I first ran into 1979 Revolution: Black Friday in 2011, when former Rockstar developer Navid Khonsari announced his desire to make a game based on the Islamic Revolution in Iran that overthrew the Shah and installed a theocratic republic. A Kickstarter campaign a couple of years later fell short of its goal, but work continued, and earlier this month the game finally made its debut on Steam.
1979 Revolution is played from the perspective of Reza Shirazi, a photographer who returns to Iran after studying in Europe just as the revolution is catching fire. It's a very linear experience—such is the way of historical games—and plays much like a Telltale adventure, with many timed dialogs and a few quicktime events to get through. And it is not, to be clear, as hair-raising or action-packed as the trailer may make it seem: Most of the game is simple exploration, learning about Reza, his family, and his country by clicking on hot-spots and taking photos of pre-determined subjects. But it is unquestionably intense. The conversation response timer moves with an unforgiving quickness, and while the torture scenes that punctuate the pre-revolution narrative aren't graphic by current videogame standards, they are harrowing.