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    Nov 7th, 2018 at 23:19:12     -    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (Switch)

    I finished 1979 Revolution: Black Friday tonight and was massively disappointed with how the game wrapped everything up, or rather how it didnít. The game ends so abruptly that I actually thought I had triggered a false ending and looked it up online to make sure I hadnít messed up somehow. But no, it ends with almost none of the plot threads explained or resolved in any form. You donít get to find out what happens after Black Friday and the Shah steps down, who came into power, how your decisions affected that. The player might not even now that the revolution successfully caused the Shah to step down if they didnít read one of the stories that says so. You donít find out what the secret plans were or what Bibi was up to, the mole is never revealed, etc. The only plot thread that really ends is your relationship with your brother, where he is either killed or reveals he has betrayed you based on your actions toward him throughout the game. Furthermore, this seems to be the only instance where your choices actually seem to matter and have any kind of impact on the story. Even the summary of your choices at the end of the game feels inconsequential, with most just boiling down to if you decided to be a peaceful protestor or not, which while important, doesnít seem like it should be the extent of your decision making here. Everything else seems to be there to simply simulate internal conflict where there is none because the outcome is always the same.

    This game really failed to live up to its promising premise. Everything from the seemingly unfinished and at times poorly written story to the plethora of technical issues cumulated in a game that really isnít worth playing. Which is a shame, because teaching people about this and other historical events in such an entertaining fashion that is really able to put the player in the situations of its characters is a great idea, the execution here was just really lacking. It feels like the developers bit off way more than they could chew here and youíre frankly better off reading books or articles about the event and playing a Telltale game for your choice-based story-driven gameplay. Furthermore, I had some real issues with the gameís portrayal of events during the climax.

    The ending of the game takes place, as the subtitle implies, during Black Friday, where martial law is called and the military opens fire on the protesting public, killing between 84-88 people and injuring 205 in the actual event. Which feels like something the game shouldíve covered, but Iíve had to look it up instead. Anyways, this entire end sequence feels highly problematic. Whereas it feels like the emphasis of this scene shouldíve been focused solely on the devasting and tragic nature of the event, you instead get to play the hero and run around the gunfire trying to save a character that has been shot, and later deciding which character to try and save. Instead of mourning the deaths of the dozens you have just witnessed, the game takes the easy way out and has Babak, the character who has been following you through most of the game, die suddenly. The problem here is that it does not feel earned. Babakís death feels like little more than a cheap shot to try and get some emotion from the player when you should already have plenty there given the very real tragic circumstances of which your game is currently taking place. It all feels very sterile and Hollywood, and it seems like Babakís sole purpose was to die at the end for some attempt at emotional payoff as his only other function was to explain the pacifist route to the player.

    By focusing on the fictional characters to deliver the emotional weight, it feels like it disregards and gives less credit to the suffering of those that were actually there. If you want to tell historical fiction, do that. If you want to attempt a documentary game and load it with facts and follow a survivorís story, do that. The event is recent enough that you could talk to some survivors and find an interesting story to tell. The middle ground just winds up not feeling justified here. While I have no doubt that the developers had the best intentions with this game, the entire game is dedicated to them in the credits and the creator was a child in Iran during the revolution, the whole thing plays in all the wrong ways. If youíre going to have a game about a very real tragedy, focus on the tragedy itself and the real people that were affected by it, not the made-up characters we barely learned anything about in the gameís brief two-hour playthrough. It feels like the game felt it had taken care of everything it needed to by throwing in facts and making it half education game and then forgot to have its story be about said event and its consequences and the people involved. Instead we learn about the event through some fictional characters in a half baked and underdeveloped narrative full of tropes and hardly have any time to consider the ramifications for the people actually involved during the gameís action-packed climax.

    If you want to incorporate choice in meaningful ways to better simulate the experience of a revolutionary, then sure, youíll need to have a fictional narrative to accompany said choices. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday doesnít have the meaningful choices to justify its fictional approach, however. While the middle section of the game gets close to simulating the frustration and impossible situations you might have to deal with in such an event, it all falls apart very quickly once you realize how your choices are clearly having little to no actual impact within the game and makes all the previous and future choices feel hollow as a result. While most gameís with decision making are mostly linear, they do a far better job masking said fact by having certain things that are easily interchangeable change permanently and by having far more branches and choices within the game. It feels like at the very least the game needed more time to develop its story and strengthen the impact of your choices, and at least acknowledge said choicesí impact once the game ends.

    Overall, I couldnít help but be disappointed with 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. While the game showed a lot of promise, it ultimately collapsed under the weight of its litany of technical, presentation, and narrative issues. The game clearly needed more time before release. It seems like all versions of the game were ported from the mobile version as well, which certainly didnít help matters. The game just really needed to tackle something a bit more manageable or spend the extra time and money to get the game in a presentable state so that it couldíve lived up to its potential.

