other members of your fireteam, composed of a Rifleman, Auto-Rifleman, Grenadier and Scout.

Holding down the right bumper brings up a radial menu with a host of options, allowing to you order your team to suppress targets, clear buildings or even provide overwatch support all within a couple of simple clicks. The d-pad allows you to select individual members of your fireteam or you can give a group command. It's simple and, once you've got to grips with the system, effective, and you come to feel a sense of responsibility and affection for your three compatriots that builds quickly through the campaign.

Part of the reason for this is that each mission is long and arduous, some taking up to an hour to complete. 60 minutes of concentrated effort and tension brings men together, even if they are virtual soldier men. So when you dive into the campaign with three real friends, playing co-operatively online, the result is mesmerising.

It's the kind of playpen designed to create personal memories: the time one of your friends took a miracle shot on a helicopter pilot and brought the bird down, or when you managed to retreat from the Chinese PLA against overwhelming odds without anyone losing a life. Some of these memories are scripted, but they often feel like your own. Find three competent friends to play through the game with and you will have one of the best shooter experiences currently available. No question.

The overarching design of the game has been tightened up since Dragon Rising, too. Now you earn experience points for making kills and completing objectives, levelling up your class of choice and, in doing so, gaining points that can be allocated to improve stamina, reload rates or the ability to pick out targets. Each mission is graded Bronze, Silver or Gold, with more class points won the better the medal.

Once the campaign is spent, a series of Fireteam Engagement missions are available to play through across four different types, asking you to defend fixed positions, rescue downed pilots, protect convoys or sweep an area to eliminate enemy forces, in a series of scored challenges complete with leaderboards.

It's not quite all good news. Animations are jumpy, with enemies occasionally shifting three paces to the right, or flicking between crouching and standing positions without grace. Lines of dialogue sometimes repeat, breaking the sense of authenticity that the game works so hard to create.

The vehicle sections aren't Codemasters' best work, and the engine in general, while excellent at huge draw distances, veers between beautiful and scrappy. This lack of polish only slightly detracts from the experience but while there is much less of the roughness that defined Red River's predecessor, it is noticeable nonetheless.
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Wull Scott
418,357 (236,807)
Wull Scott
TA Score for this game: 1,706
Posted on 20 June 11 at 01:32, Edited on 27 July 12 at 00:21
This review has 18 positive votes and 8 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Oh, dear, Operation Flashpoint. I wasn't enough for you, was I? Lots of us loved you more than you ever knew, but that wasn't enough, either. Cold War Crisis and Resistance, we were there for that - some of us even had Elite on the Xbox. Dragon Rising went another way, but some of us still loved you. I know I did. But it wasn't enough for you. You looked over at the prettier, more popular games and thought, "I want to be like that...” Off you went and back you came, like the ugly girl at the school dance, your make up and new dress never able to hide the face underneath.

And that tortured metaphor is how I feel about Red River. OK, so let's try to untorture it a little bit, shall we? Well, like some sort of mad, Single White Female-esque stalker Red River has stolen what it has perceived as the best parts from other, BETTER shooters. We have the immediacy and close range of Call of Duty, the control scheme and humour of Bad Company, the swearing of Bulletstorm, the poor iron sights and linearity of Medal of Honor and some of the visual effects from Kane And Lynch: Dog Days. OK, then, one at a time?

The close range of Call of Duty works when your character is a lightning fast super-soldier with the melee capabilities of a bipedal tiger. This does not describe the members of Bravo Team. Those of us who played the original (let's class Dragon Rising as the original for the sake of this review, as the only thing these games share with the true originals is the name), the terror of hearing "Enemy rifleman 50 meters" was something to behold. How did they get so close? Almost all your fights were over distances of 100 meters, and most of your shots were aimed at muzzle flashes in the distance. The control scheme and game mechanics were well suited to this, with slow reload and weapon switching times which felt a bit more realistic than your other FPSs. But Red River commonly has you fighting at extremely close range - 25 meters or less, but has maintained the old mechanics, meaning that you now no longer rely on strategy or planning or a steady aim, but twitch gaming that sits poorly within the engine. However, key features have been inexplicably removed - for example, the admittedly useless fighting knife, so you have no melee capability at all now. Add to this that a hit to the chest or head can kill you outright or down you (more on this later) with a single round is very annoying. Bizarrely, you now no longer carry sidearm in addition to your two small arms, but can carry a another primary weapon instead of the pistol. This is never really a problem as the Tajikistani enemies who use AK47 and other Russian weapons seem to be happy to keep large stocks of NATO ammunition and STANAG magazines, so you will NEVER run out of ammo. That being said, the Chinese are also happy to leave caches of ammo for your weaponry as well - very sportsmanlike! I digress - what I am saying is basically that the game is too unwieldy to be what it wants to be.

