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First Impressions: Testing the Hype in Destiny's Exclusive PS4 Alpha

Posted by Robert Ramsey

We say jump, you say how high

Over the last four days, we've spent 26 hours exploring Destiny's surprise First Look Alpha. Announced during Sony's E3 2014 press conference, the 6.6GB download offers a shockingly robust early look at the upcoming sci-fi epic, sporting an impressively vast map full of enemies, a player-versus-player mode, a lengthy co-op mission, and the hub-like Tower. The fact that we managed to spend so long playing what is essentially just a single chunk of the full game speaks volumes, and simply put, it's hard not to feel that developer Bungie is on to something very special.

Dropping into the wasteland that is Old Russia, you're initially tasked with delving into a long abandoned satellite relay station. This is definitely a first-person shooter, but it bucks the trend by placing an expansive stretch of land between you and your objective. The location itself is split up into numerous large areas, which are all seamlessly connected. You're free to go anywhere that you want within the boundaries of the location, and it's this freedom that augments the property with a very tangible sense of discovery. Just wandering around the first area, you'll come across several camps that house patrolling Fallen – the four armed enemies that we've seen countless times in the game's promotional media.

Indeed, it isn't long before you're sampling the combat, which is thankfully a bit of a revelation. Movement is smooth, and gunplay is even smoother. Much like Bungie's most famous creation, there's an emphasis on traversing the environment in order to get an advantage over your foes. Hitting X makes your custom-made Guardian hop, and pushing it again while you're off the ground boosts you further into the air. Needless to say, jumping and controlling both your trajectory and fall is paramount to avoiding your adversary's fire while also taking up a better position on the battlefield.

Your Guardian's agility is needed, too, as enemies are quick to surround you and flush you out of cover. Unless you've got a sniper rifle and you're sitting a mile away from the action, staying in the same spot usually results in death, and for that reason, it can be a little difficult to get used to the need to keep moving – especially if you're used to cover based shooters. Thankfully, in the Fallen's case, projectiles tend to move slowly, giving you just enough time to avoid damage by strafing or jumping at the right moment. It feels like a very reactionary system, but it's a one that manages to keep you engaged even when you're trading blows with low level, easily beatable foes.

As hinted, gunplay is absolutely solid. The various types of weaponry on offer seem balanced – at least outside of competitive multiplayer – and there's enough a variety to make you stop and think about what suits your style of play best. Speaking of styles, there initially isn't too much difference between the title's three main classes – the Titan, Hunter, and Warlock – but judging from the skill trees on show, there are plenty of ways to alter your avatar's abilities. Even just a few hours into the experience, each type of Guardian begins to veer off into their own unique skill sets, with differing grenade types, statistic boosts, and super moves. The latter of which take time to charge, but are utterly devastating and very satisfying to pull off.

When you're having so much fun with the gunplay, it can be easy to forget that Destiny is very much set up like an open world RPG that's full of loot. You'll find equipment suited to your class in chests or scattered on the ground near defeated opponents, and these early signs suggest that the title gets it right when it comes to rewarding the player. Stumbling across a powerful new rifle or a beefy bit of armour feels great, and it's even better when you bring an encrypted drop back to the Tower for it to be analysed and changed into a rare item.

The Tower itself represents an area where you can catch your breath and run into other players without having to worry about enemies spoiling the party. The reasonably sized hub is the only place where you'll see your character in third person, where you're able to show off your lovingly crafted facial features and bad haircut. Here you'll spend your hard earned glimmer on weapons or ships, and pick up bounties that task you with completing different challenges out in the field. Of course, what you're really here for is the opportunity to entice others into a dancing contest, which is even better if you begin your disco in an awkward corner of the map.

Indeed, it's safe to say that player interaction is what may set Destiny apart from its peers. Bungie refuses to call its creation an MMO, but it does capture many of the same qualities. During its development, interactions with other humans have been likened to the PlayStation 3's Journey, and in reality, the comparison is something that does come to mind. You'll be making your way through the barren landscape, and you'll suddenly spot another player or two going about their business, and it's entirely up to you how you approach your new friends. A wave usually does the trick, but it's also important to note that the game doesn't seem to populate locations with many Guardians. At most, we came across four different players in one area, a number which thankfully keeps the map feeling atmospherically empty. That said, groups of random enemies tend to respawn quickly, and some environments even showcase battles between two factions, so there's never a lack of action despite the expansive design.

