Since their first appearance in the European classic Zombie Zombie, videogames featuring the undead have explored the same basic premise: you, the survivor, have to kill the zombies before they kill you and turn you into one of them. It is obviously a popular motif. Since the release of Zombie Zombie back in 1984, dozens of zombie games have been added to the world of gaming — and more with each passing year. Even games that have no apparent zombie theme to the main story, such as the Halo or Call of Duty series, have adopted zombie variations and mini-games. But in addition to the flesh-eating corpses, the main overarching similarity of these zombie games is their lack of narrative complexity.
This is Telltale Games' clear point of distinction. In their interactive recreation of The Walking Dead universe, the story is not primarily about your ability to dispatch the living dead — it's about the interactions of the survivors in the face of this horrific backdrop. "Long Road Ahead" is the third episode in this five-part series, following the journey of protagonist Lee Everett and his band of survivors through zombie-infested Georgia, and like the first two episodes, the focus in this episode is Lee's relationships with the rest of his group.
Like Episodes 1 and 2, the cartoonish, cell-shaded graphics are reminiscent of the original graphic novel series. Though potentially disappointing to diehard fans of photorealism, this bit of abstraction is simultaneously powerful in sustaining the suspension of disbelief and providing a demarcation between the game universe and real life.
The emotional weight of the plot has made this demarcation useful in the previous episodes, but in "Long Road Ahead," the intensity of the story is taken to a new level of grisly circumstances as the dwindling crew grow more and more desperate for safety, sustenance, and supplies. After several months of scavenging and trying to protect themselves in their modest fortress, tensions are running high among Lee Everett's group. The stress is higher among fellow survivors Kenny and Lilly as their power struggle continues and they argue over whether to stay in their current hideout or set out into the unknown in hopes of finding a better place. Throughout this turmoil, we see a deepening relationship between Lee and his young companion, Clementine.