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1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC) artwork

1979 Revolution: Black Friday (PC) review

"The People's Army Will Remember That"

History lesson, kids: Iran had, like, since, forever been a monarchy under the direct rule of a Shah (the Persian world for king or emperor) until an almost shock uprising in 1979 forced the then-ruler into exile and the country became an Islamic Republic. It was a weird revolution from a lot of historical standpoints, riding a wave of growing dissatisfaction from the populace concerning deeper and deeper interference from Western culture who, in an attempt to really establish a blossoming stereotype, were crazy interested in all that oil the country had sloshing about beneath it.

That’s a very glib and vague paragraph trying to map out the bones of a country shrugging off centuries of history to be reborn anew. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday has a go at highlighting a few of the penultimate days of the uprising and putting you in the thick of it. It’s seen through Reza Shirazi, who finds himself back in his homeland after studying photography in Germany for several years only to stumble across streets filled with protesters and a country barely recognisable from the one he left behind.

For the most part, Reza has very black and white choices to make that have very little impact on the main backdrop, no matter how much the game tells you his decisions are very important. They’re not; which does make some sense; 1979 draws its tales from real-life accounts and documents from that time period and remains dead set on providing as accurate a retelling as it is able. Reza isn’t going to be a grandstanding hero of the people; his most prevalent role is that he’s there to provide documentation. To inform the world of the actions and will of his people.

He does this primarily through a camera lens. A lot of the game sees him walking through key demonstrations, where he’ll periodically be presented the chance to snap some shots. You could chose to ignore this for the most part, and the game will carry on regardless. But the photographs Reza takes are based on surviving photographs of that time, and often accompanied by a little slice of insight. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself over-educated in the country’s favourite form of sandwich. Sometimes, you’ll learn that Iran’s most successful domestic car was purposefully modelled on Western automobiles and that, after the fall of the Shah, it was stripped of all chrome décor and made only available in white to fit in with new religious sensibilities.

One of the things I appreciated the most about 1979 was its refusal to takes sides. Reza’s story is told mainly in a series of flashbacks while he’s being tortured by the new regime, while the heavy-handed mob mentality that came with the last few moment of the Shah’s reign are watered down for no one. It’s not a political platform for anyone; it’s a recording that tries to be as true to the facts as it can be. The downside for this is that it makes for a very linear video game; you can play Reza as a naïve campaigner for love and peace, a disinterested photographer just looking to take pictures or even a champion for increased violence to achieve the greater good. There are two endings to the game, and they’re only influenced by a small handful of the choices you make. Neither differ enough to warrant a second playthrough.

Reza’s less the hero of his own story rather than a means to offer a glimpse into a much bigger tale. But it does mean that the attempts to flesh out his interactions often ring as hollow. The most interesting parts involve his family, who are enjoying a comfortable life under the Shah’s rule. His mother worries about losing face with her peers should her son be found mixed up in all the rallies and the protests, but his father remembers the political unrest of his youth, and respects the next generation's right to try and shape the future of their country. His best friend guides him through the street with childlike enthusiasm, convinced they’ll wake up to a better tomorrow. His cousin doesn’t believe that peacefully waving signs and closing the storefronts is going to be enough to usher in the wholesale changes he desires.

The problem is, this only makes up a small subsection of the game. When you’re not shuffling around in a crowd, hunting down hotspots to take photos of, you’re running quick time events to hop over trash cans or trying to answer quickfire questions before a timer runs out. 1979 is an adventure game firmly cemented in the post-Telltale era, right down to the “X Will Remember That” quote every time you say something of note. The big problem here is that you never really say anything of note. Neither you nor the people you ‘influence’ are really part of the tale; they’re just nearby when it happens.

Then, after only a couple of hours of run-time, the game clumsily and jarringly shudders to a halt. It really is a sign of shoddy writing when something just suddenly ends.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 29, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted July 29, 2018:

Wonderful writing. It was always going to be too pat, but the opening paragraph is excellent, and the closing stanza was funny and apt. Good to see a game tackle heavy issues, and good to see us cover those games.

I have some suggestions, but I'm too lazy to set them out here.
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EmP posted July 29, 2018:

Thanks, Marc. I picked it up in the Steam summer sale along with another four millions games. The difference being I actually managed to play this one. I'm a bit of a history nerd, so it seemed like a game I should play. It was interesting for what it was, but not an easy recommendation.

Thought the conclusion was a bit of a gamble, so glad it didn't come across as awful as it could have. Thanks for reading.

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