Much like Fallout 3, it's the detail of these dilapidated locations that keep them feeling interesting, and urge you to explore every nook and cranny. The Alpha may only boast one overall area, but we were still finding places far from the beaten path 15 hours into testing. As such, imagining the scope of the full release is exciting to say the least, particularity when you take journeying to other planets into account.

Of course, you're free to jog around the map alone, but there's no doubt that much of the experience is tailored to co-op play. Boosting through canyons on your space bike as friends zip by proves to be a very cool way to get around, while decimating platoons of adversaries side by side with your best buddies means that you can bring some strategy into the mix, especially when you're up against bigger baddies. Best of all, however, is how seamless actually teaming up with friends is. All you need to do is go into the menu and tap L1 to jump to your roster screen, where you can peruse everyone who's online, from your friends to those who are currently in the same world space as you. From here, you simply click on a name and hit join or invite, and you're good to go. Load times when picking a new location or joining a fellow Guardian are a little lengthy right now, but once things are underway, we're incredibly pleased to say that we suffered no connection-related problems whatsoever, making it immediately clear that we're dealing with some very, very reliable netcode. How it holds up for the finished product is obviously the big question, but our Alpha experience has undoubtedly been very promising.

The same can be said of the title's competitive offering, which straddles a line somewhere between the quick pace of Call of Duty, and the more tactical approach of Halo. As we hinted earlier, some types of guns seem more effective than others, but it's too early to say whether or not there's an imbalance at work. There are rewards such as random loot to be had for battling your Earth saving allies in the arena, too, and you'll also gain experience as you would while taking down artificial intelligence driven opponents, which reinforces the connected world concept that Bungie's project relies so heavily upon. With enough modes of play, the game's PVP component could easily add an entirely different way to get your fix, as well as a fiercely competitive way to test out your endgame skills and equipment.

As it stands, the sci-fi shooter is certainly poised to make a lasting impression on the gaming sphere. With Activision's marketing at its back, there's little doubt that Destiny will rake in the cash, but it's looking like it'll be worthy of every penny. The Alpha blends great gunplay and robust RPG mechanics with a huge, detailed world and thoughtful player interaction. Imagining this impressively polished concoction on a far grander scale is an incredibly exciting prospect, and given Bungie's pedigree, it's difficult to see anything going wrong between now and the title's September release. With the game's public beta slated for next month, we're eager to see if any tweaks will be made, but right now, there's more than enough reason to believe that Destiny will easily live up to and perhaps even surpass what's expected of it.


Are you equally excited for Bungie’s ambitious intergalactic adventure? Did you dip into the Destiny Alpha over the weekend? Gun us down in the comments section below.

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User Comments (49)

k_andersenStaff

#1

k_andersen said:

Great write-up Robert! I must admit, I'm fairly excited for this one, if only for that gorgeous art. That said, multiplayer FPS games always make me nervous, since I am - by and large - absolute rubbish at shooters. Hopefully it lumps me with similarly deficient players so I don't make a complete fool of myself.

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

Haven't had a chance to try this myself yet, but the hype from everyone that has sampled it has got me hyped. I wasn't sure at first, but sprinkle Activision's marketing on top, and I'm now confident this is going to be the next big thing.

Man, Sony made bold bets on Watch Dogs and Destiny, but it looks like it's going to pay off.

CodeSe7en

#3

CodeSe7en said:

Very smooth game so far, especially for an alpha build. Can't wait for the full release.

chazaroonie

#4

chazaroonie said:

@get2sammyb @k_andersen I'm generally not very good at multiplayer FPS games either but I really enjoyed my time with the game. The shooting mechanics are really smooth and it all feels very natural. Like Sammy, I wasn't sure about this one before this weekend. Now though I'm completely sold. It reminds me of a cross between far cry and mass effect but looks like it may be bigger than both in terms of content. Roll on September for the full release. I can't wait.

