Like every other group gamers have wants and needs. In order to play games there are things you need. Needs would encompass things like a platform to play games, games TV, controllers etc. These are critical to playing end enjoying game. Then there are wants. These are things enhance the experience the gaming experience, things like a ginormous HDTV, a top end stereo system, and the extra nice controls. The Renegade chair from Ultimate Gamer Chair falls into the second category but after having access to the unit for two weeks I'm not 100% sure it doesn't belong in the first category.
You see the Renegade chair is a lot like the ex that you should never have broken up with. You don't realize what you've got until it's gone (I'm going by secondary accounts, I've never experience this firsthand). After two weeks with the chair playing games I’ve found that playing games in my trusty recliner is a bit of a step down. My recliner doesn't rumble when explosions go off near me, my recliner doesn't have quality speakers in the headset that surround me with sound, and my recliner doesn't have a massage mode which can melt away the stress of a day when I get home from work. The only thing my recliner really has on the Renegade is that it can recline and rock back and forth and that's not nearly as much fun. Honestly I'm not really sure I really appreciated the Renegade until after I shipped it back and played Call of Duty 4 like a normal person.
The Renegade comes in a one large box with five main pieces that will need to piece together. The base, chair backrest, arms, cup holder and the hardware box (containing the assembly hardware, power cord and audio connectors) were all tightly bound in bubble wrap and separated with Styrofoam packing material. Putting the Renegade together took Dan I and just over 20 minutes. I could probably have done this solo but it's a lot easier to assemble with two people.
Putting the chair together is fairly straight forward. You attach each arm to the base with five hex bolts (three at the top of the arm rest and two at the bottom). Then you wire the speakers from the head rest to the base and slide the backrest onto the rails on the base. We had some trouble getting the backrest to align properly initially but managed to get it setup perfectly on the second try. After that it's just a matter of sliding the cup holder onto its socket and you're ready to hook it up to your console or receiver.
The controls for the Renegade are located on right side of the chair and features five slide controls. These controls allow you to adjust the volume, vibration, sensitivity, and cut-over frequency. There is also a three-way rock to toggle between the power off, power on, and massage only mode. Behind the controls are the connections for the power cord, audio in, and headphones. Rounding out the controls is a large knob that controls the reclining mechanism of the chair. The only other thing you can adjust is the headrest on the chair which takes a little bit of effort to rocker up and down into position.
The audio hook up is where things get a little complicated. You'll need to figure out how the best way to get the surround audio connectors to your chair while providing sound to your receiver. The best result I had was hooking up the component audio outputs of my Xbox 360 to the chair while using the optical out to provide sound to my Yamaha RX-V661 receiver. I futzed around with using the Pre-outs to supply audio to the chair but you didn't get the full range of sound as using the feeds directly from the receiver. There's probably a better way of doing it but Dan and I couldn't figure it out. This is important because the chair really needs to get the full audio from the source as you'll want to get the rear, center, and bass from your audio source to power the chair.
On the left side of the chair is a cup holder and a small storage bin. The cup holder placement is excellent as it lies just below the arm rest and right where you would expect it to be and is perfect for holding cans or bottles. The bin could probably hold some pretzels or nuts but I'm not sure there's a lot of use to it. Below the seat of the chair is a decent sized storage drawer. You could fit a few controllers into the drawer or store the cables for the chair (which is what I did). The drawer is a bit on the flimsy side as it's an all plastic affair. It took a a few tries to get the storage drawer all the way back in and aligned with the rest of the chair. I was a bit surprised by this as the build quality for the rest of the chair is excellent.
The chair isn’t that heavy so moving it around is not a problem. I found that I would move the chair out of the way when I wasn’t gaming and then move it dead center in front of the TV for gaming sessions. I set the demo chair up about five feet from the TV, I would have liked to go back a little further but the cables provided weren't long enough. The cables are around six feet long so you'll need to factor that into your buying decision as you may need to get longer cables if the ones provided aren't long enough to go back any further.
