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Flight Simulator

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Flying high on Luftrausers with Vlambeer


Another rapid-fire interview with Jonathan Holmes
Mar 25
// Conrad Zimmerman
Holmes talks with the ever-charming Rami Ismail of Vlambeer to help those of you with short attention spans learn more about Luftrausers, coming soon to almost all the things (PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS Vita). Check out more of Holmes' Talk Fast interview series!
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Ace Combat: Assault Horizon heading to PC next year


Also releasing for consoles digitally
Nov 27
// Jordan Devore
Originally released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October of last year, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is now scheduled to get a PC release in Q1 2013 by way of Steam. Unfortunately, this version will rely on Games for Window...

Review: Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII

Aug 29 // Ian Bonds
[embed]233645:44865[/embed] Damage Inc.: Pacific Squadron WWII (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Trickster GamesPublisher: Mad Catz InteractiveReleased: August 28, 2012 MSRP: $49.99 The game starts out innocently enough: choose Arcade or Simulation mode, and jump in. But almost immediately, it falls apart. If you choose Arcade mode, your view is behind the plane, and that's the only option given. Simulation allows for external, nose, and in-cockpit views, but you must select which version you want when you begin the game. There is no in-game button to toggle through camera views; if it turns out the one you've selected isn't to your liking, you must pause the game and change it in the options menu. A minor quibble to be sure, but one that begins a slew of issues with this title. Obviously Simulation and Arcade controls vary, but beyond that, there's not much difference between the two modes, other than a few buttons changed around and how the planes pitch and yaw, as well as the aforementioned camera handicap. Just be careful when changing cameras in the options menu -- if you're playing Simulation with external camera view, be careful not to select Arcade with external camera view, as that has totally different controls. After the necessary tutorial, the game drops you directly into a combat mission with Japan's first attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and missions proceed historically through 1945 along the Pacific coast. It is here that the game's real issues become apparent. Firstly, and I can't say this in a nice enough way, the game is just ugly. While a certain amount of love and detail has been given to the 32 unique planes, everything else is sloppy and uninspiring. Frame-rate issues pop up frequently, and everything becomes jaggy and muddied, while the graphics become choppy trying to catch up to your hot dodging maneuvers. Speaking of your maneuvers, for a simulation game, you certainly do a lot of barrel rolls. As you attack enemy aircraft, you'll tuck, roll, skim the water, buzz towers ... all in the name of taking out your foes. Both your enemies and friendly airplanes show up on your mini map with appropriately colored icons, and you'll target baddies with relative ease -- until you realize you're supposed to aim for the red dot in front of the enemy ship rather than the ship itself. This is to lead the plane, anticipating its flight path into your line of fire, but when the plane is directly in front of you flying straight, aiming for a red reticule above the plane seems a bit stupid, and serves as the reason why you're flying like you're in a damn air show rather than fighting during D-Day. Hitting the reticules can be a chore, until you realize that the game equips you with a bullet time of sorts. Warspeed allows you to slow everything down so you can carefully aim your shot, which makes taking out foes a bit too easy. This, as well as a speed booster, are always available and replenish instantly, despite having two essentially unnecessary meters showing how much of each you have in your HUD. There are waypoint markers that show up occasionally on your map as well, signifying where you should go to activate the next part of the mission, fly over to take recon, or things like that. However, when you really need the markers, such as when the game tasks you with protecting certain buildings or planes from enemy attackers, they're nowhere to be seen. The only thing that pops up on your map are all the planes, and your targeting icons always snap to the immediate threat closest to you. It's frustrating to lose missions over and over again because you're supposed to be defending some position you can't even find. There's a multiplayer portion here too, but the less said about that the better. It's passable, but the choppy graphics and terrible targeting are only amplified by playing against human opponents. If you enjoy frustration, feel free to dive right in. It's clear that Mad Catz only made this game to go along with its new Saitek AV8R flight stick, which comes bundled with the Collector's Edition of the game. Sadly, my time with that was even worse, as the stick itself is so touchy that even the slightest movement had the targeting sights flying all over the screen and maintaining an accurate shot was nigh-impossible. I switched back to the standard controller after failing the same mission over and over for trying to aim while avoiding hitting the ground. Word is the flight stick works very well with other games of the genre, but if it can't even work well in the game it's bundled with, I don't have high hopes. Damage Inc. is a hot mess. Choppy frame rate, ugly graphics, shoddy presentation, forgettable multiplayer, and an overall worthless feeling when playing doesn't amount to much. There's at least a good variety of things to do with the number of missions and planes involved, but you may be too frustrated with the gameplay itself to even care. Play the demo and save your money.
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Almost immediately, it falls apart
In theory, flight simulation games offer fans of the genre accurate flight controls with a diverse array of those amazing aircrafts they love so much, with powerful dogfights and skill helping push along a narrative worthy of...

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Kickstart this project unless you hate space combat games


May 02
// Maurice Tan
Yep, another Kickstarter. I know, we also got tired of them and that was well before Double Fine Adventure changed the game. As a result, I completely glossed over a few press releases for Starlight Inception, which may have...
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Crimson Skies could be next for Weisman after Shadowrun


Apr 12
// Jordan Devore
In a chat with Shacknews, game designer Jordan Weisman spoke about his interest in possibly working on more Crimson Skies once the chaos of Shadowrun being Kickstarted has died down. "I'm hopeful that's another property that ...
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Microsoft Flight appears on Steam with a DLC bundle


Apr 06
// Jordan Devore
I wouldn't have necessarily expected a game like Microsoft Flight to show up on Steam, but such an arrival does put the free-to-play flight sim in front of a bunch of new gamers, so you can't really argue with those results. ...