LDXD

#7

LDXD said:

Reading this and some of these comments has got me hyped more now
This will be my next ps4 purchase, September is going to take forever to get here
@k_andersen don't worry dude I'm not that great at fps either let's not let that stop us from playing or making fools of our selves lol
@get2sammybyeah I have a feeling this game is gonna match or exceed the hype

Punished_Boss

#9

Punished_Boss said:

Hmmm the majority of the people in the comment section isn't great at online shooters, feels like the odd one out.

ohhaime

#10

ohhaime said:

I somehow got invited to the Alpha but I don't remember signing up.I don't usually play Shooters. I Especially don't usually play Single player and console shooters as I find them rather slow and easy.I've played a good bit of Online FPS on PC and I'd say I'm a bit above average in terms of skill at them.

I've only played a few hours of the alpha Friday night and I didn't touch the Multiplayer because of having a busy weekend and not being all that interested.So take my comments with a grain of salt.

I found the controls are surprisingly smooth and responsive for an FPS played on a gamepad,of course it helps that the DS4 is pretty much the best gamepad ever designed.With the sensitivity turned all the way up(what I do in all console shooters when I first start them) the speed was exactly what I call an acceptable level.(I keep the mouse on my PC set to a level unusable to most people) I'd like higher sensitivity levels to go to as a I adjust to the speed but not too bad for a console shooter.

I did like the large open world, It's expansive and well designed.Very fun to traverse.Very impressive that this is just a small part.
Good exploration one of my favorite things a game can have and Destiny provides it in spades. One fault I noticed though was dark hallway set pieces that are open but blocked by invisible walls that instantly killed my sense of immersion.

Another thing that I found marred the experience a bit was the enemies.They seem kind of dumb,it didn't feel like the reacted to me very much.Like they would switch between hiding behind cover to running around randomly.( This is especially noticeable when using Sniper rifles) I didn't feel like they tried to act with any sort of strategy. Maybe enemies later in the game will be smarter.

They did make combat more frenetic then is typical for a single player shooter. And it's much more engaging then the glorified shooting galleries that are "cover based" shooters like Uncharted.

The enemies super fast respawn is probably the worst thing in the game to me because it also destroys any sense of immersion.It's pretty much you clear a room and as soon as you walk though the door it's full again.It also ruins the sections where enemies are fighting each other,You just can't help but to feel the scripting when every time you go though an area of the map you see the same battle playing out.
It's also annoying when you're trying to explore(which you want to do because the world is so well made) and you need to fight the same enemies every time you turn around.

The loot system is adequate.I like it better then say Boarderlands because I hated how Boarderlands floods you with useless weapons so that drops quickly lose any sense of value.In my Limited play-time drops seemed like they are paced out nicely in Destiny,Enough to keep you playing but rare enough to make them interesting. Plus the ability to instantly turn unwanted stuff into cash makes every drop rewarding.
I was going to say at this point that the reason I say only it's adequate is that for good and bad it lacks the addictive,grindy crafting of games like Warframe or Monster Hunter but then I realized I didn't actually see how Crafting works. I'm not sure it's even in the alpha but I did find some material drops so it must be part of the game at least.

I'm surprised the the article here calls the RPG mechanics "Robust" as I thought they seemed rather limited,mostly in terms of customization.Again, better them a typical FPS but not quite the level I would like.The three Classes may play differently like the article mentions,But it looked to me like my Hunter's skills will end up being more or less the same as anyone else's.

This could be because the game I keep comparing it to in my head is Warframe because it feels the same in a lot of ways. And the things I don't like about Destiny are all things that I think Warframe does better.More varied characters and customization, enemy AI in Warframe is still kind of dumb but the random generation makes the combat feel much more emergent.

To sum up I'd say I could see myself playing this if I got it free through PS+ or something. But I don't think I'd spend cash.

LDXD

#12

LDXD said:

@ohhaime yeah thanks for your impressions
I don't like hearing about the lightning fast enemy respawns but I'm sure it won't bother me too much
You said you haven't touched the multiplayer, what did you mean by that? Is there a single player campaign? If so I didn't know that I thought it was all online or do you have to be online to even play single player?

Alphatitans

#13

Alphatitans said:

@get2sammyb
Do you know if we will be able to keep our character and level 8 stats aswell as all the gear we picked up in the alpha test and use it in the main game once released in September ? Loving the game though, great fun. Far better than I was expecting, especially for an alpha test the actual game has masses of potential now can't wait.

ohhaime

#14

ohhaime said:

@LDXD
In the alpha there is some sort of competitive battle arena Location,But as I said I didn't check it out yet. There was also what was called a "Strike Mission" that I didn't try but it sounds like what would be a Raid in an MMO. (that is you get matched into a party to tackle a difficult dungeon.)

