The ButtKicker Gamer 2 Review – We're Feeling It

by Dan
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The ButtKicker Gamer 2

The ButtKicker Gamer 2 is a fascinating piece of kit. I won’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it, but if you are into new peripherals for your gaming setup, I would read on to learn more about the ButtKicker Gamer 2.

Technology

It’s tough to describe what the ButtKicker Gamer 2 is. Not quite a sub-woofer, not quite a rumble motor. Both of those things are close, but they aren’t the same. To understand what the ButtKicker Gamer 2 is, you must first understand the technology behind it.

The ButtKicker Gamer 2 can be best categorized as a haptic feedback device. Instead of moving air, like a sub-woofer, it moves mass. This difference allows you to feel the same rumbling that a subwoofer would provide without all the noise. To be fair to the ButtKicker team, you will feel more rumbling than a subwoofer could provide.

The technology behind the ButtKicker Gamer 2 is like that used in simulators by the military. A more relatable example would be the use of this technology in 4D movie experiences. If you have ever had your seat rumble in a 4D movie, it likely used similar technology.

That’s as much about the technology as you need to know. I will provide more detail around setup and use as the article goes on. I believe that will give a clearer picture of what the ButtKicker Gamer 2 is and who it’s for.

Unboxing Impressions

Full Disclosure: The folks at ButtKicker were kind enough to supply me with a Gamer 2 unit free of charge for this review.

When I received my ButtKicker Gamer 2, the first thing I noticed was that the box was bigger and heavier than I thought it would be. That’s not a bad thing; I was just surprised.

When I opened the box, I was greeted with the ButtKicker and another box. Upon inspection, the second box contained the amplifier. Along with the amplifier were instructions for setup, all the cords one might need, and a wired remote for the amp.

I laid everything out on my kitchen table and started expecting.

Holy crap. This is some seriously well-built gear. The ButtKicker Gamer 2 unit is heavy and metal. There is nothing cheap or flimsy about it at all.

The amplifier is a beautiful piece of engineering, too. I immediately noticed that there were cooling slots on the side and no noticeable fans I could see through the venting.

As a bonus, the ButtKicker has a solid warranty. All in all, I was super excited to get going. I threw everything back in the box, ran upstairs, and got to installing.

ButtKicker Gamer 2, what's in the box?
What’s in the box?

Installation

I need to lead with my credentials here, as I don’t want to hear, “oh, you just aren’t technical.” My background is in network engineering and computer science. I can do bits and bytes as well as manufacture networking cables. With that out of the way, let’s talk about installing this thing.

So it begins…

The first thing I did was read through the instructions thoroughly. I like to know what I am getting into before I get going. Then I started at step one.

Step one was to install the ButtKicker Gamer 2 to the center post of my computer chair. The unit uses a simple clamping system, so that was done and dusted in a minute.

Hardwired into the central unit is a cable with a quick detach. There is one other cable in the box that has a female quick detach end and a two-pronged male end. Pairing the female quick detach with the central unit’s male quick detach adaptor was simple enough. Now I just had to connect the two-pronged end of the cable to the amp.

Oh boy, need to read the directions again…

This was the first time I became cautious in the setup. The back of the amplifier has one red and one black female port that the adaptor can fit into. The male end of the cable is not color-coded; instead, each prong is marked with a ‘+’ or ‘-‘. I read those directions ten times before moving forward.

After the brief scare around plugging the ButtKicker into the amplifier, things became simple. The next step was to run the power cord from the amp to an outlet, and then an optional step presented itself in attaching the wired controller to the amp.

I messed up…

The final part of the setup is where I had an issue. There are a few different ways you can run sound into this system. This feature is great for giving people options, but the instructions were a little confusing to me. I will admit to you that everything did not work on the first attempt.

Glorious ButtKicker Action!

It took me two tries, but I was able to find the right cable combination to get the system working. On the first try, I was able to get haptic feedback in the chair, with the sound coming through my monitor speakers. After a little tweaking with hardware and software settings, I was able to get sound through my headset along with feedback in the chair.