Review: Birds of Steel

Apr 02 // Maurice Tan
Birds of Steel (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3)Developer: Gaijin EntertainmentPublisher: KonamiReleased: March 13, 2012MSRP: $39.99 Set during World War II, Birds of Steel offers a huge array of aircraft to unlock and fly, each with their own specific feel, stats, and a high level of interior and exterior detail. That Gaijin really loves their aircraft comes as no surprise, and they truly deliver in this regard. Players who look to Birds of Steel for historical authenticity will feel rewarded to say the least. The dedication to such authenticity also impacts the controls and combat mechanics which, depending on what you are looking for in a console flight sim, may put you on either end of the fun spectrum. Difficulty is defined by the flight controls, and comes in three variations -- Simplified, Realistic, and Simulator -- while options for limited fuel and ammo are also at your disposal. Realistic mode is the go-to mode Birds of Steel feels best tailored to, even if it is undeniably hard. Planes will shake under the strain of speed and winds, making it hard to aim and lead your targets, while overzealously trying to make turns without regard for aerodynamics and airspeed will see you unceremoniously stall and spiral out of control. G-forces will blacken or redden your screen, which is a nice visual touch that is long overdue on consoles. [embed]224879:43232[/embed] Simulator mode cranks the physics up a notch, and removes HUD info to make it nearly impossible to tell your airspeed without looking down at your instruments in the cockpit view. On the other hand, Simplified mode is what anyone new to the genre will feel most at home with, removing stall issues and generally feeling more like your typical arcade World War II flight sim. The flight control systems that lie beneath the hood make for an impressive feel, turning the mere act of controlling your airplane into as much of a challenge as actually completing objectives. Flying feels dangerous, as if humankind wasn't meant to be inside a tin can with wings and guns attached to it, let alone using it to wage war in the skies over conflict zones. Try to make a dive-bomb run on Simulator, and you'll even need to extend the air-brakes to control your speed lest the stress of aerodynamic physics turns your plane into a heap of metal, crashing to the Earth below. The caveat of the distinction between the different control difficulties is that most players who are more casual fans of the genre will stick to the Simplified scheme, rendering most of the game a rather boring and unimpressive chore. Meanwhile, the Simulator option may offer exactly what the "hardcore" crowd is looking for, but feels made for flightstick and throttle controls rather than a gamepad. Even the slightest nudge to the side at the wrong time can lead to a complete loss of control and a seemingly inevitable drop towards death. There is always the option to switch to one of the other three planes in your wing, but crashing four times in a row when you are merely trying to make a turn is a less-than-welcome slap on the face if you are struck with a gamepad. This discrepancy between realism and arcade sadly permeates most of Birds of Steel's offerings. Combat in most single-player missions revolves around reaching a checkpoint, watching an in-engine cutscene of planes flying to their target, followed by shooting a number of enemy planes or destroying a number of sea and land targets. Then you return to your carrier or airstrip checkpoint, and the mission is over. Dogfights are meant to portray realism rather than arcade fun, so don't expect to singlehandedly wipe out entire squadrons of enemy planes on your own. Shooting down any enemy plane at an angle often feels more like the result of a lucky shot than that of complete mastery over the combat mechanics. With unlimited ammo, you can drop one to three bombs before you have to wait a minute to "reload," further reducing arcade fun if you are seeking it. Suffice it to say, arcade combat flight sim aficionados should look elsewhere when it comes down to the combat mechanics. It feels made for the harder control scheme options to maintain a fine balance between skill and challenge, and the Simplified controls just don't offer enough of a challenge for most of the game. On the upside, fighting your way through Birds of Steel's single-player components is a pretty lengthy endeavor, with a 1941-1942 Pacific campaign available for play from both the USA and Japanese viewpoints. Aside from the two campaigns, a wealth of single missions can be chosen for the Mediterranean theater, Pacific Ocean theater, and Western and Eastern European fronts. While the campaigns and missions are decent fun to play through, the mission design is disappointing. Each mission does make you feel like you are simply flying a sortie to do a single bombing run or Combat Air Patrol, but in some missions, flying back and forth almost takes more time than you'll spend actually seeing any action. Eventually, single-player may start to bore you as mission after mission begin to feel all too similar. However, there are multiplayer and co-op options abound in Birds of Steel, and it's only here that everything the game has to offer starts to unveil itself. In fact, the majority of the content is hidden away from solo-only players' eyes. Some Single Missions can be played online, while there is always the option to pick AI wingmen in a private match, or completely play offline. A Dynamic Campaign lets you rewrite history (cooperatively if you choose) during eight battles, such as the Battle of Midway or the attack on Pearl Harbor. Success or failure in missions at each "turn" of a dynamic campaign will affect how the battle as a whole will play out in successive missions, meaning you can easily lose yourself playing a dynamic campaign for an extended session of play. A mission editor with plenty of options allows you to further extend your playtime. Although the Missions are an appreciated bonus, competitive multiplayer might be the best aspect of Birds of Steel. As much as the realism detracts from having fun in single-player, multiplayer manages to take the best aspects of the realism Gaijin strove for and turns it into an exhilarating, enjoyable experience. Compared to shooting down AI planes on Simulator difficulty, which is already a challenge when your target reticule moves all over the place, killing a human player in multiplayer takes it to a whole other level. It's hard enough to land even a few hits, let alone enough to take out a player, and while you may not get double-digit kills in an online match, each kill is rewarding and feels like an achievement. Leaderboards, time-specific online events, and tournaments with certain requirements all increase the odds that the online playerbase will remain as active as it is at the time of writing; no mean feat, as the lobbies in console flight sims are often as empty as space itself, a week after a title's launch. Experience points, which can be gained in limited amounts in single-player, are far more easily accumulated in multiplayer, and a hangar filled with dozens of fighters and bombers for different countries in the war is at your disposal to unlock with the XP you collect. Birds of Steel's single-player offerings are rather dull compared to other games in the genre, including Gaijin's own Birds of Prey, but the online components are unrivaled. If you are new to console flight sims, this isn't going to be the best place to start. On the other hand, if you bought a flight stick for your console and have been continuously disappointed by titles in the past two years, this is exactly what you have been waiting for. It's a game meant for simulator fans who like to play hard and play together, and one that is only available on consoles. (Presumably because IL-2 exists on PC.) Those willing to commit to Birds of Steel will remain occupied for a long time. Don't let the option of a more arcade-style control scheme lure you in, however, as it will leave you largely unsatisfied if you are expecting something like Ace Combat. Birds of Steel doesn't quite manage to marry arcade and simulator crowds in a single console title, but it does pull off being the best online combat flight simulator on consoles, bar none.
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Combat flight simulators, like real-time strategy games, are a resilient breed which has always struggled to find its place on consoles. A mouse and keyboard control scheme is almost always preferred over a gamepad when it co...

