Come On, Guys, The DualShock 3 Sucked

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

The original PlayStation controller debuted in 1994. The more familiar DualShock was released in 1997. The PlayStation 3 controller you're using today, well into the 21st century, is almost identical to that 1997 design. Let's think about that for a second. It's now 2013, and if you've got a PS3, you're still using a pad whose shape was conceived alongside spring-loaded disc trays and RGB inputs.

2005. E3. When the PS3 was first unveiled over eight years ago, back when it promised to include 117 USB ports, 37 SD card reader slots and an electric cup holder, Sony also showed off a new PlayStation controller. Consisting of a radical boomerang shape, it was a massive departure from the company's iconic pad design, and most fans - and pundits - laughed their asses off. Or recoiled in horror. Or both.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

Initial reaction was so poor that Sony canned the design before the PS3 was even released, reverting not to an alternative effort, but going back in time, to a controller layout so similar to that of the PlayStation 2's DualShock 2 that it was only a lack of wires that let you tell which was which at a distance.

(This new/old pad was the Sixaxis. The less we talk about the Sixaxis , usurped in 2007 by the DualShock 3, the better.)

Congratulations, guys. You got what you wanted. And in doing so, condemned us all to seven years of sucky controllers.

The DualShock 3 - and Sixaxis before it - are by today's standards terrible pads. I find them to be uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, not to mention occasionally physically painful (thumb tendons aren't meant to hold sticks like that, which is why the DualShock 4's are higher).

Their triggers feel cheap. The thumbstick placement is far from ideal for playing shooters, and those thumbsticks have a deadzone as big as a mass grave.

Some would argue that this regression, a return to the good ol' controller, was a good thing. That it established a legacy. That it was Sony sticking with a winner.

That argument might have helped fanboys sleep at night, but it also ignored 10 years of advances in ergonomics and controller design, from the DreamCast's wonderful analogue stick and triggers to the Xbox Controller S' all-around comfort .

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

It also forgets the fact Sony themselves had got rid of the template over eight years ago, and brought it back not as a design decision, but as a reactive marketing call.

Most sane people would, if given the choice between playing a game using the DualShock 3 or Xbox 360 Controller, would go for Microsoft's pad every time. Understandably! One controller was designed with the current hardware generation in mind. The other was nearly indistinguishable from a model of the PlayStation controller first released in 1997.

But hey. It's not all bad for the PS3's controller. There are two areas the DualShock 3 came out on top against Microsoft's 360 pad. It's just a shame for Sony that neither are anywhere near as important as comfort.

The first is the d-pad. OK, so Microsoft would lose this contest to a toilet roll holder, so bad is the 360's effort, but the DualShock 3's d-pad is still a good one, as useful for flicking through the XMB as it has been for games involving stuff like 2D platforming.

The second is the battery. Microsoft went cheap, and it cost the 360 pad (and owners), users left to either lug around AA batteries or pay extra for rechargeable packs. Sony's built-in battery, on the other hand, has proven to be a wise investment.

ANECDOTE: I've been using the same primary controller for both consoles since 2008. In that time, I've been through four Xbox 360 battery packs for my 360 pad, either as a result of hardware failure or a loss of charge. The PS3's in-built battery, meanwhile, still lasts for hours, which is insane when you consider my PS3 isn't just a games console, it doubles as my media centre.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

At the end of the day, it's clear the DualShock design is past it. Even Sony knows it. Remember, and I'm going to reiterate this again, it was due for retirement in 2006, and only kept around because Sony flinched in the face of backlash.

There's no such stay of execution in the age of the PS4. The new console's controller is a marked departure, abandoning its predecessor's angular handles and coming up with an all-new design for shoulder buttons and triggers. In fact the only thing that's a trademark Sony design at all is the thumbstick placement, and even that nearly didn't make it.

If I've made it sound like I hate the DualShock design entirely, I don't! In the late 90s, and even into the PS2 era, it was a fantastic controller layout, and will forever be remembered for pioneering the idea of putting two thumbsticks on a console pad. It's also one of the few controllers you could ever call "iconic", quite an achievement considering that's a plaudit normally reserved for Nintendo products of the 1980s.

It's just...sad that an old champion was kept around past his prime. He deserved to bow out alongside the PS2 as masters of the world, not as an outdated piece of tech dragged out of retirement into one last, sorry fight.


Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.

Come On Guys. The DualShock 3 Sucked.