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    Nov 7th, 2018 at 00:49:09     -    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (Switch)

    I played some more 1979 Revolution: Black Friday tonight was impressed with what I played. I got up till after the dinner scene with the parents. It feels like the game is really trying to simulate the frustration of being involved in a revolution. I constantly feel like I am missing crucial information to make the best, informed decision about who I want to be supporting and how. My concern, however, is that this might ultimately reveal itself to simply be bad writing as opposed to adding to that internal conflict and frustration. Adding the rift between the parents and how the father had been through this with his own revolution was also a nice touch. However, I took issue with a certain plot point during my time with the game.

    During the theater section, it is revealed that there is a mole within the resistance what tried to kill the leader. After your pictures donít leave you with a clear culprit, you are left to explore the theater interacting with various people trying to figure out who the culprit is. Eventually the police will start trying to get in and you are forced to make a decision about who you think the mole is. No matter who you pick, you then jump back to the interrogation that is taking place in between the flashbacks and you are informed that you accused the wrong guy and that they were found dead a few days later. The problems with this are two-fold. First, you are unable to pick the correct person, but you are forced to make a decision. This makes this choice ultimately pointless, as the outcome is already the same. I didnít even have a likely suspect and more or less picked at random. This makes the ethical dilemma within the game fake and ultimately meaningless beyond providing an illusion of choice and a tense moment, but neither really works given the lack of likely suspects and apparent feeling that there is no right answer. However, there is also an ethical dilemma within the creation of this segment itself.

    The game lets you know if you read some of the stories that some of the characters within its fiction narrative are based upon real people, however it is not overly transparent with who is and who isnít based upon a historical figure. As a result, the player is unlikely to know if any of the potential culprits are based on real people. Portraying the historically inaccurate death of a historical figure, even if it doesnít technically represent them, feels problematic, especially in a game that has a clear goal of educating people about the real event. Even more of an issue is the fact that the player is choosing which of these characters who might be based on a real person is going to die. Even if they arenít technically aware that is the decision they are making, it is still ultimately what happens. This idea of playing with the lives of characters based on real people seems problematic both as a representation of that person and as a depiction of historical events. Even if none of the possible culprits are based on historical figures, which is likely given you do ultimately get to choose who dies, it still feels as though the game should be more clear about what is being pulled from history and what has been added to support the narrative given the game draws so much from a specific historical event and clearly aims to inform the player about said event given its numerous facts and historical photos littered throughout the game. The line between fact and fiction in this game remains blurry as it gets to pick and choose what is pulled from history and what exists from its narrative.

    Does the game, or any form of media really, have a responsibility to inform the player where the line between fact and fiction lies when it frequently blurs the too. Iím inclined to say that it might. Whereas films based upon true events get away with occasionally dramatizing events or even adding additional characters, the line feels less blurred because it usually saves its potential facts and image comparisons for the end, whereas they are interspersed throughout the gameplay here. When the game is so adamant about informing you about the actual event and showing the copious attention to detail throughout, the line becomes blurred a lot more easily, especially when the story doesnít appear to have an historical accuracy and tells a strictly fictional tale riddled with nonfiction.

    Overall, I continue to enjoy my time with the game despite its numerous technical shortcomings, and feel it is starting to tap into some really interesting decisions people in such a scenario might have to face. I do continue to struggle with how blurred the line between fact and fiction remains in the game. I look forward to completing the game however and seeing how it wraps everything up and if it better illustrates how much it drew from reality within the game.

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    Nov 6th, 2018 at 00:42:33     -    1979 Revolution: Black Friday (Switch)

    I started playing 1979 Revolution: Black Friday tonight, and have been conflicted with what I have played thus far. I got as far as exploring the protests in the streets that turned to violence. Unfortunately, from a technical perspective, the game is a bit of a mess. Non-player characters frequently walk through objects and the player character, the controls are stiff and unresponsive, graphics and performance, at least on the Switch, are far from ideal, and animations are frequently clunky and break immersion, which is particularly problematic during important scenes such as the torture of the main character losing some of its impact to clunky presentation that takes you out of the moment. Even the English voice acting, which is fairly important in a story driven game with so much dialogue, is mostly uninterested at best and downright bad at worst, though it is a nice touch that the native language is still occasionally thrown in there, which helps add a sense of authenticity. That said, the game has still managed engage me, mostly through its concept and subject matter, but I feel that has some issues too.

    The game is set during the real Iranian Revolution, and many of its characters are inspired by real people. This is where I run into my first moral dilemma with the game. The game rides a fine line between historical fiction and documentary style education game. The purpose of the game seems to be to educate players about the Iranian Revolution and the nature of revolution. However, it attempts to do so through a fictional narrative, trying to strike a tricky balance between the too. On the one hand, it seems to me that when a game is being made specifically to educate people about a specific historical event, especially one so recent which should have plenty of information and witnesses to pull from, that the game is obligated to tell the series of events as accurately as possible. On the other hand, by telling a fictional narrative, the game is able to implement choice and ask the player what kind of revolutionary they want to be and to weigh all the different options. Challenging the player with these aspects of being involved in a revolution makes sense for trying to explain such an event to the player.