The humour. Oh, sweet Jesus, the ""Humour"". There aren't enough quotation marks to express how SARCASTIC I am being. Bad Company brilliantly infused what was a fairly staid and dry campaign with some brilliant humour that really made the game come alive. You had four believable characters talking believably to each and saying believably stupid things. This TRIPE that I have had to endure... Honestly, Sergeant Knox is one of the worst characters in videogame history. Truly terrible. Apparently he is a long term, grizzled veteran who also a natty line in film quotes and some of the STUPIDEST swearing I have heard this side of Rogue Warrior. Now, Bulletstorm embraced its stupid swearing and it was strangely... Endearing. This, however, is pointless. Now, don't get me wrong, I love swearing. I'm Scottish, so it is like punctuation to me - even writing this without swearing is a challenge. But being told the same things again and again and hearing his tirades would cause any real soldier to approach him, inform him that HE HAD DONE THE REQUISITE TRAINING BEFORE BEING DEPLOYED and possibly raise a complaint for continuous and abusive harassment. Oh, the voice actor is actually very good, by the way - he just hasn't been given anything to go on. On the subject of dialogue, things I will hear in my sleep until the day I die - "Douchebags. Twenty. FIVE! Meters. NORTH!", "They got our range!" and "It's raining hell over here!” There are honestly only about 4 radio responses from the other units and they ARE repeated. For. EVER.

Taking inspiration from Medal of Honor? Why? Well, children... I don't have a clue. First, the scopes. Now, I would imagine that one might put an RDS or ACOG (Red Dot Sight and Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, fact fans!) onto a weapon in order to improve how well you can aim with it. Not here. They not only manage to obscure most of your vision but - particularly with the M16/M4 - is obscured by the front sight of the gun. This can lead to aiming a bit too high, or low on a fairly regular basis, so you're probably best sticking with iron sights until you get the sniper, or even better thermal scope.

The linearity is the greatest annoyance in the game as they invariably start with an UNSKIPPABLE journey to the start of the mission (following some stupid, but thankfully skippable briefing from a stupid Colonel. I think that might have been his name - Colonel Stupid) that takes 3 to 5 minutes. Yes, really. They also end with a 3 to 5 minute long egress from the mission - also UNSKIPPABLE. In between, there are boundaries everywhere that stop you from moving on too far or from using you initiative.

Example - One mission has you holding a number of lines from an invading army. Yes, an ENTIRE army. That's fine let's do it. Now will be a good time to bring up the AI, actually, as this was where I had my biggest problem. The first line has a lovely defensible compound - a 2-storey building facing the enemy with an emplaced .50 cal turret upstairs, a low wall and arch to the left with buildings providing cover to right and left. Straight away, it is annoying that you STILL can't order your squad to deploy the mines they are equipped with, which is baffling. Moving on, though... Using my immense tactical genius I ordered my Automatic Rifleman to the corner of the wall to cover our front left quarter, my Rifleman was ordered to take up the turret and cover the right, while the Grenadier was sent beside the turret to cover the centre. As Sniper, I hoped to remain mobile and hit any targets of opportunity. The thinking was thus - the suppressive fire from the machine guns would funnel the enemy either into Alpha and Charlie's field of fire, or into an alley to our front where we could pick them off.

Now. First issue - Numerous times you are sent onto roofs to cover your friends in other fireteams. Sadly when you try to place your men with precision on a roof, your only options are "Secure Building" or "Defend Building". Secure Building makes them go inside and clear it, but they won't take cover and fire from the windows unless you're very lucky. Defend Building tends to make them stand outside the building and stop people from going in. I have NEVER needed my men to do this. You get around this by aiming at sandbags on the roof to make them move to that position, but it is very sloppy.

