Contraband Police is a game developed by Crazy Rocks and published by PlayWay S.A. Set in the 1980s, you play as a border inspector of the Acarist People's Republic, a communist country where your every move is being monitored, and smuggling and corruption are the norm. Your new job at the border checkpoint is to check papers, search for contraband, chase down runners, and shoot anyone who is stupid enough to attack you. However, you soon become embroiled in a nationwide conflict that could change how the country is run, so it's up to you to either uphold the law or help change it.
The story isn't special, and the choices are binary. It's serviceable, but I'd rather make money than care about what the heck is going on. I can’t help but compare the game to Papers, Please, which Contraband Police is obviously inspired by, and how well it does emulating the struggles of someone living in such an oppressive environment. Here, I just go to sleep in my crappy shack after work is done, wondering why I’m paying for everything.
But onto your duties as a part of the police. Every day, you’ll wake up and begin processing any car coming through the checkpoint. You must ensure that everything is up to code and no one is trying to smuggle anything into the country. Every chapter has a new set of rules which get increasingly more difficult to follow, or else you lose out on a serious payday or get docked an obscene amount of money. You will need a serious eye for detail as you check for everything if you want the full pay. How much does this car weigh and does it surpass the maximum load? How many parts of the car are broken or missing? Is there a snake symbol on their luggage? It actually feels pretty good to get a perfect grade and incredibly disheartening to see a complete screw-up. It does feel a little mind-numbing after a while, but there is some excitement to break things up like car chases, shootouts, and tearing a car apart piece by piece to find drugs and weapons.
Unfortunately, the people you need to process aren't randomly generated. Since you can restart the day at any time, you can just cheat and memorise who gets a pass and who does not. Even if the details change, it's all too easy to correct mistakes.
After processing all the travellers, you can go and do whatever you want for the rest of the day, like shopping for weapons, upgrading the checkpoint, or turning in all the contraband and prisoners you’ve obtained during the day. You might even get missions to do. It settles into a nice routine of doing your tasks, spending the rest of the day doing whatever you want, then heading to sleep. One day might have nothing happen, the next you’ll be solving a murder, or getting into a shootout at the cemetery in the middle of the night.
Speaking of shootouts, you can buy yourself an assortment of guns to defend yourself with. They don't feel great, and the enemy A.I. isn't the smartest. You’ll only die because they have numbers and the element of surprise where they can ambush you while you are driving. I’ve been blown up in my police van more times than I can count.
Oh, right. Driving. There is an open world to drive around in, but I rarely went out other than driving to the police station or the quarry to drop off contraband and prisoners, and even that eventually gets expedited after a few level ups and some money. The world feels empty – probably on purpose – and it was too bothersome to really go out of my way to explore or drive around, especially since I was always afraid to drive a car due to the controls, random ambushes, and hefty fines for killing civilians. I had to go back to the checkpoint on foot more than a few times after getting my car destroyed by gang members.
I didn’t really have any real gripes with the game other than the lack of a manual save. It runs decently smoothly, and I haven’t encountered any bugs or glitches. It all works fine.
Overall, I find Contraband Police to be a fun experience, but there are definitely better alternatives with similar premises and gameplay. There are some seriously annoying parts such as chasing down suspects or just driving in general but it's not everyday you let out an evil smile as you hack a car to bits with an axe, only to find 20 pounds of drugs in the bumper.
Contraband Police is out now on PC via Steam.
Contraband Police (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Contraband Police is an enjoyable experience, but it has some annoying bits to deal with and there are definitely better alternatives with similar premises and gameplay.