Review: Microsoft Flight

Mar 31 // Jordan Devore
Microsoft Flight (PC)Developer: Microsoft StudiosPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: February 29, 2012MSRP: Free  It's an interesting time for free-to-play gaming, which Microsoft Flight most certainly belongs to. As the industry is still trying to figure out how best to leverage this model while still providing quality entertainment, we tend to encounter more bad examples than good. In going after an expanded segment of players, it's clear why Microsoft Studios would want to remove price as a barrier to entry. As far as production values go, Flight makes a good first impression. The planes, both from an interior and exterior view, have a sharp, clean look to them. The scenery, on the other hand, is something of a disappointment. Considering this is a free-to-play game, I have to keep my expectations in check -- but there's so much potential for Hawaii to be full of life and color without sacrificing realism. As it stands, the environment ends up being largely soulless and one can't help but long for higher-res textures. Players can fly using either a joystick, an Xbox 360 controller, or a mouse and keyboard. I'm unable to make use of that first input method, and between the other two, I much preferred the latter. Whereas a gamepad worked adequately but entirely broke the illusion of Microsoft Flight being a simulator, using a mouse was comfortable, intuitive, and made pulling off subtle movements easier. The tutorials do a good job of teaching you the basics. I also like that introductory missions are catered toward individual planes and test your ability to land through increasingly difficult scenarios. In-game checklists break down the various tasks that need to be performed in order to be a proper pilot; thankfully, these can be fully automated if you so desire. Speaking of which, the crashes in Flight are truly a sight to behold. Thank goodness for the print-screen key. While challenges that involve flying through hoops or collecting rings in a given amount of time aren't very interesting, hidden Aerocaches scattered across Hawaii were at least somewhat compelling. You're given just-specific-enough hints on where these objects are placed on the map and have to go track them down. Finally, airports have their own job boards with missions like sightseeing tours and delivering 667 pounds of chickens. (That second one is the real description. I love the wording of these things.) In trying to be relevant for two distinct types of players, the game ends up taking the middle of the road. Although I could come in as a novice with relative ease, I didn't find Flight to be particularly exciting. On the flip side, hardcore sim players likely won't be attracted by the emphasis placed on accessibility. It's an odd mix that results in neither party feeling wholly satisfied. For the purposes of this write-up, I only played the vanilla Flight, which just includes the Big Island of Hawaii. The problem isn't so much that the game is lacking content, but rather, the optional add-ons are quite expensive. Free-to-play users get two planes -- the adorable Icon A5 and the Boeing PT-17 Stearman -- while further vehicles range from $6.99 up to $14.99 in the case of the Maule M-7-260C. To gain access to the full chain of Hawaiian islands, you'll need to cough up $19.99. Unfortunately, I don't really think the core game itself is strong enough to justify those prices, even if planes do feel noticeably different. There's enjoyment to be had, especially for less advanced flyers, but I was able to get everything I wanted out of Microsoft Flight without adding funds to my account. And, in the end, I suppose that's not such a bad thing. To its credit, the game does serve as a good introduction for beginners. If it is able to spark further interest in the genre, I'm obviously all for that. Though I can't speak directly as a flight-sim aficionado, my best guess is that for these players, Flight will serve as a decently fun diversion. After that, they'll probably want to go put more hours into their tried-and-true sim of choice. Perhaps if Microsoft Studios offers diverse locales and fills out the roster of aircraft, there will be greater pressure to check back in. Right now, there's not a whole lot of incentive to spend more than an afternoon playing the game.
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Though I do desperately hope to one day see a full-on resurgence of aerial combat games, I've never been a die-hard fan of flight sims. I wholeheartedly respect the people who make them and the ensuing audience that appreciat...

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Microsoft Flight is finally out today and it's free!


Feb 29
// Brett Zeidler
It seems like everything is jumping on the success free-to-play is bringing these days, and Microsoft's line of flight simulator titles is the next franchise to test the waters. Out today is Microsoft Flight and, as was promi...
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World of Warplanes enters global alpha, sign up now


Feb 24
// Jordan Devore
Wargaming.net has kicked off the global alpha for its flight combat MMO World of Warplanes. You can sign up over here, if you're interested, or here for Europe and here for Russia. A word of warning: the application for this ...
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There be planes in Combat Wings: The Great Battles of WW2


Feb 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Yep. Imagine that, another World War II game! This one, however, is an aerial combat title that puts you in the cockpit of some of the most famous planes to have patrolled the skies during the Second World War. Players will ...
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Microsoft Flight will be free starting this spring


Jan 04
// Jordan Devore
Though "simulator" is nowhere to be found in the name, Microsoft Flight -- due out this spring as a free-to-play PC game -- is still very much what it sounds like. Accommodating new players seems to be a focal point, especial...
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Ace Combat Assault Horizon gets Tekken skins, no idols


Nov 08
// Josh Tolentino
Fans of unrealistic jet fighter combat and fun cross-franchise promotion are in luck, because Namco Bandai have announced their latest pack of download content for Call of Duty: Modern Air War Ace Combat Assault Horizon....

Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

Oct 13 // Maurice Tan
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3)Developer: Project AcesPublisher: Namco Bandai GamesReleased: October 11, 2011MSRP: $59.99 The changes to the Ace Combat franchise are hard to miss when playing through the first half hour. Even though he game still has its trademark ridiculous story involving superweapons, it's told through the eyes of a range of characters you actually play as, as opposed to Fires of Liberations' overly dramatic narrative that was often told from the on-the-ground "warfare isn't very fun for civilians" perspective while you were just one anonymous person in an elite squad that saved the day. This first half hour shoves you into the seat of the glorious F-22 as you play through one of the protagonists' nightmares, fighting in the wartorn skies above a beautiful Miami landscape and pulling off scripted but amazing-looking maneuvers. After some cutscenes that are aimed to make you identify with most of the characters, you'll suddenly find yourself in the gunner seat of a helicopter for a turret sequence. Yikes. Progressing through the pretty lenghty missions in the campaign, you'll find yourself playing through proper jet combat missions followed by a helicopter missions, and even sitting in an AC-130. It might not sound like the Ace Combat you know and love, and at times it isn't. Part of what makes Assault Horizon so different is the new "DFM" (Dog Fight Mode) system. If you approach an enemy and get close enough, a pulsing circle will indicate you can enter DFM. Doing so puts you in a close combat chase sequence, where all you can really do is try to keep the enemy plane under the reticule of your machine gun while firing missiles as they lock on. These sequences can occasionally take you through breathtaking chases between skyscrapers, through refineries, or simply through G-force ignoring aerial dances of death. DFM is there to make the game look great, which is does well thanks to the cinematic style and heart-pounding action you'll find yourself irresistable to enjoy, but it also serves to remove the boring gameplay of eternally turning your plane to keep your target reticule slightly in front of an enemy at close range. As a result, the game's design does tend to overly focus on close range combat. If you're a fan of turning on stealth, circling wide behind an enemy strike group, and letting loose a volley of AMRAAMs from miles away -- as you perhaps once did in F-22: Total Air War -- you can forget about that in Assault Horizon. It's hard enough to let a missile hit any of the more skilled AI fighters in any mission, let alone the aces that will use flares and fly all over the place. If you insist on not using DFM at all for simulation's sake, you might as well not play the game altogether. Having said that, the system does do a great job at giving you the sense that you are balancing on the edge of control with your bird of prey. Everything moves so fast that anyone who is prone to motion sickness in games should be warned, and once you destroy a plane you'll get a nice Burnout-esque view of your opponent as pieces of his plane rip apart from it in mid-air. Sometimes you'll even see the pilot being flung out of the plane; it never gets old. DFM does have its share of problems, however. An enemy can get ready to do a counter-maneuver that is indicated by a tiny indicator in the UI, which you're likely to miss every single time since so much is continuously going on on-screen. You can counter this counter-maneuver and ravage the enemy jet as it tries to loop over you in slow motion, but it's more a matter of luck than skill. Likewise, you can do such a counter-maneuver yourself if an enemy is locking on to you from behind by decelerating and leveling out the plane to get two triangle indicators to overlap, which instantly puts you behind your foe if you're successful. But sometimes -- especially in multiplayer -- you won't have the time to do so before you get hit in the butt by a missile. It can be a bit frustrating to die just because one time the action works fine and looks fantastic, while at other times it just refuses to work because you didn't overlap the triangles well enough or didn't level out correctly. Furthermore, if you happen to drop out of DFM at the wrong moment because an enemy flies too far out of sight -- even though it's hard to tell what exactly governs the rules of staying in DFM -- you could find yourself flying into the terrain at Mach speed. A side-effect of basically being required to use DFM is that you have no sense of place on any of the maps where you control a jet. One minute you can be here, the next you can exit DFM at an entirely different location. One of the things that makes arcade air combat games so fun is that you feel in control of a ridiculously expensive aircraft and that you can claim the skies for your own without requiring a brain wired for simulation games. It's hard to do that when you never really know where you are nor have a sense of the aerial theater overview, so you end up just going after the closest enemy until the mission is over. It fits the live-in-the-moment style of the game, but essentially you'll be hopping from one chase event to the next. Similar to DFM, ASM (Air Strike Mode) lets you enter a ground assault path where your machine gun will overheat less quickly, and where the camera will make it more cinematic and easier to annihilate everything on the ground. It's a bit like a more assault-oriented version of that radar-evation mode you had in Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., clenching your controller as you try to make quick decisions to get through it successfully without crashing your plane. You can even do a bit of ASM as a stealth bomber to carpet bomb the hell out of bases, which is of course is what mankind was born to do in the first place. To further spruce up the variety, Assault Horizon throws a bunch of missions at you that don't necessarily belong in a game like this. Being neither novel nor necessary, the turret gunner sections are seemingly only there to draw in the Call of Duty crowd and despite being fun enough to play (how can you mess up a turret sequence anyway?) they feels a bit forced. The helicopter missions are simply a throwaway way to add variety. Only one camera mode actually lets you see what you are shooting at, and even though the jet controls let you switch between a super arcade "Optimum" mode -- in which you can't even rotate your plane -- and an Original mode that is more like Ace Combat, the choppers are stuck to one arcade control scheme. Players who put effort into learning the more sim controls of Apache: Air Assault can basically forget what they learned as they work their way through some drab helicopter action. Thankfully, there is always the AC-130 to save the day and make you forget about most of the game's failed attempts at forced variety as you rain down death from above. While the campaign is a nice distraction on its own, with a good old Elite difficulty and different aircraft selections to make it worth replaying it a couple of times, multiplayer adds a whole other layer of life-enhancement. Eight co-op missions are there to enjoy, Deathmatch can be a bit hard on the rookie player as you're thrust into the skies with more skilled players, while nobody appears to be playing the "capture the base" Domination mode at all. Capital Conquest, however, is the online mode of choice. This mode puts players into two teams who have to protect their HQ buildings while simultaneously attacking the opponent teams' buildings, supporting bomber and multirole fighters as they do so. If you have a bunch of friends who like Ace Combat, it will be a while before you get tired of playing this mode and destroying random online people who don't communicate at all. Earning points in multiplayer also lets you unlock skills to put in "skill sets" (i.e., Class layouts) that provide bonuses to yourself and your team. It provides a good enough reason to keep playing the game after you finish the campaign and the Capital Conquest games only take 10 to 30 minutes -- with the option to fully customize any of the modes -- so it's easy enough to pick up and play without having to spend hours on the multiplayer. Although the introduction of the DFM in Assault Horizon does change the feel of Ace Combat dramatically, it is a beautiful and heart-pounding addition to the air combat genre. As long as it works well and you have an idea what is going on, that is. When everything falls in place and works, further stimulated by the trademark Ace Combat soundtrack, there's nothing out there that can give you an experience anything like it. Assault Horizon looks beautiful to boot, provided you can get over the fact that it is not Ace Combat 5, nor Ace Combat 6, etc. The cinematic style might put off some old fans, but once you accept Assault Horizon for what it is you can enjoy it immensely; there's really no arguing that the new style makes you feel more engaged with the action whether you care for Call of Duty or not. You do have to accept that this is a departure for the series, as evidenced by the way the Original control scheme is the more intuitive option for veterans while at the same time it makes you feel like the game wasn't designed to really support it. It might not be the perfect console arcade combat flight sim experience, but Ace Combat: Assault Horizon remains a treat for any fan of the genre or fans of stupidly awesome looking air combat action. Where it breaks with tradition, it injects a shot of epinephrine straight into your heart and keeps it pumping until a mission is over. The changes have turned it into a rollercoaster version of Ace Combat, for better or worse depending on what you wanted from the franchise's latest, resulting in one of the finest examples of how to turn graceful air ballet into a mosh pit of fighter jets.
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The combat flight sim genre is in a pretty good state these days. While PC owners can enjoy the IL-2 Sturmovik games for that excellent full sim experience, console owners have still seen a slow but steady flow of arcade air ...

