Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance (Microsoft Xbox)

Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 10/25/2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is the third action RPG from Raven, with the first two being the ultra popular X-Men Legends games. This time however, Marvel has opened up their entire universe to them; allowing Raven to make a game that pits an army of Marvel’s heroes against a horde of Marvel’s most malicious

Stan Lee would be quite proud of that alliteration.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance had some of the biggest hype I’ve seen surrounding a licensed game in a very long time. Raven had two straight massive hits with the XML games, and it was going to be pretty hard for any game to live up to the hype. Any game where you can have a who’s who of Marvel greats like Spider-Man, Captain America, Dr. Strange and Ms. Marvel as playable characters, you’re going to either make the fan boys foam at the mouth with rage because things weren’t, “comic perfect,” or they’ll mess themselves in a manner worthy of a Police Academy scene.

I can’t believe you mentioned Ms Marvel before me. “Wah! I’m an alcoholic who has had more name changes that Elizabeth Taylor has had maiden names and people only pay attention to me know because I was the runner up in the ‘Give Brian Michael Bendis Palm Calluses’ competition. Geez. What next? You going to mention that Jarvis is in the game before me?”

Seeing that I grew up on Justice League International as my primary childhood four color enjoyment,

Are there any left with heads? Cause I bet an all headless comic would sell! Well, better than the relaunch of Warlord anyway…

I decided to get some help from one of Marvel’s own. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…DEADPOOL

Thank you, thank you! Seeing as there’re only five people on the planet that read my comic, I should probably introduce myself. I’m Deadpool! The Merc with a mouth! X-Man supreme! Killer of clowns and really whatever I’m paid to dismember! I’m currently starring in a comic with Cable aka “Nathan Dayspring Askani’son Summers insert several more of my last names here and I’m a cross between Jesus and Tron except Tron’s daddy didn’t have psychic sex with the White Queen”. Hey! Why aren’t *I* Cable’s dad? Oh Emma, if only you were a little more shapely like my precious Bea Arthur. Then I’d give you some good lovin’. Like in that video Lucard did with that polar bear and that 20 year old Czech hooker!


Sorry. Anyway, CABLE was originally supposed to do this co-review, but we don’t even let him answer fan mail, so would we really want his boring dulcet tones clogging up this masterpiece? I think not. Besides, we needed him back at HQ before they take Fabian off our comic and replace him with someone like Mark Millar so that we can be darker and grittier and totally have nothing in common with the issues that came before. I’m the God Damned Deadpool!

Anyway, Deadpool will be helping me with this review as to provide a special insight seeing that he is both a Marvel character and in the game.

PLAY AS ME! I regenerate! I have swords! I have guns! What more do you need? Do you really want to play as a 5’3″ hairy midget who needs a manicure? NO! PLAY DEADPOOL!

Together we’ll see if Raven continued its streak of excellent Marvel based games…

Or if this game was like attaching a bear trap to your special no-no place.

Let’s Review

1. Story

To be honest the plot is quite bare bones here. In a nutshell, Gypsy turned scientist turned sorcerer turned ruler of a tiny European nation, Doctor Doom, has reformed the Masters of Evil and is attempting a massively complicated plot to conquer the world.

Please note that this is YET ANOTHER THING taken away from poor Baron Zemo. Also, a Gypsy is reforming an organization originally founded by Nazis? Folks, this is like me joining a Mime club. Although, if it were the mimes from Shakes the Clown it might not be so bad. I love Mime jerry!.

To combat this group of villains, Nick Fury teleports Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, and Wolverine onto his hellicarrier.

Think of a giant flying aircraft carrier. Folks, you think gas prices in YOUR universe are bad? Check out 616. We’re at like five bucks a gallon thanks to all the gallons per mile vehicles SHIELD has up in the air!

From there, you battle your way with these four pre-arranged characters and begin to discover that Doctor Doom has united pretty much every super villain under the sun to serve him.


