Contraband: Everything we know so far

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Contraband remains a mystery. This new adventure is in development at Avalanche Studios, the developer behind open world games like Just Cause, Mad Max, and Rage 2. Announced back in 2021, the team has offered few updates on the development of this new co-op game for PC and Xbox Series X. 

We do know that Contraband will be heading to Xbox Game Pass, owing to Avalanche's collaboration with the Xbox Game Studios group, and that it's being developed on the studio's proprietary Apex Engine. We also have first story and gameplay teases, so you'll want to keep reading to find all the latest on Contraband. 

Recent updates

Our Contraband guide was updated on September 14. While there is no fresh news, we have verified that everything in here is up-to-date and relevant. 

There's no Contraband release date confirmed yet


(Image credit: Microsoft)

Unlike most of the games shown during Microsoft’s star-studded E3 2021 conference, the mysterious Contraband was given no release date whatsoever. What we do know, however, is that whenever this intriguing Microsoft exclusive does arrive, it will launch on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PC. Microsoft also confirmed that Contraband will be a day-one entrant into the Xbox Game Pass list

There's still time for Contraband to make it into our top new games for 2023, but it's looking more likely that a launch date might come in 2024 following an alleged leak from an insider (via TheLoadout).

While Avalanche hasn't said so outright, it does appear that the new game is one of the new Xbox exclusives, so don't expect a Contraband PS5 or PS4 release. 

Contraband trailer

The debut Contraband trailer was shown during the Xbox and Bethesda E3 2021 showcase. The teaser was designed to set the mood of this upcoming co-op game from Avalanche, and give us a hint towards the setting and characters. We'll still be waiting for the first Contraband gameplay trailer, which could come anytime now.

Contraband gameplay


(Image credit: Microsoft)

While Avalanche Studios is yet to show Contraband gameplay to the public, we do have a few details to share. For starters, we know that Contraband will be a co-op adventure, and that it'll be built on the "next generation of the Apex Engine" – which is the technology which helped power the Just Cause games. 

Contraband game director Omar Shakir has also teased that the game will be a "co-op smuggler's paradise", and that it'll be the "most ambitious and spectacular game" from the studio to date. 

Shakir also says that Avalanche is "taking everything we've learned from 18 years of being at the forefront of creating beautiful, vast open game worlds filled with stunning vistas and incredible gameplay moments." So if you've spent the last two decades wondering what an open world, co-operative Just Cause might have looked like...well, Contraband may just be what you've been waiting for!

Contraband setting, and characters


(Image credit: Microsoft)

While we have yet to see any Contraband gameplay in action, we do have a fairly good idea about what awaits. Set in the 1970s, this open-world co-op adventure sees players exploring the fictional world of Bayan – a smuggler's paradise.

In the cryptic CG teaser, we get a glimpse of a map that details your squad's heist plans, and what looks like your base of operations. That map refers to a rather ambitious-looking heist known as the "Sun River Job." This heist seems to involve nabbing a fireproof safe from Khoo Private Storage and bolting it across the border in order to make a clean getaway. The map also suggests a decoy to help with the safe getaway. 

Another shot is of someone working underneath a four-wheel-drive vehicle in a cluttered garage. If you can figure out what the significance of the neon sign saying "Ketok Magic" is, let us know. We can only find that the word Ketok means "knock" in Indonesian, and that there's a Canadian indie musician called I Am Robot and Proud, AKA Shaw-Han Liem – who also co-created the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita game Sound Shapes – who has a song called Ketok Magic. 

Another shot of a radio setup has a list of preset channels hanging from a rooster ornament. That lists River Valley, Highlands, Coastline, and Pirate Tower, all locations we can expect to visit in the game. There's also what looks like a ship's cargo manifest, no doubt detailing some delicious loot. 

Contraband development


(Image credit: Microsoft)

Contraband developer started three years ago at Avalanche Studios. The developer is best know for the Just Case series, and for games like RAGE 2 and Renegade Ops. following the Contraband reveal, game director Omar Shakir released a statement which teased the collaboration. "Three years ago, we started talking with our partners at Xbox Game Studios about what a co-op smuggler's paradise would look like and how we could bring it to life together."

"To fully deliver on our vision for Contraband, we have an amazing team at Avalanche Studios that are pushing the boundaries with the next generation of our Apex Engine, the technology behind all our games, including the Just Cause series. We built the engine to unlock the creativity of our developers and we’re excited to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of Xbox Series X and S."

While you're waiting for Contraband to release, why not return to one of the best Xbox Series X games or find something new?

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.

With contributions from