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Here's some screens for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon


Oct 09
// Brett Zeidler
A new batch of screenshots for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon recently came out and, as you might expect, they contain some jet planes that you can expect to take for a spin yourself. They are not just any jet planes though, as ...
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Productivity in peril: Glider coming to iOS devices


Sep 26
// Conrad Zimmerman
Growing up in the United States and attending public schools in the 90's pretty much guaranteed you were going to run across a Macintosh computer at some point and there are solid odds that there was a version of John Calhoun...
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Namco Bandai invited us out to their offices in Japan to see the Tokyo Game Show line-up before the show opens today. There was a lot to see, so we didn't have too much time with all the titles, which sucks since I really wa...

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Put some Ace Combat 3D Cross Rumble screens in your mouth


Sep 13
// Maurice Tan
Some more screens for Ace Combat 3D Cross Rumble have come out of the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011. They involve planes, a radar, a weapon loadout, some Japanese text here and there, and yep, that looks like an Ace Combat gam...
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Ace Combat Assault Horizon gameplay shows OMG CHOPPERZ


Aug 17
// Josh Tolentino
Are you hankering to get yourself into a fighter jet and shoot down some bandits? I sure am, but if you are too, we're both going to have to wait a little bit, because Ace Combat Assault Horizon features attack chopper seque...

Preview: Combat Wings: The Great Battles of WWII

Aug 16 // Abel Girmay
Combat Wings: The Great Battles of WWII (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: City InteractivePublisher: City InteractiveTo be released: November 2011 In Combat Wings, you play as Allied forces from four different campaign perspectives: American, British, Russian, and Australian. Each campaign narrative is self-contained, similar to pre-Modern Warfare Call of Duty games. You won't be able to play as the Axis powers, but you will be able to fly Axis planes since certain mission have you commandeering them. Overall there will be fifty planes from a good variety of countries including Poland, France, Romania, and the main Axis and Allied countries. The better planes in the game are unlocked by completing secondary mission objectives, which you can take back into previously completed missions.   Since this is a flight game, nailing smooth controls is particularly important. City Interactive is taking this opportunity to integrate PlayStation Move support to offer a more natural way to control the game. When using Move, the navigation controller controls your throttle and you use the wand to steer the plane.  The mission that was being demoed with the PS Move had us doing a variety of things from dogfights to bombing runs, and it all seemed a little janky at first. Using the wand to steer the plane, I always found myself overshooting ground targets and never able to keep a steady beat on enemy planes. I should add though that when of the guys from City Interactive played he didn't have as much trouble as I did. Once I got my hands on an Xbox 360 controller though, the controls felt infinitely better. The second mission we played was a straight forward aerial dog fight taking place in the Pacific theater. In this mission, City showed Combat Wings's flight assist mechanic, Ace Mode. One of City Interactive's big push for this game is to show the intimate nature of air combat in WWII. Without the luxuries of modern drones and the like, pilots had to get really close to targets to take them out. Close enough even that you could see the other pilots face in the cockpit. Ace Mode is City's way of conveying this type of intensity. By holding down the left trigger, Ace Mode steers you fast and hard towards your nearest primary objective. It's a great idea and tool but I found myself using it more as a crutch. Since your usage of Ace mode is governed by a regenerating meter, I found myself spamming the hell out of it as it was the quickest method to finish objectives. Ace Mode will even auto-correct your trajectory when you are dangerously close to crashing. For example, when I was shooting at ground targets I would just fly straight down firing off all my rockets and machine guns like a madman. Once the target was destroyed I would just hold down the left trigger and Ace Mode would pull me back up. You can't expect to spam Ace Mode all the time though. The next mission we played was a nighttime bombing run set in the Russian warfront. Midway through, you have to land your plane in the middle of the woods to pick up some ordinance. When playing the landing sequence Ace Mode is completely disabled, which makes sense. Now that's the single-player portion of the game. As for multiplayer, Combat Wings may or may not have multiplayer in the final cut since time is against them. Speaking with the games developer one-on-one, I learned that they are looking at a number of options regarding the multiplayer component. One option is of course to delay the game, but that is unlikely as they seem dead-set on making their November 2011 release date. Another option is of course to not have it at all, and from what I could tell that is certainly a viable option though development is still continuing on the multiplayer mode. The final option discussed is to release the game as scheduled and the multiplayer as an add on later on down the line. Whatever the final decision, Combat Wings will not be totally devoid of an online component (since leaderboards and add-on support fall under that category.) The final cut will also have a split screen co-op mode when it most likely ships this coming fall.
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I think that we can all agree that games set in World War II are pretty much dead. Medal of Honor started it, Call of Duty treaded in and eventually killed it, and Brothers in Arms is taking a page from the Que...

