Sensible: Sony's DualSense PS5 controller could possibly be a sport changer


After spending a few hours with the PlayStation 5 and its completely redesigned DualSense controller, I can confidently say that the new haptic and audio features will definitely work – and could become an integral part of the gaming experience. But only if – and it's a big if – developers really embrace the technology.

The DualSense controller replaces the well-known and popular design of the DualShock, which has remained largely unchanged since it was first shipped for the original PlayStation 25 years ago.

While the general layout is the same, the feel of the new controller is vastly different, and the look and feel match the distinctive but questionable hyperfuturistic look of the PS5. I am not completely convinced of the new shape, but I also had a long time to get used to the old one. Therefore, I am withhold judgment while I work on the full review.

I can tell you now, however, that there are indeed tiny PlayStation icons:

I'm worried these will be fat magnets.

Astro & # 39; s Playroom is included in the scope of delivery of every PS5 and, like Nintendoland and Wii Sports, is intended to provide a reference experience for all new functions of the controller. It might not be quite as original or enduringly fun as Nintendo's pack-ins (which are still some of the best games for their platforms), but it's a fun little playroom that does a good job demonstrating DualSense.

The first and perhaps immediately most convincing feature is the haptic feedback on the L2 and R2 trigger buttons. It is one of those things that when you feel like it is working, you think about how it could be used right away.

Credit: Sony

This allows not only precise vibration but also actual resistance to be added to the triggers. In theory, this sounds vague, but in practice it is very easy to grasp, so to speak.

For example, the setup process for Astros Playroom introduces the feature by simply asking you to pull the triggers and feel them. You will surely have pulled them before, so you know that they are usually close to frictionless. But suddenly they push back against your finger – then a click and the resistance is gone.

"What kind of magic is that?" I remember saying aloud back then or something, but more mundane. It's really that compelling right away.

Credit: Sony

Later, on the first stage I tried the game, your little robot will jump into some sort of feather suit (a metal spring, not a two-piece linen spring) and you have to pull the trigger to make it jump. The haptics in this case really feel like something is compressing (although I know it doesn't feel like that after playing with feathers before) and most importantly, gives you a non-visual, intuitive indicator of how far you are depressed are the trigger. My brain was able to determine more quickly how far I had made it with the combination of sound, feel and graphics than with graphics alone. And since the feel is limited to the trigger you're using, there's no mistaking it for the larger vibrations of the all-purpose rumble system.

The Switch's Joy-Cons have some sort of precision feel to them, and while the demo of this feature was interesting – the feeling of little objects rattling around in the controller – it's actually pretty hard to think of how they could be used in gameplay. And in fact, few games have done it, though it's probably better to rumble fairly in general.

In the case of DualSense, I immediately thought, "That would be great for …" and wish I had had it in this or that game in the past. It opens up possibilities I've never liked: "Pull the trigger halfway to do one thing all the way to the other." It might be a great accessibility feature too.

A speaker and microphone in the controller are nothing new, although they seem to have been updated for DualSense. Few games have been able to properly use these features, and Astros Playroom falls back on the old thing about the controller making a propeller work. I can't imagine anyone wanting to do that in a real game – but why can't I yell, "Come on, Cyberdog! Attack the monster on the right" to guide my (unfortunately fictional) companion, or something similar?

Unfortunately, that gets to the heart of what makes even the excellent haptic function a potentially lost cause. Developers have to do a lot of design for them. Difficult to do when you can't guarantee that users will or will not be able to use them. Not only that, but if you want to publish to Xbox and PC as well, you'll need to remove them. So they become optional features … and since they are optional, they can't be integrated as deeply into the game at first, which makes them less convincing overall. It has happened time and again with various innovations that gaming companies have developed over the years, and it can happen with this generation's gimmicks as well.

The best choice for Sony is to make the integration painless and with high incentives. However, it's hard to imagine how multi-platform developers like Ubisoft can do much more than the minimum. Serious use will likely be limited to a handful of premium Sony-funded exclusive PS5 products that gamers will marvel at.

It's an interesting new gameplay feature, but hardly one that screams "next-generation". In fact, little screams about the next consoles from Sony or Microsoft that other than the specs. That doesn't mean they're not worth buying – but don't expect anything transformative.


Katherine Clark