You might have a hard time telling the difference between a PlayStation controller. And a DualShock controller from the PlayStation 1 era. The layout and design of PlayStation controllers haven’t changed much at all in the 23 years. Since the release of the first DualShock, despite improvements in ergonomics. The addition of new features like touchpads and light bars. It’s a remarkable level of dedication on Sony’s part. It also shows how solid the original design was. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Thus, it was unexpected to see the new DualSense controller for the PlayStation 5 Black Friday Deals. The symmetrical analog sticks and shape-mark face buttons were still present. But the long-gone thick, stubby handles of DualShocks had been replaced by longer, thinner handles that swooped down and resembled a black-and-white croissant. Sony, why? Why alter something that was so successful?
Now I understand why. I think this controller is the best I’ve ever used.
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IS THE NEW DESIGN OF THE DUALSENSE BETTER?
The features of the new DualSense controller are not sufficiently represented in photographs. It doesn’t appear to be something I’d ever want to hold in a still image. It doesn’t seem particularly comfortable, even just from a tabletop perspective. Knowing that I would be using this controller for the next seven or more years, I can still remember bracing myself before picking it up for the first time last week.
But when I wrapped my hands around the DualSense’s new, long handles, something clicked. Oh my god, the feel of this controller is fantastic. In contrast to the DualShock 4, which could result in floating pinky syndrome for players with larger hands, the DualShock 5’s longer handles allow my entire hands to rest on them comfortably. And I feel like I have a more secure grip than I did with the solely round DualShock 4 handles because the handles are thin and slightly angled in the back. The new DualSense arms have the impression that they were designed with the knowledge that fingers don’t actually bend in a perfect circle but instead have joints. Like the best handshake I’ve ever had, the DualSense fits my hand perfectly.
There are far too many different hand types to take into account everyone’s unique preferences and styles. The DualSense has caused hand fatigue in some of my coworkers after using it for a few hours, so results may vary.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE ADAPTIVE TRIGGERS AND HAPTICS?
When you first pick up the new PlayStation 5 controller, the rest of the upgrades are less obvious, but they soon become obvious once you start using it to play games that take advantage of the gamepad’s features.
Under normal conditions, the L2 and R2 triggers on the new controller feel almost identical to those on the DualShock 4. However, something magical occurs if you happen to come across a game that supports the “adaptive trigger” functionality.
With adaptive triggers, the amount of force needed to pull the trigger can vary based on the action taking place on the screen. I described pressing down on a spring and feeling the added pressure push back at me in the trigger in my initial impressions of Astro’s Playroom. When photographing animals with Bugsnax, the last 10% of the trigger transforms into a “clickable” button, creating the appearance that a DSLR was used to take the picture.
Sony uses the DualSense’s internal speaker to simulate the sound of the spring or shutter going off, furthering the illusion by giving me the impression that these actions are taking place right in my hands as I play.
The new haptics are used in the final stage of this magic trick. Consider it the vibration technology of the future. There is a lot more variety in what the PS5 controller can produce to mimic the events on screen rather than just being constrained to the same rumbly feel for everything. The robot standing next to a huge explosion, for instance, feels completely different from Captain Astro’s little feet tapping across a glass surface in Astro’s Playroom.
I get a “next-gen” feeling from these three features more than I ever did from 4K or HDR.
The main concern at the moment is how many of these features will actually be include in the majority of PS5 games. It’s safe to assume that Sony-publish games will make use of this functionality; I’d be surprise if Horizon Forbidden West didn’t have a bowstring trigger. However, third-party games may choose to ignore or skimp on this functionality entirely since doing so would require more effort.
The risk of abusing these features to the point where they negatively impact the experience also exists. Adaptive triggers are use in Spider-Man. Miles Morales to simulate the tension of Miles’ web-swinging, but after just a few hours, I start to experience finger fatigue and turn off the feature. The adaptive triggers can be a tasty addition if used sparingly. However, designers must exercise caution to avoid over salting.
DESCRIBING THE NEW, BUILT-IN MICROPHONE
The touchpad and motion controls mentioned earlier are returning bells and whistles, but there is really only one more significant difference between the PS4 and PS5 controllers: the microphone.
You can communicate with friends (and foes) online without a headset thanks to the built-in microphone found on every DualSense controller. Although it’s a useful feature, there are some notable disadvantages as well.
The DualSense microphone is surprisingly adept at distinguishing between your voice and the sound of your TV, and it will make an effort to obstruct the latter. My online friend could only hear me when I was actively speaking rather than when the game I was playing made a loud boom, even with my TV volume turned up higher than usual. If you don’t want to worry about anything, you can also hard-mute your microphone using the button on the right.
Although neat, that almost push-to-talk feature might be too aggressive. Even a one-second pause will cause your microphone to be cut off. Then restart when you say the next word, frequently clipping your audio in the process. As the microphone determines when it is safe to begin picking up your voice again, your friend may have only heard the second half of what you said on the other side.
Additionally, the built-in microphone has poor audio quality, and if you use the controller without a headset, your friend’s voice chat will automatically come through the controller’s passably loud but tinny speaker. Although you can direct chat audio to your TV’s speakers, doing so only serves to emphasize the built-in mic’s shortcomings.
In actuality, having a mic is convenient if you just want to ask a friend a quick question. However, you’ll be much better off connecting an actual headset. If you want to have a lengthy conversation or if you’re trying to complete challenging gameplay tasks (like a Destiny 2 raid).
TOWARDS THE Unusual Situation
Other factors pertaining to the PlayStation 5 controller make it difficult to make a complete assessment at this early stage. Although Sony claims that the DualSense has a battery life of five to six hours. It is clear that this will greatly depend on the games you’re playing and how often the rumble, trigger, and speaker features are use. So far, the DualSense’s battery life has appeared to be comparable to that of the DualShock 4. Additionally, DualShock 4 controllers unquestionably lost a significant portion of their charging capacity over time. I’m not in a position to conduct a rigorous scientific test of battery life over an extended period of time. But I’m confident that those who are more tech-savvy will fill in the gaps in the coming days.
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Additionally, there is the odd query of, er, slimy analog sticks. If you haven’t use your DualShock 4 analog sticks for a few weeks, for whatever reason. They start to get pretty slimy and gross. I’m not playing with Cheeto hands, either. But it’s a significant enough issue that, if it’s been a while since. I used my PS4, I’ve had to use rubbing alcohol. The new DualSense sticks have the same physical characteristics as the DualShock 4’s, but it’s unclear whether they will have the same gummy buildup.
Despite these X-factors, I can’t help but be completely enamor with the new DualSense. When holding the controller for extended periods of time. The significant structural improvements from the DualShock 4 are a huge benefit. The combination of haptics and adaptive triggers, meanwhile, is a jaw-droppingly cool way. To elicit fresh sensations of immersion from the events on screen. I would not object if the DualSense ended up becoming the new standard for the ensuing 23 years.