Review

XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen Review

  • First Released Feb 4, 2016
    released
  • PC

The chosen one.

XCOM games are about staring down the impossible and choosing to fight on anyway. The premise of the franchise is that Earth is under siege by immeasurably more advanced alien swarms. XCOM 2 posits that we, as players, can't be victorious. Where its predecessor had you marshal your best defense to repel the invasion, XCOM 2 opens on a occupied, defeated Earth. Twenty years after their defeat, the governments of the world have all but given up, opting to negotiate with their tormentors instead of fighting back. Instead, you take the reins and gather up what resistance you can to keep the war--and hope--alive, and try to liberate Terra from the three-toed grasp of hyper-advanced psychic space monsters.

The new XCOM 2 expansion, War of the Chosen, expounds upon that foundation in every way. The baddies are tougher and your own troops have more strategic and tactical counters, but they're also more human and, in some ways, more fragile. Together, these feed into not just the complexity of XCOM's already robust chess-like play but the human edge as well.

XCOM has always found its grounding in its characters. You, as a player, are encouraged to name the members of your resistance after your friends and family. After some time on the battlefield, they grow more experienced and versatile, developing new skills and finding their own, ad-hoc narrative slices.

During my first run, I remember one of my high-school friends, Ben, grew to become my top soldier. A pinpoint sniper, Ben could deadeye any foe from 100 yards--easy. But the long slog of the war with the aliens left him traumatized. And, over time, he became a glass cannon. His mind was rattled by intimidation, and his frail body ached. On his 60th mission, he was brainwashed and slaughtered by his captors.

These sorts of vignettes flow organically in XCOM 2, but War of the Chosen explores them more fully. First, soldiers that spend lots of time together form close relationships, conferring battlefield stat bonuses as well as fodder for whatever backstory you choose to conjure. War of the Chosen encourages you to create inspirational posters for your warriors, too, to post around your base. Between missions, you'll see the beaming faces of your finest dole out propagandic slogans. It doesn't affect anything outside of aesthetics, but it's a tacit acknowledgement that your team and their connections matter, and it's a simple way to reinforce the desperation at play. Each of these soldiers, though they march into battle, often without ever questioning their commander, are still human. They need faith, and they need symbols of victory that encourage them to press on.

Of course, this is something of a red herring. War of the Chosen wants you to use these features--kindling relationships with characters like Ben and leaning on them for your own sort of moral support--so that it can bludgeon you with hopelessness down the line.

For every fun little addition War of the Chosen slots into XCOM 2, it also adds something more sinister. The eponymous "Chosen," for example, are an elite trio of champions that are hell-bent on capturing and torturing your soldiers, picking their minds clean so they can take aim at you.

That places a grim and sobering filter over everything else. You send these people out to fight and die, and you have to carry the knowledge that if they suffer, it's because you failed. And, what's worse, if they're captured, they'll face far more pain and anguish not because of anything they did, but because your resistance continues to frustrate your presumed overlords.

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To balance the scales a little, you'll also be able to tap three new factions for your burgeoning Squad. The Templars, for example, are powerful mind-wizards who loosely counter the Warlock, one of the Chosen and a psychic warrior whose mind has been twisted by obscene power. The Reapers and Skirmishers round out your ranks with stealthy-snipers and gruff, short-range assault troops, respectively. Each of them comes with special skills so as not to overlap with your more basic, rank-and-file soldiers.

Each of these add-ons might be a solid inclusion on their own (who wouldn't want cadres of super-soldiers to shore up the ranks?), but War of the Chosen wouldn't work without all of them.

The new factions are introduced early, so players who finished the base game have some new meat to sink their teeth into. Everyone else? They get a straightforward introduction and continue on as normal. The key, though, is that a Reaper can help you expand your tactical options early on, where stages--bereft of the reverse-engineered laser cannons that show up dozens of hours later--could use a little more excitement.

This makes the first few hours a bit easier than the rest, but this affords you room to experiment before the truly punishing moments appear. After all, characters who aren't watched have a tendency to be ripped apart or shot to bits. Having a souped-up fighter in the field affords you some flexibility: As with a queen in chess, you can adjust your plans on the fly, leveraging that additional power at key moments--either for offense or defense. But, as with the queen, losing such a valuable soldier can hurt doubly so.