The chair itself is well constructed and fairly comfortable once you get used to it. It took me a while to get comfortable in the chair because of how low the chair sits to the ground. As someone who's more legs than trunk it took a while find the right tilt for the back of the chair. Dan was right at home in the chair but he's a bit more of a 50/50 trunk to leg guy. If you're a bit on the leggy side you might want to check the chair out before you buy it. It would have been nice to have a chair that was an inch or two taller but that's more of an issue of how I'm built rather than how the chair is built. Additional lower lumbar support would have been nice. Due to the construction of the chair there is a small void in the chair where the back meets the base. I'm a little spoiled by the sport seats on my car and Dan didn't have any trouble but it's something that would have made the chair a little more comfortable. I didn't have any aches after three and four hour gaming marathons so I’m not sure how much of a concern that really is.
One of the nice features of the Renegade is that you can hook up a portable device like a DS, PSP, or MP3 player and listen to those sounds through the chair which is a nice bonus. This creates a nice self sufficient audio environment especially when coupled with the massage mode of the chair.
This is a nice feature but console games are where the Renegade really shines. To test the unit I played a bunch of Mass Effect, Rock Band, and Call of Duty 4 to see how well the unit performed. Mass Effect and Rock Band showed off what the unit could do but FPS games like Call of Duty 4 really show off what the unit could do. Mass Effect was a very solid experience as you get a nice mix of dialog and music from the speakers in the Renegade. There's not a lot of rumble but it's still a fun experience. Rock Band was also very strong but it's strictly a singing and strumming experience as the chair is too low to the ground to play the drums comfortably for a long period of time. While these games were great to play, they were nothing compared to playing Call of Duty 4 in the chair.
The folks at Ultimate Game Chair need to partner with Activision to sell the Renegade chair with a copy of Call of Duty 4. I'd call this pairing the "F**K Yeah" package as that was what I I said about ten times while playing the game in the chair. The immersion the chair provides really takes the game to the next level. Call of Duty 4 has a level where you man the guns of an AC-130 gunship and the Renegade brings takes that level to the next level as the audio and rumble in the chair almost make it feel like you're sitting in a plane orbiting a battlefield. I didn't get a chance to try Halo 3 but I can't imagine it not being an awesome experience. The rumble and the wrap around audio really take you that next step into the game.
I also tried Ratchet and Clank and a few other downloadable games on the PS3 but the experience really wasn't the same. This isn't the fault of the chair though as I was forced to use the pre-out rear from the receiver to get a signal to the chair (I don't have the component cables for the PS3). While it got some sound to the chair it lacked the oomph that I got from using the component cables from the Xbox 360. Again this isn't the fault of the chair but more an issue with my audio setup. That said I'm not sure you're really going to get a lot out of playing platformer type games with the chair other than the audio pumping in behind you.
If you're a single gamer with some spare cash, a penchant for action games, and plenty of space in your gaming room then you owe it to yourself to own one of these fabulous chairs. I will warn you that the chair will draw raised eye brows from non-gaming members of the opposite gender (until they enjoy the massage mode of the chair). I did have a female friend try out the chair's massage function and it was very well received, possibly too well as I was asked to leave the room and come back in about 10 minutes.
For everyone with a second level of approval you will need to stage the argument in the correct light. To do that you need to tell your significant other that you want to buy them a massage chair that has audio support built in. That way they can come home, put on their favorite tunes and massage away their troubles. They key to this is to omit the part about the games part of the chair. By setting it up as a win-win argument you can dramatically increase your odds of being allowed to buy the $299 chair.
$299 is a good chunk of change to spend on a gaming accessory. That's enough money to buy five new games or a Wii and a second set of controllers but for the gamer that has everything this is certainly a nice addition to the game room if you have the funds to buy one. It really adds a lot to the game playing experience and the massage functions of the chair are an added bonus. If you've got the scratch and a place to put it I highly recommend the Renegade Ultimate Gaming Chair with the caveat that those with long legs do a fit test before plunking down the plastic.
$300 is a bit of money to spend but if you've got the cash it's worth the purchase if you're a FPS, RPG, or action game fan.