This is pretty much the plot. There’s a little bit of dialogue stating that Fury gathered together a bunch of super heroes, but it’s off the cuff and used as to explain why all these characters are together. The cut scenes that are seen tying missions together often don’t even feature the characters you’ve chosen to play as, and Elektra has never seen any game play, it’s rather odd to see her there. Same with Black Panther, who shows up hanging out at your base long before you can ever use him. The plot is, at best, an excuse for the fan service that this game represents. There is no character development, or any substance to your team. This is a hack n slash game first and foremost and it’s apparent after the first five hours that your characters matter little to the story that is here, and even that story is

Stretched out more than a Bendis storyline?

Indeed. RPG’s generally pride themselves on a deep and rich storyline. Here, the story line is very shallow and there’s no attempt to hide it. But with 25 playable characters, it’s understandable, if not underwhelming.

This being said, there are some enjoyable bits to the game. You’ll be given extra dialogue if certain characters are on screen when their arch enemies are bosses. Your characters will also spout trademark quips and even some excellent inside jokes such as Thor’s, “By the power of Asgard!”

If you’re looking for something actually akin to an intense comic book storyline, it’s not here. If you’re looking for real time Heroclix and the mindless smashing of things, M:UA is the diversion for you.

You know, I’m really disappointed about all of MY story they cut from the game. I’m sitting here one second sitting in my birthday suit watching reruns of “The Golden Girls” and eating Taco Bell when all of a sudden I’m showing my floppily doppilies to the Fantastic Four and other good guys in spandex. Power Man’s all “SWEET CHRISTMAS, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON BOY!” and I’m all like “Maybe you guys should warn me ahead of time so I don’t have to turn my Gordita into a makeshift codpiece.” But you know, Spider-Woman was all checking me out, Yeah, she wants me.

Anyway, Nick Fury’s all babbling about yet another world crushing fiasco and we have to split into teams of four and go all over stopping bad guys from sticking sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed. AND WITHOUT A PAY CHECK. Jeez, you hang out with one Mutant Messiah and you’re supposedly on the side of the angels.

I wanted to be on Iron Man’s team, because no one wanted to seem to want to hang out with him. He was all like “Come on guys! Let’s totally hang out and stomp bad guys together. Then we can bite the heads off of puppies and tell elementary school students they’re adopted! By the way, being anti-registration is like raping quadriplegics with Down Syndrome. Who wants to be on my team?”

Eventually they got Thor’s clone to team up with him, mainly because Tony told him there were lots of token minorities in the place he was going including someone named Mr. Eko so Clor put on his smoke monster costume and he and Tony giggled like schoolgirls. I don’t know about you, but I think Thor 2.0 and Kayne West would not be friends.

I eventually got stuck with Johnny Storm, Iceman, and Spider-Man, which I later learned Nick Fury had codenamed Team STFU aka Team Jibber-Jabber. I didn’t like either of those names. Mainly because I don’t know how to pronounce STFU, and sure Spidey talks almost as much as I do, but Johnny and Bobby aren’t as talkative so I decided to call us TEAM VENTURE. Mainly because I like saying, “GO TEAM VENTURE.” I do have to say Torch and the Sno-cone get really ticked when you call them Dean and Hank. I’m totally Brock Samson though. Mainly because we both kill things really well. Have you noticed I’m saying mainly a lot?

Story Rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

MUA is a very nice looking game. It’s not the most impressive visuals I’ve ever seen on the Xbox, but there’s so much action going on that something had to give in order to keep slowdown from broaching every few minutes.
The background graphics are well done. There’s a constant variety with the scenery and so much of the background can be interacted (smashed) with.

Character detail is very nice as well. The cut scenes really highlight how well designed each character is, and even during gameplay, the characters hold up nicely, but the camera angle and the distance away the game forces on you prevents you from doing any real study of the graphics.

Also, I just want to say it’s great that Rob Liefield isn’t the art director in this game. Don’t get me wrong. I love Rob like he was my dad, but it’s just I’m rather used to having wrists now. Although I feel an unlockable costume for Capt should have been the one Rob drew of him with amazingly huge gozangas!

Visually, the game reminds me a lot of the Dark Alliance games but with less zoom/pan controls. On the rare occasion you get to see characters close up, such as the boss fight against the Kraken, you’ve got some stunning visuals. Otherwise, there’s too much going on the scene at any one time for any real depth to be put into the models running around slaughtering each other.