Second issue - The AI. Or perhaps it should just be called the A. Christ, it is ropey. Really, really ropey. My Automatic Rifleman, no matter WHAT I kept telling him to do, decided that the other side of the wall was THE place to be. That was where all the cool kids were, apparently. Them AND THE CHINESE ARMY. Nothing could convince him to just PLEASE COME INSIDE THE COMPOUND, as this option wasn't on the QCR (Quick Command Radial). Eventually, he just lay down out there and that was fine. The Rifleman took the turret without a hitch, but the Grenadier decided to run off the front of the building and stand there. This time when I tried to select him, I now couldn't select any of my men, just the entire unit. I would find this happening VERY frequently as the game went on. But more on the A"I". I said earlier that I would come back to the being downed with one bullet. Health is dealt with very well in Red River - a bullet wound will cause you to bleed, so you need to hold A to bandage yourself, which takes a few seconds. If you were wounded badly enough, you might have to further repair your injuries to stop things like decreased speed, lower accuracy and what have you. It is VERY good, actually. Being downed means that you can be revived, and you will lie there and bleed to death at different speeds depending on the severity of the wound. If you have the AUDACITY to get downed on anything other than flat, ground level terrain you will die. I was shot at the top of some stairs and died and when I called for a medic, he incredulously asked "How the hell do you expect me to do that?" After yelling for him to climb the EFFING stairs, I died. And this happened A LOT. Add this that none of the AI have the slightest regard for their personal safety and the attention span of an ADHD addled toddler and you are in for a bad time. Pretty often an enemy will run past your squad, firing - or even run through the middle of you, turn round and shoot all of you in the back while your guys steadfastly ignore him. THIS happened a lot as well. It is made all the more irritating by the fact that one of the commonly said phrases in the game is "Watch your sectors!" Nobody watches their sectors. Except me. Also, in these games when they say that, nobody has ever told me what my sector is...

ANYWAY! Back to the linearity. The Chinese army roll in and trounce my guys in about 40 seconds and I'm left holding the place on my own to the point where a bunch of anti-tank soldiers appear and get shot down about 100 meters from my location. As I'm under attack from APCs as well as infantry, I surmise that mad dash for one of the soldiers' rocket launcher is called for. I shoulder my M4 and leg it out the compound envisaging myself as a hero. Then the game goes all Kane and Lynch, you know that REALLY shoddy digital corruption look? Yep. Just like that. No, apparently I'm not allowed to be a hero. You WILL stick to the script. Surely in that scenario, the punishment should be that if I mess up, I get killed. It's not my fault that apparently no one in the United States Marine Corps thought to pack even a LAW.

So let’s look at some positives... No, actually - despite the length of the review already, there are more negatives. I would love to know why (in the name of all that is holy) the Marines are either attacking into the sun or at night. Seriously you have the sun in your eyes constantly and can hardly see. Just pop a pair of sunglasses on... It is why the thermal scope is so useful. What else... Oh, yeah - getting stunlocked by enemies. When you get shot, you (quite rightly) recoil in pain (along with more of that lovely Kane and Lynch effect), which leaves you open to another hit which makes you recoil which... Well, you know what stunlock is. That. That happens. Why don't you call down airstrikes via the map using a co-ordinate system? Why do you need to use the most UNWIELDY line of sight method? I failed countless secondary objectives due to being a few feet off the precise point I needed to hit. Oh, GOD! The woman pilot's voice! It is inexplicably recorded twice as loud as every other piece of dialogue and it really grates. Also, early in the game when you will be a maximum of level 6 (if you only play the campaign) DON'T TELL ME TO USE SMOKE GRENADES AND MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A RETARD FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND THEM, WHEN THEY AREN'T UNLOCKED UNTIL LEVEL 15! I suppose it's because Codemasters is a very young company and haven't been making games FOR TWENTY-FIVE YEARS!

When the game hits its stride, and you somehow compensate for all its shortcomings, it is actually pretty decent. The guns feel pretty decent, except that the M16 fires way too slowly and you have the videogame trope that shotguns can only hit something 5 feet away. The RPG and levelling system is quite engrossing, but it is never made entirely clear where it actually is, so it might take you a few levels to discover it. The game does come into its own in co-op, but in order to see who your friends are, you need to play on Normal, but the level of feedback you get makes the screen an unbelievable mess, with little flags, names, a radar, compass and objective markers. To be fair, the Fire Team Exercises are pretty good fun and work far better than the campaign. It's not often that I'll laud a lack of character in a videogame, but Red River is one of those times.

