Although it has been out for several years, I’m late to 1979 Revolution Black Friday but I think I played it at the right time. 2020 (when I played and video reviewed this game) felt like such a year of upheaval and fighting for new things with ever desperate odds that it meant I could connect with the plight of the games characters.
Based off of real events (with creative licence I am sure), you play as Reza, a photographer caught up at the forefront of a revolution. Iran is reaching a turmoil breaking point where an iron ruling is forcing a revolution of propaganda vs knowledge. Underground newspapers, cassettes of political speeches and foreign music are smuggled about and if you are caught with them or in connection to them – you’ll be punished. Reza finds the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ key and he is ushered into the uprising for his skills to capture a moment.
1979 Revolution Black Friday plays like an interactive movie that can be completed in about 3-4 hours at surface level. The game is broken up into scenes that you can dive back to and replay, choosing different dialogue options and exploring areas for various historical artefacts. The best way to tackle it first is to play it viscerally. In the style of Telltale Games, cut scenes run with quick time events everywhere. One of the biggest gripes I have with the game is that it throws you in and doesn’t explain what you are meant to do. This happens straight out of the gate too. You are processing photos and then raided but you aren’t really told the controls and what you can do at the time. I spent a lot of time getting caught and getting game overs straight away and its a poor introduction. This happens several times over as the real time ‘movie logic’ of something happening means you have to move and react and hope for the best sometimes. This clunky way to drop you into situations can mean you miss critical information but as scenes are usually quite short, you can always drop back and look for alternative routes through the experience.
For me it didn’t dampen the overall experience too much though as Iran is well and truly alive. The characters you interact with shine with personality, albeit never being too complex. Reza’s parents have to decide whether to look after him or side with his police officer brother Hussein. Hussein doesn’t want to throw his brother under the bus but depending on your conversation choices, he may have no choice. Your friend Babak wants a peaceful revolution whilst your cousin Ali says nothing will change without violence and force. These two act often as the scales of choice for your actions as you are increasingly asked to stay calm in various situations that seem unfair. Bibi is more of a grey area as she uses what she can to get the word of the revolution out and about. She is the brains of the operation and who the prosecution force would really like to capture. Across the game, stakes rise higher and higher as civil unrest breaks out. It is a gripping and tense story told extremely well and only held back by occasional technical issues. Sometimes characters get stuck and scenes would freeze for me on the PS4 version.
One of the surprising excellent additions to the game is the historical artefacts you can collect. These range from photos you can take as Reza and you unlock the real photos that line up almost exactly, right through to photos and sound clips Iran at the time. Seeing cinemas closed down and operating underground or the local bakery bread of Iran at the time was fascinating and the recordings of actual speeches of the time were interesting to explore too. There’s over 80 to collect, some of which are just text, but it has been a while since I enjoyed collectables this much. It also gives credibility to the accuracy of the story told too.
Technical issues and a few clunky QTE’s aside, I thoroughly enjoyed 1979 Revolution Black Friday when it worked for me. The number of game crashes for a game that’s been out 4 years is a shame but if you can wrestle through those, this is an engrossing story that will have you hooked to see how your ending will turn out. You’ll learn a lot at the same time too. An important indie milestone in gaming.
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