1979 Revolution: Black Friday (which for the sake of expediency I will be referring to simply as 1979 from here on in) is a hell of an interesting concept. Based on real events garnered through various (mostly anonymous) first-hand accounts and news stories, 1979 puts you in the shoes of photojournalist Reza Shirani and drops you right into the midst of the bloody turmoil of the revolution; the effects of which can still be felt in Iran, even today. The game is also full of interesting factoids about Iran and its culture. It isn’t often you see video games tackle real-world events aside from the near-constant flow of wargames that hit the market every year, so it’s easy to see that 1979 is on the right track towards being something special. But as we have seen many times in video games over the years, a cool concept does not equal a good game. Will 1979 revolutionize the way we look at video games or will it fail and be consigned to the forgotten sands of history? Only time will tell. Or you could read the rest of this review and find out now.
The game is a mostly narrative-driven type deal, with the usual choice-based consequence gameplay made famous by Telltale Games. There are honestly very few choices in the game that make an actual difference in the outcome. More often than not it is just a matter of selecting a superficial bit of dialogue when replying to other characters. Interspersed throughout are quick-time events and a few smaller minigames involving you patching up the injuries of some poor sod. It doesn’t add much value to the game: it just feels like an afterthought by the developers to make the experience a little more “game-y”. Another thing you’ll be spending the brunt of the game doing is taking pictures and searching environments to unlock stories. Stories are brief facts and tidbits about the Revolution and Iranian culture in general. These informative little blurbs range anywhere from the types of fashion prevalent at the time, to religion; to important figures; and even food. They’re fun to seek out and help to extend your game. And that’s important because 1979 has a runtime of around three hours. Most people would see that as a bad thing but I think it is perfectly acceptable in certain situations. Some things just aren’t meant to drag on for too long. Unnecessarily prolonging things “just because” has always seemed pointless to me. Fluffing games up with pointless filler is why I avoid most open-world games. No point in doing it if it isn’t fun.
The visual style used here is fairly uneven. At its best, it looks very much like the gorgeous art style of Life is Strange. On the other hand, certain parts look like an upscaled version of a PlayStation 2 Rockstar title. This is often the case with the few street levels where there are NPCs all over the place filling up your screen. It never gets bad enough to be distracting, but there were a few parts that were laughable. For instance; one NPC that you interact with in the streets had goofy eyes like that old Assassin’s Creed remaster meme. The game looks good for the most part, though, so don’t let that put you off.
The Revolution is really brought to life thanks to its excellent voice cast, which is comprised of talented Iranian-American actors that have credits to their names from highly regarded movies and television series such as The Walking Dead, House of Cards, and American Sniper, to name a few. The result is riveting acting that really drives home the dramatic points and gives the story an extra level of shine. Whether you’re watching Reza (played by Bobby Naderi) and his affable best friend Babak (Omid Abtahi) trading lighthearted quips with one another or the menacing Asadollah’s (Navid Negahban) brutal interrogations, you’ll always be entertained. My one issue with the overall story is how it ends. It sort of just happens and then the next thing you know, the credits are rolling. There isn’t any real closure, though I suppose –without giving too much of the ending away- that you can assume what happened after the story is over. It would have been nice to have something a little more definite, but in my opinion, this is the only place where 1979’s fantastic story stumbles.
Every game has their fair share of issues, but one that really stands out for me is the fact that the extra menu is a piece of garbage. Maybe it will be addressed in a launch patch, but I have to review games in the state that they are in at the current time of writing, not how they may be in the future. The extra menu is full of the pictures you took, the stories you’ve collected, and the real-life photos of the Revolution taken back in the day. I was unable to actually interact with any of them through the menu (in-game as you come across them worked fine). I could only stare at the thumbnails, as the cursor wouldn’t work. It is silly to promote being able to compare your pictures to the real ones of the Revolution when you can’t even access them. Hopefully, it gets fixed because it’s a cool feature.
Now I know that my review might not make it seem that I am all that enthusiastic about the game due to my criticisms, but I had a hell of a fun time playing through 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, so much so that I downed it in one sitting. The voice acting and the story are top notch and well-worth the price of admission. Although the game does have some issues, I highly recommend it. And if you’re a fan of Telltale-style graphic-adventure video games (or maybe just a history enthusiast) 1979 is a must-play.
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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