Review: Air Conflicts: Secret Wars

Jul 21 // Maurice Tan
Air Conflicts: Secret Wars (Xbox 360[Reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC)Developer: Games FarmPublisher: bitComposerReleased: July 8th (Europe), August, 2011 (North America)MSRP: €39,95 As DeeDee Derbec, a young and dashing female smuggler pilot who gets swept up into the events of World War II, you travel around the European theater doing what you're supposed to be doing: shooting down Nazis, bombing Nazis, and occasionally doing supply drops or flying basic stealth missions from point A to B. The game starts out rather dodgy, throwing "cutscenes" in your face that are just a single image which the camera pans over a couple of times -- focusing on different aspects of the image to fit the voice-over narration, if you're lucky. The first campaign or so sees you partaking in some truly awful missions that involve flying to a checkpoint or shooting down a few fighters or bombers, and strangely enough these missions can sometimes only take a few minutes to complete. If you stick with it and keep on playing, however, it actually becomes quite an enjoyable little game. Missions become slightly more varied, the story picks up, and you start to unlock more and more planes that each have their own statistics and weapon loadouts. The planes are sadly not very distinctive in the way they feel. Bombers are slow and handle even slower, with the option to use a turret and shoot backwards or sideways using the d-pad. Unfortunately, since the turret's power is pretty useless, you are unlikely to ever down more than 20 planes this way throughout the game. Fighters handle much better and are a lot faster, and later in the game you'll unlock the Me-262 jet fighter and Hortha-Gothen Flying Wing to mess around in. All the planes in the same class handle almost identically though, and you'll be hard pressed to notice the handling difference between a Mosquito and a Stuka. What's worse, all the planes lack a sense of speed. Only after flying all of them do you notice the difference, and even then it's hard to notice whether you are flying at 33% throttle or a maximum speed. Where the difference between planes does come in is in the weapon loadout, if you can call it that. Each plane has a set amount of rockets and bombs it can fire, which reload automatically at different speeds depending on the plane. It's an arcade game, so there's no resupplying or refueling or anything like that. Aircraft can be shot down with rockets if you're lucky, if you happen to get the time to line them up to an enemy that flies in a straight line, or if you shoot them right before smashing into a plane. The latter is the easiest option, as there is no collision model for planes in place. Planes do have some graphical damage modeling but it doesn't impact how the plane flies, making a Spitfire with half its wing shot off look pretty comical. To make up for that, you'll have little Nazi soldiers running for their lives on the ground and screaming in an explosion of blood when you bomb them to smithereens, and a mission in which you need to shoot down over a hundred Nazi paratroopers who go "Aaaah" when their parachutes collapse. It's a shame that the missions are pretty drab. You'll go through the standard WWII scenarios under the guise of helping out resistance fighters throughout Eurasia, but at no point will you be surprised with the mission design. Compared to Ace Combat 6, IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey and H.A.W.X., Air Conflicts: Secret Wars disappoints in this regard. It's a good thing the missions are at least pretty varied, as far as shooting down aircraft and bombing ground targets during WWII can provide variety. The controls work well enough, with only the left stick used for controlling your plane and the X and Y buttons for decelerating and accelerating. You're notified that decelerating will help you turn faster, but that's only an effective tactic for a handful of very slow or very fast planes. For the most part, it won't matter at all how fast you are going in a turn. If you try to fly in a loop, you will suddenly face downwards upside down without the option to roll around and escape a crash -- at least when using the arcade control scheme. Because the simulation control scheme is just no fun to use at all in this game, you are simply stuck with making normal turns and sometimes braking because you're used to doing so in a flight sim whether it actually does anything or not. Landing is a matter of flying through four loops after which you are instantly on the ground, and usually you can take off directly afterwards with the cargo or person of interest on board. You'll earn "Stars" for completing objectives and destroying enemies, which unlock new planes, but there's little feedback on how you can earn more of them. Likewise, you sometimes level up and get a skill point to spend on handling, endurance, critical hits ("You shot a pilot through the head!") and wingmen effectiveness. But there's no hint on how to earn these points or if they are just allotted for certain missions. So far Air Conflicts: Secret Wars might sound like a truly terrible game and at times it can be. But for the most part, it can offer some stupid budget fun despite its faults. Enemy planes will dodge out of the way if you shoot at them, turning dogfights into an affair that will always keep you busy without taking minutes to down a single plane in a dogfight. Depending on the difficulty, there is a very generous lock-on reticule that makes shooting down enemy planes pretty easy. Only on the highest difficulty will the target reticule lock-on less often, and even then it's never hard to complete a mission. It's a very arcade experience that may feel dumbed down to the hardcore flight sim enthusiast, but this game doesn't try to satisfy that audience. If you can look past the game's faults, the gameplay has plenty of fun to offer. Surprisingly enough, the story is not terrible either. Penned by the writers at International Hobo, the story is in fact pretty depressing. Throughout the seven campaigns that make up DeeDee Derbec's story, she is always on the lookout to find out what happened to the father she never knew. All she knows is that he never returned from World War I. In each campaign, you will play a fighter who was on her father's squadron and fight a single mission alongside Guillaume Derbec. These missions are hard to fail, and merely serve to provide a backstory for her father's experience and character during the war. While a voice-over from one of DeeDee's father's old squadron mates tells her what had happened, you act out these events flying a biplane and make some simple bombing runs. Again, these missions offer nothing groundbreaking but a nice change of pace. As the story progresses, you will lose friends along the way and DeeDee turns from a simple happy-go-lucky alcoholic smuggler into one of the most depressing characters you are likely to find in any video game. Even right up to the finale, everything about DeeDee's adventures is a tale of atrocities, mass murder, the bombing of field hospitals, the loss of friends, and her descend into a war-torn woman who is slowly stripped of a soul. Sadly, while the story and script might surprise you at times given the budget nature and the genre of the game, the voice acting ruins almost all of it. Only four actors do the voices of around 12 characters, and when DeeDee is talking with her awful French accent to a Russian resistance fighter who has the exact same voice, it can become hilarious at times. Despite the title mentioning Secret Wars, there is not really any secret war to speak of. The story about helping out the resistance in various regions is a nice break from the standard RAF superhero pilot story, but don't expect anything as grand as Secret Weapons Over Normandy. Air Conflicts: Secret Wars is a weird game. Everything from the graphics to the music and sound is passable, and it doesn't hold up to the best this genre has to offer on the consoles. But strangely enough, it can be a damn enjoyable little game to play. Even though it's stitched together from pieces of varying quality and even though the writing cannot save the boring cutscenes or the mission designs that never rise above mediocrity, it's still a lot more fun than most other budget simulator games on the consoles. Hell, it's more fun than the awfully disappointing H.A.W.X. 2. Make no mistake, this is game that no one but the most avid of console flight sim fans should ever play. If you can look past its budget production values and design, there's about 7-8 hours of missions and multiplayer that practically nobody but the Achievement whores seem to be playing online -- though there is system-link multiplayer that will also give you Achievements if you are into that. Air Conflicts: Secret Wars might be a budget title in price, looks, and polish. But it's a simple and surprisingly enjoyable game that hardcore fans of the genre will enjoy if they can go in with low expectations. It doesn't do anything new or anything special but if you see it discounted (it already dropped to half price in Europe within two weeks of release), or if you can rent it, you might have more fun with it than you might expect.
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Combat flight simulators are not exactly the hottest genre in town, especially on the consoles. Whereas IL-2 Sturmovik dominates all opposition on the PC, the console games are almost universally more arcade-oriented. And wit...