The game looks great, and you won’t hear anyone complaining about the graphics, but it’s not pushing the Xbox’s capabilities in anyway, and personally, I found the Capcom 2-D fighters to be more to my like graphics-wise.

Blah blah blah. Maybe if I had been in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, I’d agree with you. Nate’s in that though, and he’s supposedly a big cheeseball still stuck in his X-Force days in that one.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

Can I just say I don’t like my voice in this game. Sure, noooooooo one likes their voice when they hear it on a recording, but this voice actor makes it sound like I’ve got throat cancer something fierce. Oh wait…

The voice acting in this game is very well done. In fact, there are a lot of actors with names you might recognize in here. Danica McKellar voices Sue Storm,


Crispin Freeman voices the Winter Solider,

He’s a bad ass freaking brainwashed sidekick! Okay, okay, Only Nippon Ichi fans will get that one. But it was either that or joke that he played Lucard in Hellsing. They can’t all be winners folks.

Garbielle Cateris plays Elektra,

Elektra moved from Hell’s Kitchen to 90210, huh?

and Adrienne Barbeau plays Sif.

Captain Murphy and his D-Cups of justice! Oh god, if you’re reading this and you didn’t get that, turn in your geek badge now you zit encrusted overweight virgins!.

This is some pretty high quality stuff for a video game. Even though some characters never get cut scenes, the voice acting is top notch and the bits characters say as they take someone down or even die are true to character, even if the voice isn’t how I imagined the character sounds.

Hey! Hey! Who plays me?

John Kassir

I’M VOICED BY BUSTER FREAKIN’ BUNNY? The Cryptkeeper??? Oh, that HAS to be a shot at what i look like under the mask ,doesn’t it? DEFALCO!!!!! I’ll killing Spider-Girl for that one. Wait. Wrong Editor in Chief. QUESADILLA! Just for that I’m going to hijack a truck with the next issue of Ultimates and not letting it hit stores until 3 straight issues of All Star Batman and Robin the Emo Acrobat have been released. That’s right! They won’t be out until Halley’s Comet comes back around. How do you like that Quesadilla? Where’s your profit margin now you fat bastard? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Wait, that’s not right either. Wait. A quesadilla sounds great. Ummmm….quesadilla. I’ll be right back.

The music in M:UA is amazing as well. The orchestral scores are dramatic, and although they sound more geared towards a high fantasy game, it still works perfectly well here. After all, most RPG’s are high fantasy to begin with. The music never really stuck in my head, especially compared to the voice acting, but it still managed to convey a sense of importance and drama on which each track.

Aurally, MUA is as good as a game gets.

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Gameplay, MUA is sadly a mixed bag. The game plays and feels like a second rate Dark Alliance. You’re playing from a similar camera angle, except with DA, you could control the camera better, and you had more options.

The actual gameplay is quite simple. Each of the lettered buttons represents an attack. Holding the R trigger and pressing a lettered button gives you a special attack. You use the left thumbstick to move and the right allows you access to the limited camera controls. The D pad allows you to switch between your playable characters. This is great except that often times your CPU partners are far more of a liability than being an asset. The computer will almost always choose to use frontal assaults and fisticuffs, even if the characters are geared for ranged attacks. The AI is also not very bright, for your allies or your enemies, and often times there will be one gigantic clusterf*ck on the screen as your characters are hindered by their own teammates just standing around.

The power system in the game is again very much taken from the Diablo/Baldur’s Gate/Dark Alliance/name your D&D video game and put it here motif. Unlike the DA games, some powers here can not be accessed until you reach certain levels, and all powers have minimum levels at which you can increase their stats. This to me is a letdown, as Raven appears to be shoe horning your characters into getting specific stats at specific levels and that the customization is a shallow facade compared to other action RPG’s games with a similar nature. A far better set up would have been to let players go nuts with the customization but offering a sliding XP scale for varying powers. In this regard, Justice League Heroes does the customization better, but JLH was made by Snowblind, the team who made Dark Alliance 2. Raven just has too many powers and options and then refuses to let you play with them.