The Chosen play a similar role, dropping into missions and harassing your teams whenever possible. They learn and grow from battle to battle, too. It's not quite as robust as the Nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor, but they will adapt to your tactics, covering their weaknesses over time. That makes them exceptional foes down the line. In essence, they become bosses that dog you and wear you down, an omnipresent threat that could hit at any time.

As the game marches on, you are beset on all sides by powerful foes that force you to adapt. Your own soldiers might grow as well, but when your elite squads are picked off, or they've grown weary and fatigued, or when they lose their best friend or lover, that loss is palpable.

War of the Chosen packs in appreciable new layers of tactical and strategic depth that breathe new life into what was already one of the genre's best. But it is, once again, the humanity of the fight that binds it all together. New factions wouldn't work without new challenges, and new bonds are strained by foes that seek to quash opposition not with overwhelming force, but by cracking your will. If one mission goes particularly south, you may be forced to bury far more well-trained fighters than you can replace. And when you can't quite field the strength you once did, you might not have the drive to keep going. You share not only in new powers, but in the pervasive defeat felt when they are taken from you.

Everything that Chosen brings--from the elite soldiers to the deeper connections between your squads--feels like a living part of the XCOM universe. If you like your deep strategy and brutal turn-based tactics alongside brilliant interplay between camp and emergent drama, there is none better.

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The Good
Bond system reinforces human element
New foes put your tactical planning to the test
Additional factions maintain excellent pacing and progress
Emergent drama creates unique narrative tensions
Every addition fits and works together to build upon core themes and ideas
The Bad
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for XCOM 2

About the Author

Dan Starkey's a big fan of defending Earth from extraterrestrials, and, more importantly, putting his tactical and strategic prowess to the test. He received an early preview copy and later a full retail build for the purposes of this review.
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claypigs

Good. Lord. This game is probably the hardest I've ever played; much more than Enemy Unknown. And, I'm only playing it on Veteran. In Uknown, the sectoids were all but the easiest enemy to kill. In that game, they could mind control other units. What they didn't exemplify was 4 more hit points, and, mind control of the xcom team member and corpses, SIMULTANEOUSLY! There should be tough enemies in a strategy game, but, these are present within the first several missions, sometimes in multiples! All that and just about all of the other enemies in the first few missions are just as powerful and more, and there are many of them! The ONLY units that are even moderately not-super-difificult are the Advent Troopers. The difficulty curve is way too steep in the beginning, while the player still has just about only rookies and squaddies, with very few resources to get started on upgrades. Challenge is one thing, but, this game doesn't give much of a chance of reward for proper strategization. The obvious solution is to bump down to the next experience level, but, it feels like the developers missguaged where the experience level of a veteran should be. I want a game to punish me for bad tactics and I expect there to be some loss. I just don't want to get completely demolished and have to restart, multiple times. This is Ninja Gaiden levels of tough. Very frustrating.

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Cherub1000

Loving xcom2 so far. Real tempted to pick up the chosen dlc, my current playthrough however, is mid to late game, if I get the chosen, will it play alongside accordingly or is it better to start a new game?

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npentzos

I have the three dlc of X-Com 2 , and i want to know, if i play the war of the chosen, i also have the extra guns and abilities from the DLCs?

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jollyboy00

@npentzos: yup. Previous DLCs contents are integrated into new storyline and you dont have to do the missions anymore.

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npentzos

@jollyboy00: Thank you for the infos!

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TheOtherSider

I loved Enemy unknown and Xcom 2 has proven to be a great game if you love rts games. I think the thing that disappointed me most with Xcom 2 was that it lost that horror movie vibe that EU had. What annoyed me about it was the over use of the mission timers in a game were thoughtfully planning and executing your every move is crucial forcing such a tight time constraint which in the later game caused me many a ' F88k it just go for it" deaths, was kinda grating.

The best part has definitely been the mod community adding 100s of hours in content and replay I havn't gotten a chance at war of the chosen but it looks like a no brainer for me.

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asmoddeuss

@theothersider: Just a minor correction, XCOM is not a RTS game, and I know many RTS gamers that hate turn based strategy games.