Hands-on: Kerbal Space Program

Jul 20 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Kerbal Space Program (PC)Developer: SquadPublisher: Squad I need to start off by mentioning that this game is still in alpha. Things like objectives and missions are not implemented yet. This means that the game flows a bit more like a sandbox-style simulation. One of the touted bullet points is that it incorporates fully-fledged, physics-based flight simulation. I'm no physicist, but I do know that it means fun things can happen. It all starts in the Rocket Assembly Building. As the name suggests, here is where you build your rocket. The tutorial is a little long-winded and wordy, but it does a good job of explaining the basics of building a rocket. The wordiness can be forgiven, though, considering how expressive you can be when slapping parts together. There are only about a handful of parts in the game at the moment, but there's also no limiting factor like cash, either. The parts range from the pilot capsule, to breakaway joints for multi-stage rockets, to the liquid and solid fuel thrusters. You're also not limited by what type of rocket you make. Yes, you can create a rocket that looks and has similar construction to ones used in real life. There's much more fun to be had finding inventive ways to make massive and oddball constructions. From what I could tell, there's no size limitation on how big the rocket can be. The interface for attaching parts is easy to use, with large blue balls highlighting where one part can fit to another. Things like winglets can just fit onto the sides, and the game will show you what it looks like in a spot before you confirm it, so you can make adjustments without having to take everything off. Once your rocket is built, it's time to head out to the launch pad. Here, you can try out your rocket from a vertical launch. Three Kerbals, the inhabitants of the planet, are loaded onto the rocket. Kerbals are rather stupid, so most of the piloting is left in the player's hands. The pitch can be controlled with the W and S keys, with the yaw controlled by the A and D keys. The rotation is controlled with Q and E. There's another tutorial for this section, too -- it's structured much like the previously mentioned one. You'll have full control during launch and flight... most times, that is. Going back to the "fully-fledged, physics-based flight simulation," sometimes you can make a rocket that is either too poorly built, or just too powerful to be properly controlled. In one sense, this makes rockets that are failures more fun. Building out, say, a wing of rockets, might actually cause part of the rocket to fling off from the main body. The twists and turns that can be caused are truly fun to behold. This is also slightly enhanced by three portraits of the Kerbal astronauts and their fearful or joyous reactions during the whole flight. The game has little audio in it at the moment. Pretty much all there is are sound effects of the rocket boosters and explosive failures. What's there does sound good, though. Graphically, the game looks pretty good as well. The rockets are well detailed, with each part looking -- and moving -- like you would imagine it should. The terrain is not that drastically detailed, though up close you can see things like trees. It works well enough, considering that you can still look down and see the planet when up at heights of tens of thousands of miles above the planet's surface. There's not that much in the way of content currently. Kerbal Space Program does feature mod support, and already a growing modding community is making new parts. The game itself has a strong base for developer Squad to build upon. Right now, your enjoyment will be almost directly proportional to how much you enjoy building and watching what crazy things will happen to that build. This is looking like it will be an interesting game to watch for when updates with new parts and missions are added. The current alpha builds are out for free, and can be downloaded from the game's official website.
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July 8, 2011. Space shuttle Atlantis departs from Florida to cap off the US space program. It was a glorious, if not bittersweet moment. It left us asking: where do I go now to see super awesome rockets shoot off into space? ...

