On Tuesday, Sony gave us our first taste of what to expect from the upcoming PlayStation 5 by revealing its new controller, the DualSense. Let’s get up close and personal with this shiny piece of tech.
At first glance, this controller seems very off-brand for PlayStation. The DualShock controllers that have accompanied PlayStation consoles of the past has been remarkably consistent throughout the years. I recall being stunned when I first opened my PlayStation 4 and discovered the controller had a speaker like a Nintendo Wiimote, curved trigger buttons like an Xbox 360 controller, lights like the PlayStation Move wands, and a trackpad button. For a controller that had remained essentially unchanged for decades, it was a shock.
Now, PlayStation has taken its boldest evolution ever with the DualSense. Honestly, if it weren’t for PlayStation’s hallmark button icons, I would’ve mistaken it for a next-gen Google Stadia controller.
Despite the optical illusions of the black and white accents, I believe the body of the controller is fuller – the handles look to be a little wider, and blend into the base at a wider angle, sort of like the Xbox One or Nintendo Switch Pro controllers do. Hideaki Nishino, Senior Vice President of Platform Planning and Management for Playstation confirmed as much in a PlayStation Blog post, talking about a focus on ergonomics as they “…changed the angle of the hand triggers and also made some subtle updates to the grip.”
To PlayStation’s credit, it looks sleek but I’ll reserve final judgment until I can feel one in my hands.
The fact that the PlayStation 5’s controller is called the DualSense rather than following the naming conventions of the past and calling it the DualShock 5 should give you a hint that there is much more going on here than just a sexy paint job. PlayStation was kind enough to give us a look at some of the unique features the DualSense will deliver.
For starters, PlayStation seems to be putting the HD Rumble feature of the Nintendo Switch’s controllers in its crosshairs, debuting haptic feedback of its own in the DualSense. Microsoft for its part has had haptic feedback in the triggers of the Xbox One controllers since launch, and I’ve really been impressed with the unique tactile feedback the Switch provides. Interested to see how PlayStation can build on that.
Speaking of triggers, PlayStation also revealed what they’re calling adaptive triggers to the L2 and R2 buttons – LT and RT if you only speak Xbox – which they say should provide tension in your actions. They give the example of drawing a bow to shoot an arrow. Where I think this could truly stand out would be in a game like Destiny, where different weapons would have different trigger weights. Light, quick-firing guns would offer little resistance while massive hand canons would push back against your finger on the pull. But alas, we’ll have to see how the tech is delivered and how studios can put it to use.
Lastly, PlayStation has incorporated a microphone into the controller. I see the appeal if you get added to a party and just want to leave a couple quick messages while you get your proper headset, but the other part of me just cringes as I imagine being thrown into lobbies with obnoxious kids. Hoping a ‘Mute All’ action is made available with that.
Let’s get to the elephant in the room. There’s a lot we know about the PlayStation 5. We’ve seen the specs. Pics of devkit systems have leaked. Yet we don’t yet know what the console will look like. Perhaps the DualSense is a major clue?
For past PlayStation console releases, the controllers have mirrored the look of the console to a great degree. The granddaddy PlayStation console came in gray with gray controllers. The PS2 was sleek black with the greatest console logo of all time, and black controllers. The PS3, the PS4? Black controllers. Yet here is something new…two-toned white with black accents. Could these be the design cues for the PlayStation 5 console? Will we see a white console with clever black accents? Can’t say for certain, but Sony…you have my undivided attention.