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morg444

Playing on legendary with save scumming on. A few minor complaints, but overall the new maps seem more interesting with goals and actual strategy.

I love how the side missions make the timers and avatar timer more forgiving! That would have made the first game way more fun.

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pedal2metal214

@morg444: "save scumming..."

So with WotC, the Second Wave options are back in some measure? I have vanilla XCOM 2 & there was no Second Wave options after completing the game (unlike both EU & EW), which I found disappointing to say the least. I'm also disappointed that none of the reviews I've read discuss the Second Wave options although this is consistently a highly regarded feature in the XCOM community for game replayability. I find it a bit cheap one has to buy WotC to get Second Wave, if that's the case.

Edit: My bad. I believe save scumming is built-in for XCOM 2, IIRC from my 2 playthroughs.

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Lawgun

It's the same game, changes are not worth. It's like all these enhanced editions of games which are free upgrades but here you need to pay for some reason. No thanks, refund.

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asmoddeuss

@lawgun: Not true. It completely changes the main game. The new changes and the new stuff are so many that it will be difficult to post everything here.

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Lawgun

@asmoddeuss: yeah, sure, that's why you preferred to call it just "The new changes and the new stuff are so many that it will be difficult to post everything here" instead of calling real examples which are laughable in fact and you know it. XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen is just another variation of enhanced edition of base game which supposed to be free but noooo.

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asmoddeuss

@lawgun:New mission types:

-Stealth Rescue

-Rescue Stranded Resistance Agents

-Assassination

-Supply Raid

-Haven Retaliation

-Uplink Sabotage

New Maps:

-Tunnels.

-Subway Underground

-Abandoned/destroyed cities

-New maps with alien's flora.

New mechanics and systems

-New SITREP mechanic.

-New level up system with new skills for all classes. New skill tree and Ability Points (AP).

-New trait and fatigue system.

-Negative traits: There are now negative traits that your soldiers can get if where wounded by enemies, or if they suffer from shaken. For example a soldier was almost killed by a chosen but survived, now this soldiers suffers a negative trait, he is afraid of the chosen, so every a chosen spawn, this soldier will enter panic and perhaps also be obsessive with his target and will start attacking the chosen non stop and you can't control him.

-Fatigue: Now your soldiers will start to get tired after missions, so you can't have only 1 good team to survive, this new mechanism forces you to prepare more soldiers and have always backup.

-Bonds: Bonds is a new system introduced in expansion War of the Chosen, which rewards you for having soldiers complete missions together. Each soldier has a compatibility rating with every other soldier in the squad, this rating is called Cohesion and effects how quickly one soldier will bond with another. You can level up Bonds levels to get better Bonds abilities.

-Factions, Covert Ops and Resistance Orders: You’ll work with each of the Factions, perform Covert Actions and use Resistance Orders to improve your odds of success. It’s a whole new addition that resonates in both the tactical and the strategic layer and will shake up your decisions on each playthrough. And it was inspired, in part, by collectible card games.

3 New buildings to build:

-Infirmary: In this building you can heal soldiers, but you can also remove negative traits from soldiers. Booking a soldier into the Infirmary is the only way to treat them of negative traits that they may have picked up during battle, such as those from Fatigue. Negative traits can be acquired at any time, but are particularly likely to develop if you've taken tired soldiers on to the battlefield. Negative trait treatment takes 5 days to remove a single negative trait, and longer if the soldier is afflicted with multiple negative traits. The Infirmary can be upgraded at the cost of 80 supplies and 2 power. This installs a Hypervital Module, which can be used at the cost of 1 Elerium Core to instantly restore a soldier to full combat effectiveness, removing any wounds and tiredness and making them eligible for mission selection.

-Resistance Ring: The Resistance Ring is the most important new room type, and one of the most important room types overall. It's from here that you'll conduct Covert Actions, which have a wide-range of potential benefits and adaptable counter-measures to both the Elders' Avatar Project and the Chosen's meddling. The Ring is also where you'll manage and improve your relationships with the three new factions - Reapers, Skirmishers, and Templars - as well as gain initial access to soldiers from the latter two of those groups.