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E3: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon takes my breath away


Jun 08
// Maurice Tan
When it comes to arcade combat flight sim console action with an over-the-top dramatic story, it doesn't get much better than the Ace Combat series. Sure, it's no IL-2 Sturmovik but it's not supposed to be. Ace Combat: Assaul...
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E3: Top Gun: Hard Lock wants you in the danger zone


Jun 08
// Maurice Tan
In an alternate reality, Tom Cruise and his husband Jonathan "Katie" Holmes are enlightened philosophers who fight injustice, superstition, and illiteracy around the world. Unfortunately for us, in this reality 505 Games is p...
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E3: World of Tanks devs announce World of Warplanes


Jun 07
// Maurice Tan
Wargaming.net, the team behind the world's most popular free-to-play World War II tank MMO, has announced a new free-to-play game: World of Warplanes. WoW World of Warplanes will be another free-to-play game and will be stand...
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Mad Catz forms flight simulator MMO development studio


May 31
// Maurice Tan
Wait what? You read that correctly, Mad Catz -- grown into the biggest peripheral maker in recent years -- has announced the formation of ThunderHawk Studios, a studio focused on developing a series of MMO flight simulator ga...
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ArmA 2 creators want you to get to da choppah


Mar 31
// Maurice Tan
Ever since it let the Operation Flashpoint license rot in Codemasters' hands, Bohemia Interactive has been wowing the world of military sims with the ArmA 2 series. So it makes perfect sense to follow that up with... a helic...
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IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover takes off in March


Jan 19
// Maurice Tan
1C Company and Ubisoft announced a new combat flight sim today. Previously called Storm of War: Battle of Britain, IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover has key features such as "New aircraft", "Flyable aircraft" including British...
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Yuji Naka's new flight game coming to the Wii and 3DS


Jan 19
// Jonathan Holmes
Yuji Naka has said in the past that his upcoming flight-focused game, Tenkuu no Kishi Rodea, is the game is he "might" have made into a sequel to NiGHTS. As a huge fan of the NiGHTS series, I'm all squeaky with joy over the g...

Preview: Apache: Air Assault

Sep 21 // Ben Perlee
Apache: Air Assault (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Develop: Gaijin EntertainmentPublisher: ActivisionTo be released: November 16, 2010 To be clear, usually these sorts of titles appeal to a specific fanbase. While military simulations are always popular, they have a tendency to alienate more casual users by not offering the right sort of experience to appeal to everyone. Thankfully, publisher Activision and Gaijin Entertainment have added variations of difficulty to make the game more enjoyable to different audiences. For those who would rather get in the chopper and not worry about technical maneuvers or careful flight techniques, there is the Training Mode. While it restricts you from performing certain helicopter actions, it does let players go through the entire campaign without too much difficulty. For a greater challenge, there is Realistic Mode, in which players have only three lives. For players who really love helicopter action, there is finally Veteran Mode, offering only one life and finite ammo.  The helicopters themselves are all Apache brand choppers: the Apache AH-64D Longbow, Apache AH-1, Apache AH-64X Experimental Prototype, MQ-8B Fire Scout, and Mi-35 Hind. While only major helicopter nerds will know the variations by name alone, players will find that each one controls and functions differently. Compared to airplanes, these machines need a wider turning radius, can obviously hover, and generally function in a manner very different from other flight simulators. Helicopters unsurprisingly have special abilities, and Apache pilots will be able to maneuver these machines vertically and nearly upside down, for example. These abilities range from hovering to shooting techniques. Dodging missiles is as easy as dropping altitude, yet to gain speed, the player must dive the Apache downward then swing up, much like a glider. There is a lot of flexibility with these vehicles, and it's going to require a minor learning curve even for those players who are comfortable with flight simulators. One impressive feature is how the helicopters handle variations of damage, such as flying with a damaged engine at the expense of mobility. However, certain parts, like the rotor blades, cannot be taken out without bad things happening. You get my drift. While flight simulators don't exactly offer in-depth plots, Apache: Air Assault tells the story of three different Apache crews working for a fictional UN military organization fighting insurgents across the world. I suppose it'll get the job done, but let's admit it, no one will be playing this game for the plot. However, missions themselves are rather dynamic. Objectives will change on the fly, and goals never take more than a few minutes to perform. The first level I was shown, taking place over the plains of Africa, guided us across bluffs and dusty roads while we took out insurgent vehicles. After reducing one insurgent town to rubble (hey, it was filled with no one but guerrilla terrorists, alright?), our Apache had to defend a fellow downed helicopter in a much larger city as insurgents attacked both us and the soldiers on the ground waiting for airlift. Success in this mission involved locking the Apache into a hover position, then switching over to a shooting mode, alternating between a tactical black-and-white vision cam that highlights enemy vehicles and an infrared cam that highlights enemy soldiers as solid white against a field of black. It looks pretty great, and once the rescue crew showed up, the mission became an escort mission. Within 15 minutes, missions varied from taking out targets, defensive aerial battles, and escort challenges. If the whole game can keep up with the variety, fans of flight simulators will have a lot to like. If not, they'll appreciate the free flight mode, with a whole set of variables to keep the gameplay dynamic. With regards to multiplayer, Gaijin Entertainment is taking a cooperative approach. Apache: Air Assault offers 13 multiplayer-exclusive modes with up to four players acting as a squadron to work through more team-based missions. Though online only, the main campaign can be completed as a co-operative team with one player acting as the pilot and the other as the gunner. Coming away from the game, it's clear that fans of air combat games and flight simulators will find a lot to appreciate and enjoy. Clearly, it's not for everyone, but it's a niche title for a niche audience. However, there seems to be a strong amount of polish and focus on making a helicopter title that works. It also helps that it is a great looking game with very lush and realistic geography and a solid draw distance. Hopefully, Gaijin Entertainment and Activision can keep things together and release a quality Apache helicopter simulator when Apache: Air Assault launches this November.
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Apache: Air Assault is a special beast. While it might be considered a helicopter version of Gaijin Entertainment's IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, a military aerial simulator released in 2009, it is clearly a differ...


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