1979 Revolution: Black Friday Reviews

  • DaMikeSCDaMikeSC1,956,038
    25 Aug 2018 19 Oct 2021
    12 2 10
    It is rare for a game to inspire me to...research a topic. I cannot honestly fathom one that has. That has changed, though, with 1979 Black Friday. INK Stories has done a great job sticking a crash course on the history of a pivotal event in world history into a story that expertly shows the mixed emotions of the event.

    Now, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a major event globally, but i actually knew little about it. I knew that Iranians disliked their oppressive shah and sought another way that led to the theocracy that governs to this day. From the outside, it seems like biting off your nose to spite your face.

    Black Friday reminds you that some people were concerned about that eventuality...but that change was needed.

    You are Reza Shirazi, a photographer who returned home to Iran from Germany as the Revolution is starting to really get underway. Your family is pro-shah including a brother in SAVAK. You are imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison in Teheran, recounting the story that led to you being there. Suffice to say, your stay is unpleasant. And one of the nice touches is that you can choose to anger your interrogator...but he can also kill you with impunity...which he does.

    You have been taking photos of the protests and carnage that have been used by a non-violent protest group. Your friend Baback, a religious and non-violent type serves as your conscience throughout, trying to keep you non-violent. Another friend, Ali, is a former mujaheddin and serves as the devil on your other shoulder, encouraging you to engage in more direct action.

    One of the more impressive parts is that BOTH characters have a point in their stances. Babak feels that non-violence is the only legitimate way to overthrow a tyrant while Ali feels that getting killed makes no sense. Both views are treated with respect.

    At the time of the story, the Cinema Rex fire had already occurred, which really launched the revolution to a major level. You attend a protest where a respected leader Abbas is stabbed and you must both save him and help him find out who tried to kill him. Having family in SAVAK does not ingratiate you into any movement seeking to overthrow the government, so you get headaches with that.

    I dont want to go into detail too much as the story is quite good. It provides a perspective on the revolution that I, as an American, do not really get. You are also given lots of collectibles, primarily pieces to give you more depth on the groups, concepts, and events of the revolution. As with most story games, i would prefer quicker walking, but there is little to dislike.

    Now, given the verbiage, why only 4 stars? Well, visually, it is meh. Not ugly per se, but steps below most similar games. The QTE are more distracting than anything. This might be my favorite story game to date as i am a history geek and this gave me things to look into about an event i knew little about outside of embassy hostages.

    Edit: thanks for pointing out the repeated name incorrection
    Showing most recent comments. View all comments.
    ACDCs TNTHa ha, they don't bother me to that extent, I just know I would want someone to "respectfully" let me know if I had made a typo.
    Posted by ACDCs TNT On 26 Jun 19 at 14:36
    RacxieSo just read your review after seeing this game on sale as part of the bundle (which ends today) as the trailer intrigued me, but you've referred to it as "Black Sunday" on multiple occasions despite it being called "Black Friday" laugh
    Posted by Racxie On 12 Aug 19 at 08:38
    CuddIe BunnyI noticed that too @Racxie! Seeing as it was last edited over a year ago, I think there won't be much of an edit following my comment too!
    Posted by CuddIe Bunny On 08 Sep 20 at 20:33
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    I have a growing appreciation for games and media that are able to bring significant, historical events to my attention and creating a satisfactory experience from them. I don’t necessarily mean events like World War 2, The Cold War or interpretations of contemporary military conflicts; stuff like that has been and will continue to be done to death. No, I’m talking about major historical events that I would likely have never heard of had I not played the game itself. Well, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday and the developers at iNK Stories have done pretty much that, doing an admirable job at providing a crash course in the Iranian Revolution in video game form.

    Now, the Iranian Revolution was long before my time, so I don’t know how much, if any, air time or discussion it might have gotten in North America and I can not, for the life of me, remember reading about in any of my historical texts during my schooling. I imagine this major historical event had plenty of divisive ideologies and tons of nuanced information surrounding it, so I respect iNK Stories for wanting to tackle this challenge and bring it to light for the gaming community.

    You play as Reza Shirazi, a photojournalist who has returned home to Iran in the midst of the revolution after living abroad in Germany. Reza is developing photos from his latest outing when his hideout is raided by the police and is subsequently imprisoned at Evin Prison, notorious for the amount of political prisoners it housed both during and after the Islamic Revolution. He is then interrogated by a man named Hajj Agha as to what he knows about the Iranian Revolution in an attempt to overthrow the Shah.

    The game then cuts back to September of 1979 when the revolution has severely escalated. This is after the infamous Cinema Rex fire that claimed anywhere from 377 to 470 civilian lives. Depending on which reports you believe, it was either caused by “unknown Islamic Marxists” or the SAVAK, a secret police that served under the Iranian government. Protester have flooded the streets, mass prayer sessions are being held and leaders are giving impassioned speeches into bullhorns. Playing as Reza, you’re tasked with photographing what’s going on with the revolution as a means of documenting the truth. Being prompted to take pictures of various events and actions serves as a part of the games’s collectibles achievements. You can also interact with other NPCs and the environments around you for more exposition and collectibles. The game also offers up player choices which play a major part in shaping Reza’s beliefs and ideologies throughout the game.

