Diogo and Tom recently went to a Sony-held event that featured Playstation 3, Playstation Vita and Playstation 4 hands-on time. This article is a joint effort between the two and features both men’s individual experiences with Sony’s latest console and the brand new Dualshock 4 controller.
It’s safe to say that a controller is one of the most important factors when new hardware is announced. After all, who can forget the abnormal size of the original Xbox controller? It’s quite possible that throwing that thing at a child would have resulted in some sort of permanent injury.
Fortunately, Sony has quite a few years of experience under its belt with the PlayStation brand. The DualShock controller hasn’t changed much since it was first designed. Of course, there have been a few features added with each new iteration of the DualShock.
Some have not been received as well as others. The first version of the PlayStation 3 Sixaxis Dualshock controller comes to mind, mainly due to the lack of a rumble feature. A flaw that, fortunately, Sony was soon able to fix.
The Dualshock is now in its 4th iteration with the imminent arrival of the PlayStation 4 and it may well be the best variation of the pad yet.
The first thought that came to mind when I held one is how light it feels. Anyone that has used or held an iPhone 5 will no doubt feel the same way.
It’s an impressive feat considering that the controller requires an external USB cable to charge the battery. At first, it seems as if this cable is permanently connected to the controller, however it is possible to remove it.
One of the least positive traits of the Dualshock 3 is the location of the analogue sticks, but the repositioning of both on the Dualshock 4 has made it much easier to use them simultaneously. This is particularly useful for software like Knack which makes use of the analogue sticks in various different ways to control the character. In fact, it felt more like using the analogue sticks on the PlayStation Vita. A decision that has not only made the controller wider, but in a way that it won’t have a negative impact functionality wise.
The sticks aren’t raised, making it much easier to click them in. This also makes it less likely to move the sticks when pressing down. The sticks are also made of a different material, making it ideal for thumbs, ensuring they have a better grip when moving them. This is perfect for precision movement. Again, using Knack as an example, it allowed me to make the smallest of movements when controlling characters. It’s certainly interesting to think how the various improvements to the sticks and their positions will improve other software titles next-gen.
Titles that make use of the improved stick movements, for example, should be able to offer a more realistic experience, especially in platform titles. For instance, characters need to not fall off high places and so on. As for the other buttons, it felt like they weren’t as raised as those found on the Dualshock 3
The controller itself is very comfortable to hold. The two sections used to hold the controller aren’t as long, and the different shape makes for a controller that doesn’t dig in to the palm of the hand. Instead Dualshock 4 is more round shaped and is curved perfectly for a more natural fit. This was particularly useful when playing Drive Club, since the player is required to hold the controller properly to take advantage of the triggers and use them to full effect.
Speaking of the triggers, they’re also an improvement on the PlayStation 3 controller. With DS4, it’s less likely for the finger to slip off while holding them down. Even when playing in warm conditions where fingers will naturally get sweaty and slippery. The only small flaw I found in the triggers is that they felt like they could have been elevated slightly higher so as to ensure the player is more aware that they are being used. They’re almost too soft to the touch and hardly feel as if they’re being used!
One of the more interesting additions to DS4 is the mysterious light at the back of the controller. Only one title made use of it at the Showcase so I only got a taste for what it can actually do and how it can contribute to games. In Hohokum, the colour of the light changes as the first colour section of the snake-like character changes. It’s a a feature that has a major impact on how the title is played, but it’s also a pretty neat idea in that it adds charm to what is an already colourful experience.
The software on display at the showcase certainly benefited from the various design changes the Dualshock 4 has undergone. It certainly feels like Sony’s biggest ever leap in design when compared to previous iterations of the Dualshock. It’s a shame that some features remain unclear at this point, but I suspect we’ll learn much more about the possibilities as more titles are demonstrated.
Dualshock 4 has certainly been designed with the user in mind. Not only that, but it also has a more futuristic look with those smooth, rounded edges. It’s almost incredible to think that a controller this small can pack-in so many features while still being so comfortable.
If the Dualshock 4 is anything to go by, then the PlayStation 4 is truly destined for much greatness.
I personally wasn’t a massive fan of the Dualshock 3, its flimsy feeling triggers, wobbly analogue sticks and the disappointingly unresponsive sixaxis motion control always left it in second place to my trusty 360 controller.
With the Dualshock 4, however, Sony seem to have taken a lot of this criticism on board.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Dualshock 4 is how sturdy it feels, while still pretty light ( don’t worry – this is no Wii U gamepad) it no longer feels as feeble and hollow as the Dualshock 3, and is genuinely nice to grip in the hands. The triggers are also vastly improved, no longer feeling flimsy and cheap, they too have a bit more weight to them. The triggers leant themselves equally well to the trigger happy Killzone and the analogue acceleration needed for Drive Club.
The analogue sticks have also been vastly improved, with the new material of the sticks feeling smooth to the touch and comfortable on the thumbs. Sony’s decision to put the sticks closer together was also a smart one, and as a result, dual-stick controlling on a Sony home console has never been better.
The touch-pad was only implemented in one of the games I got time with – Killzone: Shadow Fall – and its implementation was incredibly minimal ( more information will be available in my preview shortly) so it is difficult to form a definitive opinion on it, but hopefully it will turn out to be a less gimmicky feature than it currently seems.
As Diogo mentioned above, the light sensor is an interesting, if not rather subtle, addition, and could certainly be used in some quite innovative ways if devs put their mind to it.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the Dualshock 4. While not being massively innovative, it looks and feels like a suitably modern and comfortable controller to see us through the next generation.