There is also a story mission,and an exploration mission.(where you can wander around the map and find missions to complete)Other players can be in these missions,either randomly( a few where there while I was playing but I only saw their names in the menu and never ran into them while playing.) I'd assume you can also join instances(to use another MMO term) with other players on you're friends list. But I didn't try that.( I'm not a very social person if you couldn't tell.Plus I like the added difficulty of soloing games meant to be played with teams.)

ShogunRokAdmin

#16

ShogunRok said:

@Alphatitans I'd guess that you won't be able to carry things over. Alphas and Betas are usually just for testing, but in this case, it's worked as a great marketing tool.

I mean, there's a chance that Bungie will let Alpha testers carry their stuff over, but I wouldn't get your hopes up - things might be changed for the full game anyway.

Tasuki

#17

Tasuki said:

Didn't get as much time this weekend to play the Alpha as I would have liked cause of work and the world cup, but I still enjoyed what I did play. Got this one preordered as well. Oh and I am not good at FPS games either.

Alphatitans

#18

Alphatitans said:

@ShogunRok
That makes sense just wishful thinking on my behalf really. I should just be happy that I got my alpha code and have beta to come too as I pre-ordered destiny just before I heard about the alpha trial. still it's a good demo of what hopefully becomes a great classic.

Carl-G

#19

Carl-G said:

Shame you can't fly the ships to different Planets and not just watch the boring loading screens of it :D (even tho the loading screen of the flying spaceships look cool i suppose) That is what next gen games should be like(bit like the amazing looking 'No Man's Land') Oh well.

ReigningSemtex

#20

ReigningSemtex said:

I have only played 2 matches online and I hope to play much more if the alpha is still on when I get back from work. I didn't care that much about destiny until I played the alpha and now I can't wait until September it's like halo meets borderlands with a dollop of epicness thrown in. The menus and music even feels instantly warming

Mrskinner

#21

Mrskinner said:

First person shooters are not where I am at my best. I'm an average player at best. However exploration and rpg elements are my thing. I have played the alpha and I am hooked. This does not feel like a halo or cod clone, it feels very fresh! I have preordered and got my beta code now on the back of playing this alpha build. Bungie are on to a winner and sony were spot on backing this

Mrskinner

#22

Mrskinner said:

@LDXD game is single player, mmo style multiplayer, free roam and death match modes all seamlessly rolled into one package. That's what it felt like for me. The lines between single player and online multiplayer blur day by day

dynasty889

#23

dynasty889 said:

I'm really excited for Destiny, I'm planning to get it for Christmas (don't have the money to pre-order it). I've seen some alpha gameplay on YT too, it looks amazing! Bungie have really stepped on their game here.

@Carl-G I agree, but it must be difficult for Bungie to that. No Man's Sky does look good though.

Demi_God

#26

Demi_God said:

I want to play this game now. This really sucks because I have to wait till July 17 to play the game. Then, after all that I have to wait again to buy the game. :( I already know I'm going to be all over this game.

Reverend_Skeeve

#27

Reverend_Skeeve said:

@MadchesterManc And you, sir, just scored a triple-awesome with the "fire"-pic, the "tree"-pic on Twitter and the Lilo and Stitch reference. :D First genuine smile of the day for me! :) Thanks. :)

KAPADO

#28

KAPADO said:

Played it . Beat the Devil Lair section , enjoyed the domination multiplayer mode immensely. And will keep my preorder.

iSolipsistJudas

#30

iSolipsistJudas said:

For this to be just the Alpha I was very impressed. I enjoyed being able to join other Guardians when it was very unexpected. What I see myself getting into the most in the game will be the player vs. player(the Crucible). Fighting for territory while killing the opposing team off never got tiring when you found vehicles around the area & even turrets. There were only 2 maps available(so far) but it always seemed brand new when playing.

The game like Robert said definitely has enemies randomly pop up so it does make it difficult if you found armour or a new weapon and try to equip them, you won't be able to with enemies around due to not being able to pause the game even while in menu form.