Achievement wise the game is a total grind, demanding the equivalent of over 4 playthroughs, but that won't happen for me due to a terrible incident. I had been playing one of the FTEs for the 6th time (the Last Stand in the dark if you're interested) when (for the sixth time) my squadmates just let the enemy in despite setting all three of them to cover one side while I covered the other. I'm afraid, dear reader, that I lost the plot. I went radgie. It was a quiet rage as my friend who was in private chat with me will attest. To my shame, I removed the disk from the tray and snapped it into four neat quarters. One for each jellyheaded member of Bravo team.
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Alien715
163,885 (108,485)
Alien715
TA Score for this game: 1,862
Posted on 02 September 11 at 22:55, Edited on 02 September 11 at 22:56
This review has 5 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
In the shooter genre in the gaming industry,it is rare that a game completely revolutionizes the genre.With Operation Flashpoint Red River,it does not revolutionize the genre,but it evolves the franchise of Operation Flashpoint.While many are cautious after playing Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising,they are right in some aspects.

Operation Flashpoint Red River follows your squad of United States Marines and a war in Tajikistan.It follows a very far fetched plot line but tries to stick with typical Operation Flashpoint style with you being a simple soldier and not playing the hero role like basically every other FPS.While this seems like it follows this path,it feels it doesn’t do that anymore and your squad does hero-like objectives that seem impossible to pull off with just one squad and are downright insane.The only people that could ever pull off stuff like this were the members of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in WWII.Yes it’s crazily hard stuff like that.Your a member of Fireteam Bravo,who is always tasked with the crazy objectives that you would never have 4 men try to pull off.Like they say in-game,your Fireteam is “teachers pet” for command and your squad leader.

The franchise pulls a complete 180 on how the previous games are played.No longer will you be engaging from far away as often as you did in previous games.You now are having much more medium-ranged firefights and have much more close-range engagements.The game still continues with the tradition of long range combat is usually happening,but the closer-ranged combat is much more improved over its predecessor.However,it does not feel good when you are playing.If you don’t have an automatic weapon in close quarters,it will be hard to stay alive.Yes,you do have a chance with a semi auto weapon,but if you aren’t aiming down the sight,you are going to die.If you came into this thinking that the game will be exactly like Dragon Rising,you are wrong in many aspects with the combat.

Graphics are still good,but nothing amazing.However,Operation Flashpoint Red River does do some good things with the dirt effects in the game.Dirt will fly onto your face if a bullets land near you or if a grenade or explosion goes off near your face.Sound is pretty good as well.Explosions and gunfire still sound really good and the voice acting is good too.My one complaint about the voice acting is that there is a lot of swearing.A LOT OF SWEARING.It’s rare to go 2 minutes without hearing f**k.It isn’t very annoying at times,but sometimes it got on my nerves with how over the top it goes.Swearing can be funny if put at the right moments or seem normal,but in this they beat you over the head with it.

With all that said,however,Operation Flashpoint Red River is a blast to play with friends.The game is four player co-op,and is extremely fun to play with friends.You can go through the entire campaign in co-op.There is also a Last Stand mode,which the name implies,is a fight to the death(or extraction via helicopter) against PLA forces that you can play with three other friends.It is a very fun mode that I enjoyed playing all night with friends and can last a long time.

CLOSING COMMENTS

If you came into this game expecting it to be like the last game,you’re wrong.The game feels like an evolution of a franchise that wants to be realistic on both consoles and PC,but doesn’t.It is extremely fun and ditches the insane realistic aspect that Dragon Rising had(which I enjoyed for full disclosure)and makes a more mainstreamed experience that is very fun and enjoyable.It’s a fun game that can make for a great time with friends and will help tide over the wait for this years AAA shooters at the end of the year.
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Vitiated1
1,172,987 (552,285)
Vitiated1
TA Score for this game: 2,156
Posted on 01 November 15 at 20:11, Edited on 14 June 16 at 06:08
This review has 10 positive votes and 12 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River answers the question "How bad can it be?" with a strong and resounding "Absolutely awful!". Red River was released by Codemasters, the company that brought us such classics as Turning Point, You're In the Movies, Damnation, and Bodycount (how they managed to put out something as good as Overlord or Jericho I will never understand) and is certainly a shining example of how low a company can sink when releasing a game. Let's explore why.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising was the first installment in the series on the 360, and was marketed as an ultra-realistic tactical shooter. In Dragon Rising, you need to be healed by medics. Bullets to your arms or legs cripple you, and can hinder your ability to run or aim. Firefights are over large distances, with little to no close quarter combat. Red River took this design, toned it down, and released it without fixing anything that needed to be fixed. For example, close combat is the name of the game now. Enemies will frequently be in buildings close by, popping out of windows or from behind corners and spraying at you, killing or downing you instantly. In the event that you are face to face with an enemy, you absolutely MUST spray at them until they drop or drop you. Why? Because this game has no melee function. Despite the incredibly close quarter fights, the developers neglected to add in a melee feature that was present in Dragon Rising. If you do not fire first and hit your enemy, you are going to die. This is due to the simple fact that a shot from an opposing soldier will cause you to flinch and recoil, a motion you can't shoot while stuck in. Basically, you're stuck in this position until you die or if a team mate is close enough to neutralize the enemy shooting at you. If you do escape this situation, you will likely be injured and bleeding. You must then stop and hold A to patch yourself twice, once for the blood and once for the actual injury, meaning healing simply takes an incredibly long time. Overall, the combat is simply an awful experience.