-Training Center: Here's where you'll spend those precious new Ability Points (AP) to teach an old soldier new tricks. How to gain and use AP is detailed elsewhere in this guide, and spending it in the Training Center is an instantly completed process that does not require the soldier to be out of action. The Training Center is also where you'll manage level 2 and level 3 bonds between soldiers. Forming these bonds requires the soldiers to be unavailable for missions, and is covered in more detail on the Bonds page of this guide. Finally, the Training Center can be used to retrain a soldier's abilities within their current class, allowing you to choose a new configuration of abilities should you wish to do so.

3 New Units:

All 3 new units with their own new type of weapons, armor and skills.

-Reaper

-Templar

-Skirmisher

3 New "Bosses". The Chosen:

The Chosen foes Assassin, Warlock and Hunter are the three big bads of the War of the Chosen expansion, each with a different approach to combat and a unique set of weapons and skills.

New enemies:

-The Lost.

-Advent Purifier.

-Advent Priest.

-Spectre.

New weapons and items:

From the Chosen and each new enemy you get new weapons (better than plasma) and new type of items.

New XCOM 2 Challenge mode:

Daily challenges, that you can earn points and see if you are the best xcom player (leaderboard), points scored are based on a number of key factors:

-Complete the Objective

-Enemy Kills

-Uninjured Soldiers

-Surviving Soldiers

-Civilian Rescues (if applicable to the mission type)

-Time Remaining

New advances options when starting a new campaign to tweak more your campaigns:

Similar to 2nd wave options (like we had in XCOM EU)

New defending avenger mission.

A lot of new cinematics:

Like introductions to the factions, introductions to the chosen, etc. etc. and SPOILER ALERT: new ending sequences, new starting sequences.

Is there something I forgot? Maybe, Editing posts here in gamespot is annoying. But there you go, I made it for you.

Sources:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-09-15-xcom-2-war-of-the-chosen-guide-tips-4029

https://xcom.com/news/entries/xcom-2-war-of-the-chosen-covert-actions

http://gameranx.com/features/id/118053/article/xcom-2-war-of-the-chosen-all-new-mission-types-explained/

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pedal2metal214

@asmoddeuss: Thanks!

Is there a complete list of the Second Wave options available? I know Aiming Angles is included already in XCOM 2 along with Training Roulette (or whatever it's called that gives random class skill to soldiers when ranking up). thx.

Edit: Here's what I found: http://gameranx.com/features/id/118029/article/xcom-2-war-of-the-chosen-instantly-unlock-new-hero-units-with-advanced-options/

not terribly compelling imo... where's Red Fog? etc...

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asmoddeuss

@pedal2metal214: Hi, yeah not so missing many Second Wave options that were available in the first game, you can download them as mods or you can modify your .ini files. That's on PC of course, on consoles I have no idea if you can get mods.

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Cherub1000

@asmoddeuss: Yikes man!? Very thorough detail, thanks! I posted above but just curious, if I grab the chosen dlc, will it be in line with my current run (mid to late game currently), or will I get more benefit from a new playthrough? Again, thanks for the info.

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asmoddeuss

@cherub1000: When you install the WotC expansion, you get 2 options: 1) play normal campaign (XCOM 2 + DLC excluding WotC expansion), so I guess your campaign is here. 2) And then you have the other option to start a WotC campaign (new campaign). You have to start a new one, it will not mix with your current campaign.

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Cherub1000

@asmoddeuss: gotcha thanks! Though after seeing the price I think I'll hang on for a sale.

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asmoddeuss

@cherub1000: yeah, the price is high. I got it from gmg for around 24€.

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Isomage

@asmoddeuss: WOW! That's ALLOT of Value Add to what was already a very complete game!

I'm kind of like "lawgun" though in that I'm exceedingly cheap, and feel that the developers, artists, and programmers should all work for free. I don't understand the concept of a value proposition and have such a low regard for what my own time is worth that I don't understand that 100 hours of gameplay for $40 is a heck of a deal, basically comparable to the cost of two people seeing a two hour movie.

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nyran125

I got so owned first play through. Don't play this on had difficulties, first play though. The alien hunters before this were HARDCORE enough. Love the game though. One of the best tactical infantry games around.