ButtKicker Gamer 2 on office chair
ButtKicker 2 installed on an office chair

What Did I Think?

On the ButtKicker Gamer 2 website, they claim that haptic feedback is an absolute must-have for shooters. As luck would have it, I am also reviewing a mouse that was designed specifically for first-person shooters, so I hopped directly into Paladins to see what was up.

Playing FPS

I initially popped into a training mode of the game, as you can use the amp to tune how much haptic feedback you want to receive from the ButtKicker unit. After a few changes, I was grinning like an idiot. Every time I detonated a bomb with Bomb King, I felt it. Bigger bombs, closer proximity, or simply throwing the bombs all lent different degrees of feedback.

After thirty minutes of messing around with different characters in the target range, I hopped online to play for real. The sensation was wild. Expecting feedback based on your actions is one thing, but throw in what nine other people are doing and it gets interesting.

I played a good thirty or more hours of Paladins with the ButtKicker on. I can’t say it improved my play, but it was super fun.

Aside from playing Paladins, I decided to do a little sim racing. I chose sim racing for three main reasons: it’s my favorite type of gaming, the sim racing subreddit is where I first heard about the ButtKicker Gamer 2, and the ButtKicker website specifically calls out compatibility with certain sim racing cockpits.

Playing Racing Sims

If you want to see a grown man cry, set him up in a sim racing rig with the ButtKicker. My first lap on Assetto Corsa with the ButtKicker changed my life. I may have reached nirvana in those early moments.

There was no better way to experience this technology than while ripping around a race track. I felt the idling of the motor, gear changes, braking, acceleration, and everything else. It was amazing. I even sent my wife on a lap in benchmark mode. She popped out of the chair thinking a gaming peripheral was genuinely cool for the first time since I met her.

Unlike with shooters, I saw improvements in my gaming with the ButtKicker 2 when playing racing sims. Between Assetto Corsa and F1 2019, I saw myself get consistently faster. To be fair, those improvements were minor, but they were there. Specifically, feeling the braking feedback in my chair made a difference in how aggressive I would get on late-breaking through turns.

Final Thoughts

The ButtKicker Gamer 2 is cool. Actually, I would say it’s really cool. I must be honest with you, though; it’s not for everyone. 

Drawbacks

The first barrier of entry for most will be the price. Regularly sporting a price tag of $170, the ButtKicker may be cost-prohibitive for some gamers. On the upside, they are running a sale right now through the end of 2019, where you can save $35.

The second barrier of entry may be the setup. As I mentioned, I am tech-savvy and still had one or two hang-ups. I am not the only one, as there are a few instances of folks online mentioning they had similar problems. I didn’t need it, but I tested it, and the support staff over at ButtKicker is super helpful. If you are a plug-and-play gamer, you may have issues.

After all my time playing games with this unit strapped to my chair, those are the only two real drawbacks I can come up with.

Who is it for?

In my estimation, there are three main buckets of gamers who the ButtKicker is for. The first group is the gamer who likes new gadgets, the second group is the gamer who already has everything and is looking for their next upgrade, and the final group is the gamer who primarily plays simulation games.

The first bucket of gamers will enjoy the interesting experience and overall uniqueness the ButtKicker brings to their setup. It’s a cool peripheral that few, if any, of their peers or friends will have. I fall somewhat into this bucket myself.

The second group of gamers already have expensive headsets, monitors, and VR systems. There isn’t much left for them to do to immerse themselves in their gaming. Haptic feedback devices tend to be the final frontier for these gamers. They will enjoy rounding out their gaming experience.

F1 Rookie Lando Norris in his £30k racing simulator

The final group, the simulation gamer, will benefit most from the ButtKicker. When you are trying to get as close as possible to doing the real thing without actually doing it, you need every last bit of feedback to get you there. Look at the sim racing rigs the F1 guys use; they cost the same as a real car. Most of us will never get to own one of those rigs, but we can gain valuable haptic feedback today.

In closing, I recommend the ButtKicker Gamer 2.

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