As far as the campaign goes, it is incredibly linear and simple. You will be fighting against Tajik soldiers with AK-47s early on, this eventually gives way to PLA soldiers with AK-47s. Every character is simply awful and unlikable, screaming obscenities at every given opportunity which sounds more like a group of 14 year olds having their first beer instead of a group of trained military men. The mixing and editing of the dialogue is absolutely atrocious, with certain characters blaring out of the TV and others being masked by background noise. It is painfully obvious that every phrase was recorded separately, and simply pieced together like a sort of speech impediment Frankenstein. "riflemen...75 METERS!!!!...north" is a common example of how awfully the speech was pieced together, and it simply comes off as sounding incredibly awkward. The command menu is clunky and awkward, forcing you to scroll through many combinations of LB/RB/Left/Right to give the most basic commands or orders. It's unwieldy and leaves you terribly exposed whenever you try to use it.

The characters are written terribly, the plot is boring, and every environment is the same blotch of brown. The trees, grass, buildings, enemies, vehicles, and squadmates are all the same shade of medium-light brown. That makes seeing enemies in cover nearly impossible, and you'll find yourself shooting at the direction bullets are flying past you much more than the actual shape of an enemy. The buildings have no furniture, windows, and are lucky if they have walls honestly. The power pylons don't even have power cables attached to them! The environments and levels are barely designed, and seem more like beta sketches than a completed game. On top of that, the blinding sun makes everything miserable. Even with the brightness turned down, the sun takes everything in the level and makes it a blindingly bright shade of brown that makes it impossible to see enemies, bullets, or even tanks. My final complaint is dealing more with wasted time. Every mission has a 2-6 minute intro AND outro, meaning at least 5-10 minutes per level of you just sitting in a helicopter or jeep. No dialogue, plot progression, or anything. Just awkwardly sitting there in silence, giving you time to reflect on your life while playing this trash.

Beyond the campaign, the game offers a series of FTE missions, most set on campaign maps and offering very little in terms of gameplay. You can drive down a long road and protect a convoy, sweep and clear enemies, defend a fixed positions in a horde mode, and rescue pilots. Playing most of these with the AI is an absolute nightmare, as the AI truly is awful. They will usually switch to their pistols immediately and run out only to get killed. The pilots you're supposed to rescue will take forever to follow you, leading to their deaths. At the fair price of $10, you can buy some DLC that allows you to access 8 more of these FTE missions, featuring maps that were already on the disc. What a deal!

Now for the real treat of this review, the list of bugs and glitches my squad and I encountered while playing this game. Not spawning in with guns, helicopters and jeeps spinning in midair rapidly, extraction helicopter getting stuck on a pylon, AI keeling over dead without enemies around, missions being "complete" before they even start, spawning stuck inside a helicopter and dying when the helicopter takes off, air strikes being called directly on top of a target and "missing", enemy vehicles being invincible (we saw an APC take 5 Queen Bee shots and 18 noob tubes before killing us all), javelins being aimed 400 meters ahead of us but killing the entire team, helicopters landing inside other helicopters, and the list goes on and on and on. This game is buggier than a pile of cow excrement.

This game markets "realism", but practices none of it. This game is too CoD for the tac shooter crowd and too tac shooter for the CoD crowd. This is a poorly designed, awfully made game that probably spent more money acquiring the licenses for the songs that play during the intro/outro sequences than on the actual game development. Probably one of the worst FPS games on the 360. Avoid at all costs.

0.5/5
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