Certain characters also have varying advantages. Deadpool and Wolverine can regenerate their health. Some characters can fly. Some have super strength allowing them to pick up heavy objects and huck them. Characters like Iceman and the Human Torch have elemental immunity (Torch against a certain very big evil fire wielder. Trust me on this).

Overall the controls are good, but some camera angle issues, poor leveling up, customization schemes and the slightly dim AI drops this down to being a merely average experience gameplay wise.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5/10

5. Replayability

Chimichanga, chimichanga

Didn’t you get a Quesadilla?

Yeah, but I had to get a chimichanga too. Say it! It’s fun. Also, enchilada, fajita, and escalope.

Escalope? That’s not Mexican.

I never said it was. Jeez. Do you think I only eat Mexican or something. Boo-urns to you good sir and your attempts to stereotype me into some sort of shill for the tortilla industry. FOR SHAME!

Oookay. Let’s get on topic. With 25 playable characters, 4 different costumes for each character to unlock, comic book missions to find and collect, samples of artwork to find and collect, and a divergent ending based on various options you have in the game

See what happen when Professor X’s favorite S’hiar dies. DO IT! DOO EET! Not that I advocate regicide or anything. Wait. Do the French still have a King?

For your money spent, MUA ensures you can play this game several times over and have a different experience simply due to all the options available to you. Picking a playable team hasn’t been this open since the original Shining Force games.

You should always use me though. I need exposure. And a large easily manipulated fan base who will demand I appear in multiple comics and get to go on a date with Mary Worth. Oh Mary, you make Sunday my funday!

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

The big red flag here with MUA is that distance attacks are broken. You are far more likely to coast through the game with a four pack of long range fighters and as you power up the attacks, close combat becomes useless. Use a person who has both distance attacks and flight, and certain boss characters are a breeze when they stomp through characters who can’t attack from a distance. Iron Man and Human Torch are perfect examples of this. Johnny Storm’s main fire attack also has an unexpected bonus of stunning the enemy for a second. Hold down the A button and you can watch enemy life bars drain as if there was a leak in them. The game really is unbalanced by having certain characters be absolutely useless compared others.

I have guns! And I can teleport. You’re not putting me in the useless category, are you?

You’re a far better character to use than Wolverine.

Does that mean I’ll be in 83 comics every month? Because I don’t think Fabian can write that many. Plus, I’m lazy.

Enemy battles on the other hand are very well done. Even certain grunts like the A.I.M. Shielders can pose a challenge at times, and certain bosses like M.O.D.O.K. Throw you outside of your hack N’ slash mentality by forcing you to test your brain power with games of trivia.

Hey! When I had to fight the Kraken, who I must say looks NOTHING like the monster from Clash of the Titans. That was a great movie. I wonder why they don’t do claymation anymore. All the kids are to into the CGI, right? Well, too bad for them. I mean, those California Raisins are a hell of a lot more entertaining that that schelpfest Beast Machines. I heard it through the grapevine. Although I’m not really sure if grapevines are a better alternative for conducting sound that copper wire.

Oh right. Kraken! When I had to do battle with the Kraken, my guns and my blades didn’t work. Instead in order to take him down I had to play four quick games of Simon. You remember Simon? With the flashing lights and horrible music that sounded like the game was used to score Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Do you kids even know what Close Encounters is? Do you even know what Simon is? You whippersnappers have no idea how bad you have it. When I was your age we had great cartoons like Jem and the Holograms and Inhumanoids! You could stick get those sticker books of cartoons or major league sports with random packs of stickers for like a quarter and you’d be all, “What the hell? What am i going to do with 8 Pete Rose’s? I need a Ryan Sandberg! A RYAN SANDBERG! Stupid foil All-Star Game chase stickers!” Those were the days. Not like today where all kids have are Hot Topics and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Man, what is up with that kid’s hair?