    The game’s story will cut between 1980 when Reza is imprisoned and interrogated and September of 1979 during the events of revolution a few times throughout the game. It's worth trying your best to co-operate with your interrogator, since you can fail these sections and also void an achievement.

    This simple ideology between “good vs. bad” or “peaceful vs. violent” is personified in two of main characters that Reza interacts with throughout the game. Reza’s good friend, Babak Azadi, is a peaceful, pacifist who believes non-violent protests are the only way to overthrow the Shah. He believes in not wanting to give the incumbent government justification to use violence as a deterrent to protesters. Meanwhile, your cousin, Ali Shirazi, is an ex-Mujahideen who has been in hiding, only to show up when the military intervenes to break up the protests. Ali has had a rough life where violence and direct action are all he knows. He’s ready to be a martyr for the cause of overthrowing a tyrant. I felt the game did a good job of giving both sides the time of day and both views are treated respectfully. You could make arguments for both parties and it adds a little intrigue to some of the decision making in this game.

    The scene of the protests take a chaotic turn and you eventually find yourself at the protester’s main hideout, where you meet Bibi, one of the resistance leaders who is a fan of your photojournalistic work. At this point, Reza has committed himself to the Revolution as the group plans out their next move in the burned Cinema Rex.

    While I felt the game was disappointingly short, there were two moments that stood out for me: there’s a cutscene when you get to roam around the resistance hideout where three men are arguing about something involving Ayatollah Khomeini, Mohammad Mosaddegh and the Mujahideen. The game cuts to the argument mid-way through, so I’m not sure what the context of the disagreement was, but it serves a genuine moment that made the game feel more real to me. Even though you get these people united to fight a common enemy, personal beliefs and ideologies can still find their way into discussions and cause unrest within the group, especially when everyone’s paranoid and on-edge about what’s going on around them and changes the revolution could bring their way. Bibi quickly steps in as the voice of reason, saying “In the eyes of this regime, none of you count…” and immediately quells the argument.

    The other is the chapter where you visit Reza’s family home. Your family, or at the very least, your mother, are pro-SAVAK with your brother, Hossein, serving as an officer. Your father ultimately empathizes with you, sharing that he had gone through this during the 50’s. Clearly, he hasn’t taken the same hardline stance that your brother and mother have taken. Babak is with you during your visit and the interactions between him and your family are kind of tense and awkward, given Babak’s involvement with the revolution. On top of that, your brother is trying to hunt down your cousin and kill him, labelling him as a “terrorist” and a "thug". This leads to some heated arguments at the dinner table and I have no doubt that friends and family were adversely affected or even broken apart during the Iranian Revolution and it seems like Reza’s family might not be any different.

    The core gameplay loop is very similar to what you would experience in a Telltale game. That is, interacting with various objects/events in your environment and make dialogue choices that can affect how the story plays out. There are two achievements tied to making all peaceful or all violent choices within the game, so whatever side you pick, keep your decisions making consistent. There are a couple of scenes where some of the decisions you make play out in front of you, so it was nice to know that at least some of my choices mattered in this game. There are also QTEs that you’ll need to pass and various points in the game and mostly amount to pushing the left thumb stick in a certain direction or mashing the “A” button.

    The voice acting is well done, but is kind of let down by janky and stiff animations. While it does an alright job of giving a sort of generalist take on the events of the Iranian Revolution, I felt that the overall story was needlessly brief and lacked a fair amount of meaningful character development for its cast of characters. This also meant that the voice acting in certain scenes didn’t hit me as hard as they could have. While I reacted to them on a basic human emotional level, it was missing that next step that you usually get when you’re truly invested in the characters of a game.

    Visually, the game looks kind of rough and unpolished. The lights, shadows and textures make a lot of the environments feel kind of dull and flat. There are a few instances where objects have been both poorly modelled and obviously textured, like the food you see at Reza’s family’s home during dinner time. A lot of background NPCs have very clearly been copied and pasted in terms of looks and animations. The overall graphically fidelity on things like character models and environments all look very dated and the art direction isn’t enough to save it.

    Achievements mostly boil down to either can’t miss, story related ones or collectibles. There are a few that get locked off depending on the choices you make in the game. There are also certain collectibles that get locked off depending on what you pick. But, the funny thing with those achievements is that they’re bugged, but in a good way. I found myself unlocking a number of the late-game collectibles achievements as early as Chapter 4 when I was replaying it to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It’s a fairly easy completion with a guide, even though you have to replay certain chapters, via a chapter select screen, to grab collectibles that were previously locked off for you or make different dialogue/story choices.

    Overall, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday has a fantastic premise that I would love to see games explore more, especially in regards to other major historical events that may not be as mainstream. I respect what iNK Stories have done here, trying to bring the events of the Iranian Revolution to the attention of people, like me, who might’ve otherwise overlooked this. The game has some good voice acting and some standout moments that make the game feel genuine and believable. But the story just feels like it needed more content; the story had me hooked for the most part, it just left me wanting a bit more. With some chapters being insanely short, that could’ve been an opportunity to build up more of the story, but it never happened. I also didn’t really connect with any of the characters as much as a I wanted to and the short runtime and underdeveloped story likely played a part in that. I think I can still recommend the 1979 Revolution: Black Friday at a discount if you’re idly curious about the game like I was, in search of a quick completion (my playtime last just over 3 and half hours) or if you’re a bit of a history buff.