Narrative-driven games usually struggle to find a perfect balance between gameplay and storytelling. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday tells a personal tale of a real-life historical event but does it hold up as a video game?
1979 Revolution: Black Friday follows the story of Iranian photographer Reza Shirazi as he gets swept up in the events of a rapidly changing nation. The writer, director, and fellow Canadian Navid Khonsari clearly has a passion for this subject matter as he was a kid in Iran at the time of this revolution. His passion really shows through the writing and directing as the story remains engaging throughout. As you progress, you'll uncover a lot of information about Iran's history and some fun facts about Persian culture. These tidbits are hidden in interactive objects and photographs that you can take as you wander around the bustling streets of Tehran. When you combine the interesting history, immersive plot, and diverse cast of characters; you're left with an educational game that thankfully doesn't feel like one.
The presentational aspects of 1979 Revolution: Black Friday leave a lot to be desired. You'd expect a story-driven game like this to feature either stylish or realistic visuals yet instead; it just looks like a higher-resolution PlayStation 2 game. The bland character models, generic environments, and the fact that crowds of people seem to be composed of just a handful of different folks that are copied and pasted to a comical extent make it a tough game to graphically appreciate. On the other hand, the character animations are decent and the voice cast does a fantastic job of bringing life to each character which helps keep the story immersive even though the graphics generally have the opposite effect. In other words, it feels like a constant tug-of-war between engaging and laughable.
When it comes to gameplay, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday features very little. The campaign consists of 19 chapters which seems like a lot but some can literally be completed within a couple of minutes. Overall, it's about a two hour long game and that's if you aren't rushing through it. Anyway, many of the chapters merely have you watching cutscenes then choosing a dialogue option from time to time. Occasionally, you'll have to perform in a mini-game that may have you trying to save someone's life in a medical emergency or responding to onscreen prompts in quick time events. Finally, you'll sometimes walk down a preset path while taking pictures of your surroundings. Like I said, the gameplay is very minimal so if you're looking to actually play a game then you may be disappointed.
Even though there isn't much gameplay, it still manages to be extremely lackluster. For starters, the quick time events pop up sporadically and I was always ill-prepared. I wish there was an obvious prompt. The developers also shove a couple mini-games in where they're out of place to say the least. For example, having to pull glass shards out of your comrade as he moans on a loop is ridiculous on so many levels. It's parts like these that made me wish 1979 Revolution: Black Friday was a movie instead of a game.
Last but certainly not least, it didn't seem like many of my decisions had any sort of impact on the story. It's one of those story-driven games that feels open-ended but there's clearly a central albeit vague path that you always go down. The main type of decision that appeared to have an impact was ensuring that certain people didn't die. One time, I had to point out who I thought a rat in the group was but absolutely nothing came of that situation. Maybe something happens if you choose the right person, I don't know nor care.
As a historical narrative told through a personal perspective, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday is certainly a capable piece of media but as a video game, it quickly falls apart and simply doesn't feel finished.
- + Engaging story that also teaches players about Iran's interesting history
- + Voice acting is well done
- - Gameplay is very minimal yet manages to be downright nonsensical at times
- - Many choices lack logical conclusions
- - Plenty of visual issues