As it being an Alpha I was forced out of the game ONLY when playing the Crucible (player vs. player) a couple of times, it did not take long to get back to joining another active game.

I didn't see myself pre-ordering or even purchasing the game but gave it a try when Amazon randomly sent me an Alpha code. The Alpha has caused me to pre order & I'm glad Bungie is extending the Alpha so I can get more gameplay in before the Beta where I will have more competition since the pool of gamers will be even larger.

ToOGoodOfAPlaya

#33

ToOGoodOfAPlaya said:

One thing they seem to have brought from Halo is the tight, responsive control system.
Gunplay always worked in Halo.

Ginkgo

#36

Ginkgo said:

@chazaroonie "It reminds me of a cross between far cry and mass effect but looks like it may be bigger than both". Wow. That's a big claim. 2 of my all-time favourite games. I have been planning to wait until Sept, but will have to check it out now on that comment.

chazaroonie

#37

chazaroonie said:

@Ginkgo I wasn't really excited about Destiny at all but I got an email about the alpha test and applied. I got the code and downloaded the game on Friday and have been hooked all weekend. I'm genuinely surprised how much I liked the game after having such low expectations. It's just so smooth and even though it fuses already familiar gameplay mechanics together feels fresh and I am definitely ready to put a pre order in. I highly recommend this, even to those who don't consider themselves very good at FPS games. I loved it and rarely win online Killzone or Call of Duty matches. Plus its not all competitive multiplayer anyway, there is plenty of co-op action and you can even play solo and ignore the other players present in your world as its so vast. I am looking forward to getting some friends together with headsets and spending some serious time exploring the solar system with them. Next gen is starting to produce glimpses the experiences so many anticipated and I'm very happy about it.

BoltedArc

#38

BoltedArc said:

Im sorry this game looked boring to me, I know its in alpha but it just looked like a snooze fest! Halo's little brother trying to make a name for itself by claiming its different but nah, I hope this doesn't turn out like defiance! I think with so many fps out and the hype advertising telling people to buy this game, its better to wait and see!

Damiien666

#41

Damiien666 said:

My experience was limited, but lucky, to Alpha and all I can say is it's fluidity from one piece / zone / mission / map was beautiful if a little slow (guessing due to limited servers for Alpha). I found that in mission mode I was free to roam around the very large area (hope old Russia isn't Earth's entirety) and take my missions from beacons where and when I pleased. You tend to find if you free roam into those areas the bad guys are there anyway so prepare to fight at each open expanse. Killed enemies do respawn pretty quickly, which did become a little annoying as you double-jumped between boundaries, in firefights, and run into enemies you have just vanquished seconds earlier. However, as you go on your way, frequently (but not too often to be annoying) you see other online players who quite often quite nicely join in the mission, and you become involved in their survival as well as your own, as I did in a massive Spider-Tank fight on the way to The Devil's Lair. (P.s. - I do not know who you are but Man it was Fun!). I had a vested interest in reviving them and organising the downfall of this behemoth through a joint understanding (No online chat was used by me in the Alpha, but it almost didn't matter). The visuals are so crisp and beautiful with an ethereal feel and lighting to The Moon online Control multiplayer, and stunning use of oranges and coppers and green in Rusted Wasteland in Old Russia. There is epicness and beauty to the music delivered which let's you know there is art as well as bloody conflict to come. Multiplayer was thrilling in Control and constantly action oriented in the two maps available however I did find the vehicles on The Moon swayed the fight heavily in the favour of vehicular oriented assault and where very hard to destroy. Maybe not being able to neutralise and capture bases whilst in vehicles would entice some people (who did nothing but blow everything up randomly all match) out of vehicles to aid the "team". The Tower is the hub of all social/player improvement/trading/and mercenary bonus and serves well as an open plan area, giving much more things to do then the Alpha permits I'm guessing. It let's you follow your chosen path and work on loadouts (which are very generous) and so forth. This area delivers a calm and gives you the opportunity to move on old equipment (for monetary, although small, value), compare bountiful free weapons/armour/clothing and equip personal and enhanced favourites. Also finding "encypted" artifacts, in mission and returning to The Tower, gives you and opportunity to decrypt them and get rare and special items/weapons. All in all I could talk for hours of my already happy memories and experiences on the Alpha and my longing now it has closed, but all I will say is Bungie have done an amazing job on what was the game that made me buy a PS4 (at launch) and knowing they have a 10 year game plan for the Destiny franchise I am privileged to be in it and part of it from Day 1. I have already Pre-ordered my copy and cannot wish the next month away (Beta release 17th July) before I am in the fray once more. The Alpha was generous. Bungie have said the Beta will be big. The game itself will be immense. Thank you Bungie.