    Furthermore, the game does make sure to include plenty of real facts about the Iranian Revolution. Every time the player takes a photo, which is a central part of the gameplay as you play as a photojournalist who gets caught up in the revolution, the game offers to tell the player more about this picture. Doing so will give a text description of why the event of objects you are photographing are significant to the Iranian Revolution, with most pictures having a real-world equivalent they are being drawn from to show the accuracy on display. However, the technical issues with the game unfortunately return here, as some of the text descriptions are cut off early by the page, leaving the player unable to read the rest of the description, even if it picks up later on with a part clearly missing on the next page. Furthermore, the journal where all of this is stored seems to be broken, with at least several stories almost always missing whenever I pull it up with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to which ones are missing or way. Even menu navigation in general is clunky and unintuitive and the lack of a prompt to open the journal whenever you collect a story outside of taking a picture is frustrating.

    Overall, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday has managed to pique my interest despite its many technical issues, and I think that they are trying to find the best balance between meaningful character choice to try and simulate being involved in such a historical event with real facts and education, but the contrast is definitely still off putting, with some moments more than others. The game kind of winds up feeling of two halves as a result of this. My hope is that as I continue to play the game the balance will start to feel more necessary and less jarring. This game has really made me think about where ethical representation of historical events, particularly ones so recent which can be portrayed relatively accurately, exists for videogames and I am looking forward to playing more and seeing how it continues to deal with such a tension in ideas.

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    Sep 25th, 2018 at 00:32:05     -    HITMAN (XBONE)

    I played a lot more Hitman today, experimenting with various ways to complete the first episode. The game does a fantastic job of providing the player with a plethora of options for completing each mission without feeling overly guided and still allowing for improvisation. It also does a phenomenal job of fostering replayability by unlocking more gadgets, spawn points, etc. the player can bring with them at the start of the level as the player completes more challenges. Even with opportunities turned off, which I would recommend, the game does a fantastic job making an observant player aware of the various possibilities while still leaving the player to figure out how to complete said possibility.

    Playing the game for the purposes of this class made me aware of something that I had never thought of before when playing a Hitman game that I wish had been included here. Hitman games, this one being no exception as far as Iíve gotten, always seem to feel the need to make sure the player knows what a terrible human being their target is via a pregame briefing and events throughout the mission. I think it would be much more interesting, however, if the game presented you with a target who was neutral or benevolent, forcing the player into a moral dilemma while theyíre forced to take out someone they donít want to because it is part of a hitmanís job. I think this would be a lot more interesting from a story and gameplay perspective than having a bunch of targets you donít even think twice about taking out.

    At least with previous Hitman games, such as Hitman: Blood Money, there was a really dirty and uncomfortable atmosphere to that game. You saw some terrible things in that game that really motivated you to take out early targets. When you get to your first target, you tell him you are there to kill him, as per the request of your client, and he begs for mercy. It creates an interesting, temporary moral dilemma before you remember all the awful things this person has done and you have witnessed being done on their accord, and you complete the job. This new game feels clean by comparison. There are nefarious deeds you can overhear, but likely in part thanks to its setting in a public venue, you never witness anything too upsetting, removing some of that personal drive to complete the contract on the playerís end, even though they control an apathetic hitman that doesnít care either way.

    The closest this game gets to something like this is when a character panics and asks you to stop or mentions they have a family while youíre chocking them out. This does a good job creating a temporary moment of guilt, at least until players that chose to do so remember that they only knocked that person unconscious and theyíll wake up fine and all guilt goes away pretty quick. That said, the gameís emphasis on a nonlethal approach for non-targets is appreciated. Aside from making sense for a true master assassin to want to leave as little of a footprint as possible and only taking out targets, it also adds an appreciated gameplay benefit. Taking characters out nonlethally takes longer, and thus is more difficult, but such difficulty is rewarded with a higher score. It adds an interesting dilemma for players choosing whether they want to take a lethal or nonlethal route. It is also a pretty interesting example of a game about unethical characters and deeds still having a hard-coded morality system.

    All things considered, I had a fantastic time with the new Hitman game and look forward to completing it in my free time. While it may be missing some of the grungy atmosphere from the seriesí best offering, Hitman: Blood Money, it marks a triumphant return to the series sandbox level design that made the seriesí best the best in a manner that may even trump all previous entries in the series. While the game still seems to be focusing primarily on gameplay over story, likely a response to the seriesí last offering, Hitman: Absolution, which was the odd child of the series, I still have hope something will happen with the narrative given some interesting setup in the opening hours. At the very least, Iím sure combing through each level trying to complete all the various challenges will remain engaging throughout, even if it does miss out on the potential for some interesting moral dilemmas. I think I may still prefer Blood Money thus far for its atmosphere and character moments, but this is definitely a fantastic entry into the franchise with some truly exemplary gameplay

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