1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a bold and daring game. The game first released back in 2016 for the PC and gained quite a lot of traction, great feedback and press. The game, as titled, depicts the late 70’s Iranian Revolution. The game’s director, Navid Khonsari, was a child at the time of the revolution, leaving for Canada with his family once it had come to a close. In his adulthood, Navid broke into the gaming industry via working on the likes of Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto, before more recently, working on this very game we’re reviewing today.
Navid’s direct insight gives the game a very sharp and authentic edge, and for a game that tackles a theme that most other developers would bypass, it only adds to the compelling story within. Furthermore, Navid profiled and interviewed a range of people who were also subject to the revolution, offering even more insight and refinement as a result. Players are thrown into the role of one Reza Shirazi, a photojournalist that’s returning to Iran from Europe and has just found himself smack bang in the middle of the titular country-changing revolution.
The game’s story is its backbone, and this is something that much of the experience will lean on throughout. This tells the tale of not only the revolution itself, but stories of real-life people that endured the hardships. Back in 1979, Iran was subject to a mass revolution (also known as the Iranian Revolution) that aimed to overthrow 2,500 years worth of Persian monarchy under the US-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Sequences and events at the time are told through the lens of the game, almost making for a documentary-like interactive journey.
The gameplay is a mixture of environmental engagement, photography, decision making and quite time events. The game does well at introducing you to each of its mechanics and I have to commend the developer for not heavily relying on any singular aspect, but rather fluidly and meaningfully blending them all up together. Exploration, or rather, light investigation plays a significant role here too. Players will witness the revolution taking place all around them and can interact with locations and political groups to dive further into the roots of the game’s source material.
Images from the game will be compared to real photographs taken during the revolution, complete with some solid facts about what transpired all of those years ago. It’s an eye-opening experience to say the least. Other real-life media is also present in the game, such as posters, pamphlets, video footage and so forth. This collectively further bolsters the level of authenticity within, which does an extremely touching job at showing the player just how devastating and costly this event was at the time, going to great lengths to grab your attention and maintain it.
Tensions ran high at the time, and that’s something that 1979 Revolution: Black Friday captures magnificently. With all of this rich and insightful history running deeply through the game’s veins, it’s hard not to feel emotional about not only the events, but Reza too. What I found particularly well done is how the game walks such a fine line between two opposing movements without stepping on either side of that line. Using the aforementioned mechanics, players will take Reza through the course of the game, often making some very life-altering and uncomfortable decisions.
Reza’s family are split across the movements, naturally fracturing his family’s unity. The same can be said about a number of characters that the game allows you to interact with, or even situations that Reza can engage with. Do you participate in the aggressive protests? Or do you simply observe and take photographs to document it? This tug-of-war narrative is consistent from the beginning, way up to the end of its two hour run. Sure, that’s a short running time, but there’s replay value to be had here in the form of multiple playthroughs, taking different approaches each time.
If you’ve ever played DONTNOD’s Life is Strange, you’ll have a good idea as to how the game plays out; walk, interact, dialogue trees and so on and so forth. It’s a good game, I’ll give it that much, but the movement can be very stiff and clunky. It’s a shame that something so bold and daring is bogged down by moments like this. Still, when all is said and done, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is well worth your attention. It helps, of course, that the game looks and sounds great across the board thanks to its detailed characters, environments, audio and just about everything in between.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday isn’t going to be for everyone. The game is groundbreaking in regards to how it relays emotionally tense historical events through the use of its functionalities and narration, but in regards to the actual gameplay, it’s often stiff and somewhat clunky. Though, even with its flaws in mind, this is a gripping experience that I’ll never forget.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.