Midzark

#42

Midzark said:

Yay!! Loved the Alpha!! Roll on beta and then main game!! Haven't been this excited about a game for a long time!! ☺️

ohhaime

#43

ohhaime said:

So I was able to get in a few hours of Multiplayer before the alpha ended today and I think I can say this one's a winner.

I'll start by saying that the controls are too slow for me.They are fine for single player but I as soon as I jumped in Mutiplayer I was wishing for more speed.It's not terrible but just something I prefer faster.
I also wish I could put my trigger and zoom on the R1/L1 buttons for increased speed and put my grenade on the analog for variable distance.( I thought they are using the digital switch at the top of the trigger and I think the 1 buttons are a bit faster at bouncing back,But after thinking about it,It may have been using any negative input on the analog. Did anyone notice weather the trigger need to move back to the top before firing?)
Something I hope was a bug though was that even with the "auto look" option turned off the reticule still seemed attracted to enemies(Both AI and human) in some kind of aim assist.Something I don't much care for.

There was only the control mode of competitive Multiplayer to try but there looked to be five other modes planned judging by the menu.

What really makes the multiplayer shine is the map design. Very well done,Good mix of tight corners and open spaces to make both run & gun and sniping viable tactics.
Also of note was that both maps available were asymmetric but felt really balanced. They are pretty much the perfect size so you can get a lot of back and forth.There are lots of paths around the maps so you really need to keep an eye on whats going on behind you.

What makes these many ways around the maps possible is the mobility of the characters. I didn't really notice against the AI but when facing other players I really noticed how basically being able to fly( in what is probably the most balanced way ever put into an FPS) around the map really changes the way you play.Needing to keep an eye out for enemies that could be coming though a door or over a wall really make things tense.
It took about three rounds for me to start to get used to this more vertical gameplay, But once I adjusted to keeping my eyes up I was shooting fools down like clay pidgins.

Adding to the tension is the radar. Another thing that could really break a game but is handled in such a balanced way that it feels great. It pinpoints an enemy's direction but It's not visible while zoomed and has a generous but not overly big range.Knowing when and roughly where an enemy is coming from but not exactly which path they will take is great. Plus they also know you are there(if they're playing smart). So it can turn moments that in other games would result in most people running around corners randomly spraying bullets,Into a who makes the first move stand-off.
I regret that I have to say this,but it reminds me a bit of Blacklight:Retribution's HRV only not horrible. I hope my mention of that steaming pile of bad level design in connection with this wonderful game doesn't soil you're view of Destiny, It's all handle much better.

A note on Vehicles.Like Damiien666 said. They kind of ruin things. They were only on one of the maps. They felt unbalanced and unneeded given the size of the map. Maybe on a larger map where you could have tanks fighting tanks it might work but they didn't belong in this map at all.
One good thing was that almost every time I played the tanks just kind of seemed to go away halfway through the match.I don't know if they have a long respawn or if they would just get lost, But I didn't seem to notice them anymore.

The Mobility and Radar are what is really going to set this game apart and make it feel fresh. Back those up with fantastic level design and what looks to be a massive amount of content including a decent story mode and you got a real hit on your hands.

So I enjoyed it immensely, But will I buy it?Still no, I can't afford the price of time this game would cost.But if you're looking for a fresh exciting new Time-Sink to pour your life into this could be it.

whywai88

#46

whywai88 said:

good to see that many goes from being skeptical to looking forward to this game after playing the alpha.

wunsen

#47

wunsen said:

Been playin the alpha all weekend, amazing really just cant wait for full game to come out. Does anyone know if the beta will have different locations on it. Also have to seen the football and bigger floating purple ball you can mess with in the tower!!!

odd69

#49

odd69 said:

It sounds alot better than i thought, i love my shooter/rpg hybrids.

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