But yeah, the game was all beep boop bib pop. X Y A A X B. No violence, just being able to follow a pattern that a person in single digits should be able to follow. Unless they’re dead. And dead children aren’t funny. Okay, they’re exceptionally funny. Especially if a bear got them. I need a pet bear. I’m going to have to talk to Jen when I get back and ask if I can have TODD-LAR, the child eating cyborg bear who is also half Kree. Heck, I’ll call her now. Otherwise with my attention span…I want a pony.

MUA constantly gives up different challenges besides button mashing. They might not be all that difficult, but the variety more than makes up for it.

It’s also worth pointing out that mid-bosses seem harder to beat than the final stage bosses. Radioactive Man and Bucky were harder than Fing Fang Foom

I’d quote Nextwave, but seeing as their writer stole a book from my writer I’m just going to sit and pout and wonder why I can’t have yellow thought bubbles in this review

Mysterio was harder than M.O.D.O.K, and Krang was harder than the Kraken.

The brain guy from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is in the game? Holy crossover thanks to Superboy Prime punching stuff Batman!

I’d give more, but I don’t want to spoil past the first act. Needless to say, each the end of each level is noticeably easier than the half way point. This is again disappointing.

Overall there are a lot of neat challenges thrown at you. The problem is nothing is actually CHALLLENGING. As well, some playable characters are broken and easily outshine others, and range attacks make the game a lot easier to beat thanks to the thick AI in the game. You do have three difficulty settings, but from my fiddling with all three, there’s not a real step up in the challenge department from one to the other. The AI doesn’t get better, it’s just damage values increase or decrease depending on which side of the fence we’re talking about.

Balance Rating: 5/10

7. Originality

This is the third time Raven has milked this particular cash cow. It’s still a fun game, but there’s nothing really here that makes it stand out from the X-Men games. As well, even ignoring the Legends games, Marvel Ultimate Alliance feels, looks, and plays like a second rate Dark Alliance or Record of Lodoss War game. Like I said, MUA is still a fun and enjoyable game, but pretty much everything in the game has been lifted from a previous Raven title, or a prior action RPG. There’s not much here that’s original save for the game playing like Secret Wars 3.

I already made a Secret Wars joke in this review. The 5:30 show is not different from the 8:30 show

You could have brought up that Beyond is Secret Wars 3.

Why? So that I can remind people a title with the Hood and Kraven junior is selling better than my own? Nuts to that.

Anyway, originality is probably MUA’s biggest and most apparent weakness. Sure we finally have a video game where you can play as Avenger characters since the 16 bit “You will be the ones escaping” game by the same name, and we have a game that will better than even the earlier X-Men games, but Raven really needs to mix up the formula and plot for the sequel unless they want to be accused of beating a dead horse.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

Regardless of what my fellow RPG elitists will tell you about how the best RPG’s have massively deep plots filled with allegory and metaphor like the Persona series, sometimes it’s fun just to spend a few hours mindlessly setting fire to bad guys or repeatedly pummeling them mercilessly. MUA has that in droves and I enjoy sitting down for short periods of time and playing a level of the game. I have to admit this is not a game I could play for several hours at a time simply because the story is not as developed as I want. But thanks to all the options, I can go and play a “comic book mission” for twenty minutes, or replay a level trying to find that last Daredevil figure if need be.

What’s here is good. The buttload of options and the fact the target audience will be completely enthralled with this game means that comic book fans will be playing this for a long time to come.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

MUA has that nice one-two punch of mindless violence that is easy to muddle through coupled with highly recognizable characters bearing a massive fanbase. This means the game will be highly accessible to anyone even remotely interested in it and may even help to pull in Marvel zombies that left the flock and more importantly, possibly bring in new comic readers.

If you like Ultimate Alliance’s amazingly stretched out plot where nothing really happens over a long period of time, I suggest New Avengers! It’s like the story of MUA, but with 428% more Ninjas. Also a chick deaf Daredevil who dresses like a man because she was supposed to be Daredevil but no one will admit that because it was like the whole Monarch-Captain Atom thing. But with boobies.

I honestly can’t think of anyone who won’t get some level of enjoyment out of this game.

Dan Didio.

Well okay, maybe.

People who prefer the scintillating love triangle between Riverdale’s favorite son and two lovely minxes.