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Cherub1000

@nyran125: dude, I remember my first legendary run on ironman mode, haha, I got utterly wrecked! Had 1 good soldier who was clawing his way up the ranks, as if the game let him live until a certain point and then he got killed by a small random enemy, tears mate, tears! Haha. Love the game but for me legendary and/or ironman is just too brutal!

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rmiller365

I preordered this and can't wait to play it! I started with Enemy Unknown last gen and have loved every entry in the franchise since. The series is in my top five favorite games and I wish the series got more love!

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morg444

@nibbin1191: It's pricey, but if you love xcom it's worth it

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fkguy300

@nibbin1191: worth every penny.

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charltonblake1989

@nibbin1191: buy it now. this is no doubt the best $40 dollars Ive spent all year. Im almost finished with my first run and Its sooo good.

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Gelugon_baat

@nibbin1191: Take the word of die-hard fans with a pinch of salt. ;)

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Mogan

@nibbin1191: If you love XCOM 2, then you should totally get War of the Chosen. Did you play Enemy Within, for the last game? WotC adds a lot more to XCOM 2's campaign than Enemy Within added to EU's campaign.

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xgalacticax

I've played over 15 hours of the new content and it still feels like XCOM2 (not XCOM 3)...just with three assholes that chase you everywhere you go...and three cool guys that can join your squad. Otherwise its the same base guns - magnetic guns - plasma guns progression. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but all the reviews make it seem like it's a brand new game. It's nice that they added a lot of extra characters and missions. I feel like they could have done better on the game's second wave options. The ability to randomise a soldier's skill tree made Enemy Within infinitely replayable. I particularly dislike the 'tired' mechanic, which I'm guessing came from XCOM's long war mod. Sounds kinda dumb that a soldier is tired for 10 days (what kind of soldier is that?). Giving people random skill trees in EW second wave made me recruit lots of new soldiers and use them in battle because they were all different...and it was a better way to encourage people to recruit more squads. Anyone that really wanted to change their soldiers would have done so anyway...I'm not sure why there was a need to force those that don't. On the other hand it is cool that random people help on Retaliation missions. That said, it's a solid expansion to XCOM2 with many hits and a few misses.

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morg444

@xgalacticax: True. It's not a new game, just more fun and challenging.

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charltonblake1989

@xgalacticax: it feels like a new game to me.... so thats just like your opinion man

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Lawgun

@charltonblake1989: Oh yeah, I love such hypocrites, "it feels like a new game to me" - it's just only your opinion.

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Isomage

@lawgun: We get it. You're broke.

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Lawgun

@isomage: I don't think you can get anything since you call yourself like "WE" or are you talking from position of fanatical collective unconscious?

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mari3k

10/10 with new long war 20/10

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aiat_gamer

Why this is not a stand alone game? It really feels like it should be 60 dollar game that does not need the base game.

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Orontes13

My long weekend just disappeared in a puff of smoke.

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fkguy300

I would have rated this game a 10. (Edited)

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Paulie_Walnutts

@fkguy300: Perhaps, but I award your grammar a 3!

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fkguy300

@paulie_walnutts: I modified my message. Can I get a new rating on my grammar? +__+

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Mogan

@Hicks_1: Space is tight. We all have to make sacrifices.

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jj2112

@Hicks_1: Everyone plays differently. I finished the game on Commander recently without ever using a mindshield.

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Mogan

@Hicks_1: Yeah, it's a real wonder they didn't ask you to review the game.

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phili878

pois e seus filhos das putas, vou comprar esta coisa ai meus brothers !!!

XCOM 2 More Info

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  • First Released Feb 4, 2016
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    XCOM 2 transports players 20 years into the future, where humanity lost the war against the alien threat that has established a new world order. The secret paramilitary organization known as XCOM is largely forgotten, and must strike back to reclaim control of Earth and free mankind from the aliens’ rule.
    8.4
    Average Rating219 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate XCOM 2
    Developed by:
    Feral Interactive, Firaxis Games
    Published by:
    Feral Interactive, 2K Games
    Genre(s):
    Strategy, Turn-Based
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Blood, Use of Tobacco, Violence