Contraband Police puts you at the helm of Border Control in the fictitious world of the People’s Republic of Akaristan in the year 1981. It is down to you and you alone to determine whether somebody is legitimately trying to enter the country or whether they possess any nefarious motives. You do this in two ways: by carrying out checks and by having an incredibly keen eye for detail. Not only that, but you have a whole plethora of other activities to take care of, such as dodging gun-toting enemies at random, prisoner- and inventory-management tasks, hiring and firing staff and also finding the time to sleep so that your perception (which is an in-game skill) can regenerate. Welcome to our Contraband Police review!
Contraband Police grants you total freedom as it is up to you to determine which drivers are legitimate and which ones are trying to pull a fast one on you. Your day-to-day typically consists of raising the barrier to let a weird and wonderful array of potential criminals in so that you can inspect the drivers’ documents and cargo (where applicable), and then make a decision based on what you have observed.
Whether you are correct is a whole other matter and you will be punished if you make the wrong decision. Your punishment will be even more severe should you miss something major or do something heinous such as wrongfully arrest an innocent person or even commit murder (yes, seriously).
Nothing is as it seems
This is where Contraband Police really shines because it is constantly trying to throw you off in some way. Whether it’s somebody who has the wrong profession, is from the wrong place, trying to smuggle something in or even flat-out speeding past you and smashing through the barrier requiring you to leap into your police vehicle and pursue them at high-speed. The controls feel fluid and smooth and this is especially true when entering vehicles. You glide right into them and it feels more satisfying than it probably should.
As each new day starts, the requirements for your checks become slightly more difficult than the previous one, normally with added stipulations and additional things to look out for. As the government learns more about smugglers, for example, they provide you with small snippets of information about what to look out for via your notice board at border control.
Border Patrol Simulation
Does the driver’s face match their passport photo? Is the registration that they have provided correct? Do they have a work permit? Is it valid? Does the vehicle exceed the maximum allowed weight for that particular vehicle? In fact, is the vehicle that they have declared the actual vehicle that they are in? Do they have any cargo? If so, then does it match what they have declared? What is in the cargo? Does the vehicle have any flat tires, broken windows, missing bodywork, missing mirrors or anything else awry? Is there anything hidden inside the vehicle? What about under the vehicle? Are there any snake symbols on the interior or on the tires? These are just some of the things that you have to focus on for every check and it’s exhausting…but in the best possible way!
First, you are given a folder which houses the driver’s documents and you have checklists galore. You possess the skill of perception which charges as you sleep and which depletes with each check. You check the driver’s details with what they have listed and ensure that things like spelling and numbers are correct. Everything that is incorrect should be recorded in your checklists. If you run out of perception, then you must manually check every spelling on every document to ensure that it all matches. This is almost the most satisfying part of the game…
We’ve struck gold!
The most satisfying part is when you find contraband, and this is especially true when you come across major hauls. Whilst some people might only have one item of contraband, others have shedloads of the stuff in multiple forms stashed pretty much everywhere!
Another satisfying element of the game is stamping your approval or refusal of entry, watching the person driving away and then discovering whether all of the hard work you just carried out was right or wrong. In addition to that, each completed check comes with an audit sheet. This is useful if you get it wrong as you can use it to see precisely where you failed.
Judge, Jury and Executioner
If you catch anyone attempting to smuggle something in, then you possess the power to arrest them and immediately lock them up in your border control jail cell. When the jail gets too full, it is up to you to either transport the prisoners yourself to the prison camp across the map or to call for a (very expensive) collection.
One glaring omission from Contraband Police, however, is female characters. In almost 15 hours of gameplay, I have only ever encountered men everywhere. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but it seems somewhat unnatural and can sometimes break the immersion as some people tend to look the same as one another, just with slightly different clothes or accessories such as facial hair or glasses.
Movement feels great in Contraband Police – smooth and natural. At least that’s true for the player whose eyes you are viewing the world from. Your in-game colleagues and the drivers you encounter (all NPCs) move somewhat robotically, and while their movements specifically aren’t the main focus of the game, it sometimes pulls you out of the immersion when you see it happen because it’s hard to ignore. Characters who are in prison, for example simply stand there, quite literally staring at you the entire time. Sometimes they might be seated, but even then they never move – they just carry on staring at you in the most unnatural way.
There is a plethora of candidates whom you must vet and inspect on a daily basis in order to keep the country safe. After 14 hours, I am still encountering new people, new vehicles and new scenarios – more than enough to keep the game fresh and entertaining. It appears that the people you encounter are not randomly generated, meaning that if you were to play any particular day again, it is possible to remember individuals and whether they were concealing any contraband, for example. Given the vast number of characters in this game, however, one needn’t worry about encountering the same person twice.
Keeping things fresh
There is enough to do to keep things fresh in Contraband Police. If checking drivers and their vehicles was the only task in the game, then it would succumb to tedium rather quickly. However, there is an upgrade system to progress through and the checking tasks are nicely broken up with other tasks. Examples are chasing down people who drive straight through border control, gang warfare and even being called upon to assist in murder investigations!
Naturally, being in such a position of power always lends itself nicely to bribery. It rarely happens but the first time it did, I genuinely felt conflicted. Do I take it or do I report and arrest the wealthy scumbag offering it to me? (Fine, I took it.) I, erm, was looking the other way…
Visuals & Sounds
Contraband Police is a great-looking game with beautiful visuals. The world around you is doused in glorious sunlight during the day and drenched in deep blackness at night. The characters look good, although they move around rather awkwardly and tend to act unnaturally.
The audio always sounds just right depending on what is going on. Tense music discreetly seeps in when things get heavy, but when all is well you hear the sounds of nature all around, such as birds talking happily to one another.
It also goes without saying that the characters’ native language in Contraband Police is nothing short of exquisite – the developers literally invented a new language for the game. It is called Acaristanee and sounds like an Eastern European language blended with a tad of Russian. In fact, it sounds so authentic that it’s hard to believe that it never existed before this game came about!
Contraband Police is an incredibly immersive and entertaining game that quickly draws you in and holds onto you tightly. It is easy to pour many, many hours into Contraband Police and there is always something interesting to do. The characters all act a little unnaturally, robotically almost, and the controls are somewhat basic, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The premise of Contraband Police is simple, so why shouldn’t the controls be simple too? Overall, it’s hard not to have fun with this game and it is definitely worth checking out. That was it for our Contraband Police review.
- Catching and arresting criminals feels invigorating
- Finding contraband feels especially rewarding
- Has just enough activities to not be tedious
- Beautiful visuals
- Good story
- Smooth controls
- No manual save
- No minimap when driving
- No female characters
- NPCs move and act robotically
- Your character has to pay for everything himself