The emptiest lobby we've ever seen, and, sadly, one of The Ring's better-looking environments.
1) Watch a cutscene so laughably bad that you almost think you'll enjoy the pain ahead.
2) Read painful text of Meg (that's you) lamenting the death of her boyfriend Robert. She does this with the second half of pretty much every sentence from now on.
3) Try to leave the room you start in only to be interrupted by a phone call and more poorly-translated Japanese about how Robert died and we all feel just awful about it.
4) Fire up the very computer program that we already know killed Robert, reading Meg-text all along that proves that she has her head firmly in her butt and is refusing to listen to anything she's been told.
5) Watch Meg wake up in an odd alternate universe where she's dressed like Scully in that FPS episode of The X-Files.
6) Meander about a dark room and shoot one of the silliest looking creatures you'll ever lay eyes on in all of video gaming.
7) Head back to the real world now where you have to see Meg keep talking about the game she played.
8) Get accosted by a man in a dress named Chris (all signs point to this being a man, although nobody ever acknowledges that fact in-game).
9) Get escorted to meet "The Chief" of the Center for Disease Control who tells you there's been a virus leak and that the CDC has to be evacuated except for those of you who are being quarantined. He also tells you not to worry, things like this happen all the time and finishes all of his sentences talking about how Robert died.
10) Wander aimlessly until you accidentally pick the door that leads to a medical center where you find a doctor who looks like the long-lost grandfather of Beavis. Dr. Beavis tells you how sorry he is Robert died while you tell him how bad it is that Robert died. After discussing how Robert died, followed by a short line or two about Robert's death, you wander the halls a bit more until you...
11) ...accidentally wander into the men's locker room where a large man by the name of Lukino will yell at you.
12) After much pointless wandering you will accidentally re-enter The Chief's office where he will suddenly tell Meg that she is quite insane and should leave his office. Oddly he is no longer sad about Robert being dead, but he does mention that they have his body down in the lab and that Meg is insane for asking about it.
13) For no reason I can discern, you should then take Meg to revisit Dr. Beavis who, during one of his many Robert-themed monologs, enters an idle animation that makes him look as if he's partaking of one of Beavis' favorite pastimes just out of frame.
14) Try to open some doors and walk up and down the same boring hallway again until you accidentally re-enter the men's locker room, where Lukino (who seems to be the only person in the game who hates Meg as much as I do) will yell at you again.
It just keeps going on like that. Note that in all this "gameplay" I had one fight with a "monster" which lasted all of five seconds. The other thirty-nine and a half minutes were spent wandering around empty hallways with nothing to do but bounce between arbitrary NPCs with nonsensical speeches about Robert's death.
However, as you keep reading character speeches about how Robert died, you'll have music drilling into your skull that sounds like it was produced and recorded in the moldy basement of Vangelis's nephew's house. The only way to describe it is to ask you to imagine a repeated fake violin that loops the same two seconds of notes over and over again until a fake flute on loan from a porno soundtrack shows up and plays three notes of its own before fading away -- only to return ten seconds or so later and do the same thing all over again. It's absolutely intolerable, and here's an MP3 to prove it.
Oh yes, gameplay. Look familiar?
The controls are as awful as everything else, but that seems to be the rule in survival horror games. Even the Resident Evil games and their spawn Dino Crisis suffered here. The difference is, those games were fun and the control limitations were designed around, rather than simply ignored. The Ring features no analog support at all, and a d-pad is not the best way to try and navigate a three-dimensional plane -- especially when the d-pad has been designed to behave as if you are playing an old-school 2D game. I suppose I should mention that the controls do afford you some slight pleasure once you figure out how to make Meg jump backwards down hallways. Since the majority of The Ring is spent with nothing more than Meg walking down the hall by herself, it's nice that you have some way to entertain yourself short of sticking sharp objects in your ears in an effort to drown out the musical score.
The character models are incredible in their nastiness. Meg looks like an escapee from the Everquest trash bin. The Chief has a mouth that looks like a Clutch Cargo joke gone horribly wrong. The monsters are about ten polygons each and seem to be textured with whatever animal droppings were on hand to throw on the scanner. To call these things amateurish would be an insult to the amateur game development community who routinely make mods for PC games that are better than the games themselves. The only thing worse than the characters are their shadows, which all appear to be being cast by those old inflatable punching bags that always had Batman villains or Darth Vader on them.
Last of all are the textures. The world itself (be it the regular world or the alternate universe) is one of the most boring things ever to make its way to a video game. The hallways are a dull gray. The floors are a dull gray. The doors re a dull gray. Every so often a dull brown or a dull yellow comes into play, but not for long.