Okay, I can see the game not really appealing to Archie fans but,

Why would anyone choose Betty over Veronica. Veronica is gorgeous. And Rich. And Eeeeevil. Bad girl are always better than bottle blonde goody-two-shoes. Plus, you know Ronnie Lodge is all about the…things I can’t mention because last time I did Big Moose came over and roughed me up. You know what that’s like when you’re barred from the town of Riverdale, Lucard? Never again can I have a Phosphate from Pop Tate’s Malt Shoppe. Never again can I strive for my dream of playing left center forward on whatever team Coach Kleats is leading to victory this month. Never again can I hold Mrs Grundy in my arms and nibble her earlobes while whispering sweet words of light erotic foreplay involving the two of us, a segueway and four and twenty blackbird that have yet to be baked into a light and golden pie crust. Uh, can you excuse me for five minutes? I have umm…fan fiction to write. Yeah, that’s it.

Ew. Just….ew. But Deadpool’s right. This game’s not for everyone. The gameplay can get a bit monotonous as it is a hack and slash and the lack of any real story development might turn off people not strongly familiar with the Marvel Universe. For everyone else though, the game is a blast to play.

Appeal Factor: 8/10


There is so much in this game, it’s hard not to give this category a perfect score. There a ton of characters, a lot of collectibles, solo missions to find and beat, with three different rewards levels possible in each mission, an ending that varies slightly, some hidden conversations depending on what characters you have on your team, and so much more.

BUT, it’s not getting a perfect ten here. Why? Because there’s no Hawkeye in this version. Hawkeye is my favorite Marvel character and I was ever so pissed he was a PSP exclusive. Considering the PSP is less successful than the Neo Geo Pocket Colour and about on tap with the N-Gage, this was a bad move by Raven that makes me grumpy.

Geez. Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, AND Hawkeye? Remind me not to ever be one of your favorite characters kid.

Why do you think you’re doing this review with me?

Ah crap…

Plus I like Moon Knight a lot and he’s only in the next gen versions. Boo I say! BOO!

Okay, you’ve been hanging out with me too long Lex…

So I’m going to knock some points off there as this category is totally subjective. And because the game’s still going to get the same overall score without them. It’s more just my way of shaking my fist and stating my displeasure for Hawkeye not being in all versions of the game.

Still, petty annoyances aside, this gamer has so much jammed onto its disc, it’s hard to be impressed with all the little nuisances and the plethora of options designed to keep you coming back for more.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10

Well, this was a lot of fun. Which surprises me as I didn’t get to eviscerate anyone.

Glad you could be a part of this review Deadpool. I had a lot of fun.

Anytime man. We’ll do it again when MUA2 comes out. Give me five vampire!

You got it DP! Oh god! OH GOD! It’s all sticky and warm!

Oops. That was my Grundy hand.


Oh, look at that. Cable is calling me on our top secret only I can hear it radio frequency. Looks like…Apocalypse and….Thanos are…trying to rob the Franklin Mint. Duty calls! Professor! Bodyslide by two! NOW!

The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 10/10
Control & Gameplay: 5/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score 68/100
Final Score:7.0 (Good)

The Inside Pulse

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a fun romp through the 616 (Alan Moore speak) universe. There are some thing I’d have preferred like a better AI, Captain Britain being a playable character, or Hawkeye being in this version, and some tweaks to the point customization system, but overall this was a highly enjoyable game that I can see myself coming back to for quite some time to use as a stress reliever. Whether you’re a comic geek, a RPG fanatic, or simply a casual gamer looking for something new to delve into, I can definitely recommend MUA for purchase.

Short Attention Span Summary
Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a fun romp through the 616 (Alan Moore speak) universe. There are some thing I’d have preferred like a better AI, Captain Britain being a playable character, or Hawkeye being in this version, and some tweaks to the point customization system, but overall this was a highly enjoyable game that I can see myself coming back to for quite some time to use as a stress reliever. Whether you’re a comic geek, a RPG fanatic, or simply a casual gamer looking for something new to delve into, I can definitely recommend MUA for purchase.



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