During the late 1970’s, the middle east was an area of the world that was going through a lot of turmoil and unrest. Specifically, in Tehran, Iran, after being under one monastic ruler after another for the last 2,500 years, the people were ready to have their voices heard no matter the cost. During a period when the rich continued to get richer and the poor were getting poorer and poorer, many businesses closed down and millions of people were left with no way to provide for their families. Add to that the lack of concern for the fate of the common people by their current ruler, the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and you would get the ingredients of the Iranian Revolution which took place on February 11, 1979. He would be the last Shah of Iran and was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi.
This political powderkeg is the setting of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. The game tells the story of the events that took place on this date in Tehran and developer iNK Stories and publisher Digerati has created an interactive narrative that is based on real first-hand testimonies of freedom fighters, witnesses and casualties of that revolution. The game takes place in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, which has been said to have housed Iran’s political prisoners since 1972.
The Prison was believed to be used to commit “serious human rights abuses” against the monarchy’s alleged political dissidents and any critics of the government. You play as photojournalist Reza Shirazi, a young Iranian who returns home from being abroad to find his people protesting the ruling King, the Shah. Armed only with your camera and with your idealistic cousin at your side, you attempt to capture the emotionally charged stories and events unfolding on the streets during one of the largest protest marches in history.
The game is an interactive drama that is done in the same vein as games like The Walking Dead from Telltale Games or Life is Strange from Dontnod Entertainment. The playable character is in third person view and you can guide him on very linear paths throughout the nineteen chapters of the game. The environments in the game range from wandering the streets of Tehran during the protests, the rooftops of buildings as well as the alleyways that connect all over the city.
You will be tasked with capturing the events during the protests with your camera in order to let the world know what is really happening there. In addition, you will need to interact with the other main players in the revolution. The answers that you choose will determine how the rest of the game turns out.
Tensions are at an all-time high so as you can expect, interactions between the protesters and the crowds of people will undoubtedly turn deadly. To convey the emergency during these events, the game uses what are basically quick-time events to get your blood moving. You will have to dodge bullets or jump over obstacles using the left joystick as well as the buttons to swing punches to defend yourself during fights. These action sequences are used to break up the game so that you are not just choosing dialogue choices. It’s a good mix that keeps the gameplay fresh, even though this may not be the most polished game that I have played this year.
The visuals in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, admittedly, are not going to win any awards this year, that’s for sure. While it doesn’t look absolutely terrible, this game definitely could have used a few more months of visual polish. The environments are dull and brown but they don’t look all that bad. In fact, it really helps to sell the setting for the time as buildings were burned out, cars were overturned, trash was everywhere and people generally were not concerned with the visual aesthetics of their surroundings when they are fighting for their lives. The character models, on the other hand, leave much to be desired. For the absolute weight that the story carries, the visuals just didn’t match up and I was really disappointed that the polish just wasn’t there.
The story in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, however, is where this game shines brightly. I am somewhat of a history buff and events that have taken place in my lifetime really catch my interest. In 1978, when this story takes place, I was seven years old and I remember seeing the images of the gigantic crowds of people on the television news. It was scary to see the violence and unrest but it was a good history lesson to see exactly what happens when the people rise up for equality.
Even though the gameplay was somewhat uninspired and nothing different from other games in this genre, it was really interesting to get an angle on this historical event from people who were actually living it at the time. People were forced to make hard choices, choices that teetered literally on life and death. It was a miracle that the country made it out of that revolution in one piece.
Dull visuals and ordinary character models aside, the story in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is amazing. It took me about four hours or so to play through the entire game, which is about par for the course with interactive drama games of this type, but that was just enough time for the game to make its point. There is nothing new or different about the game, but I found myself glued to the screen and continually wanting to get to the next chapter so I could learn the fates of the interesting characters. As a kid, learning history in this fashion would have been a great way to experience the events that changed the course of nations. However, a little more time should have been put into the games presentation so that it looks as good as the story.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.