Comments

    I disagree, after only playing GTAV on the PS3 for about 6 weeks and then switching to the 360 pad for a bit of Arkham origins action on the pc I find the 360 pad more uncomfortable.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it.

    Sony really sucked at the start of this gen. Crappy prototype controller, crappy sixaxis, calling rumble dead, calling rumble impossible with sixaxis (bs), finally bringing the DS3, and it's still beaten in almost every department with the design of the 360 controller. They've made up for it since, but you can see why people were turned off from Sony around the PS3 launch and first year.

    I just find the DualShock Controller really feels more native to the brain then the Xbox controller, I use both but I believe most people who spend a lot of time using both will genuinely say DualShocks more comfortable mentally, Even if it does turn your hand into the all mighty Claw!

    - you don't have to think about actions having the simple Shapes as opposed to just Letters ingrains them in your mind better.

    - Symmetrical thumbsticks allow you to maneuver faster and with more precision because your brain isn't calculating for re-adjustments.

    - Personally I believe the only reason other controllers aren't symmetrical is because they don't want to pay Sonys copyright fee as opposed to their bs "it's more practical

    - the pinching sensation in the hand while being a good FPS player on an xbox is just gamers kidding themselves. Its VERY uncomfy using left Thumbstick and Left bumper at the same time..

    - As mentioned the Xbox D-Pad is one of the worst I have ever used.

      Most of your list is driven by familiarity, not any real functional difference. Colours tend to be more memorable than shapes (letters are just another kind of shape) in scientific studies. Symmetrical positioning only really helps with symmetrical actions, which is rare in games. Comfort is subjective but I can't see how you'd have difficulty using the left stick and left bumper together on the X360 controller. Your hand should be in the exact same position either way, with only your thumb angle changing.

      The Xbox dpad is about the only thing in your list I agree with. It's not very good, so it's nice that they've updated it for the XB1 controller.

        Colours + Shapes combo is definitely the most memorable.

        Colours alone Not so much

        If you have a controller that has just 4 coloured circle dots it's more confusing then having them assigned to different shapes which is why both Sony and Msoft have done so with their controllers.

        The issue also comes with xbox and nintendo both using A/B/X/Y but in different orders which is a slight annoyance to me switching between Nintendo DS and Xbox controllers. - Sony I sit down to and pick up instantly even after not playing for 12months.

        And when you say "symmetrical actions, which is rare in games" I call it as bull - If i want to look down I flick it down - if I want to look up I flick the stick up - it needs to be syymetrical so that your brain flows naturally into the rythm of Looking Up/Down And Moving Forwards/Backwards require exact same thought process and effort.

        Camera control feels way more natural on a PS3 controller for that reason.

        Also from my experience a lot of Xbox users love to invert their cameras - I believe that stems from the shoddy stick layout.

          Your point on symmetry was on the physical positions of the two analogue sticks. Symmetrical actions are where you flick both sticks down simultaneously, or both sticks inwards simultaneously. Your reply there is about axis inversion on a single stick, which is handled by the game or console, nothing symmetrical about it.

          Axis inversion has nothing to do with the layout of the controller, it's about the intuition between how stick movements translate to the camera. People who prefer inverted controls treat the stick like a joystick where it represents rotational direction - ie. pulling down on the stick rotates the camera in that direction, which pushes the viewport upwards.

            Yes I did note that as the very last line of the entire comment - And from what I have seen it comes from the fact users need to look up quite quickly in games (namely FPS's) - It just seems that bit annoying when your left thumb is already stretched out to bump it accurately and instantly up.

            Because of that uncomfortable feeling I believe xbox users switch to invert - It's quicker on an xbox controller to flick the left stick down as it is up, on a PS controller everything is balanced - more users have it set to standard controls. (sure there's always exceptions to the rules but that's just from what I've noticed)

              I think that's a stretch. Most people switch axis settings because the 'wrong way' is mentally wrong and they keep reverting back to the way it works in their head, rather than one direction or the other being easier to push on the stick.

              Don't get me wrong, I'm sure these things are all true for you, I just don't think they apply to the majority of gamers in the way you're suggesting.

    Plunkett do you drive a car with four wheels..............get out!

    off topic - but when I play my Vita laying down, my right arm always gets cramped or goes dead. I've never been able to work out why that is...

    dunno i liked it, i played ps1, ps2, and ps3, so it seemed very natural to me, in comparison i only got a x360 a little while, and only now just adjusting to the controller now, still prefer DS3 over X360 controller but thats a personal preference so meh

    the boomerang controller to me was always like the promise of dual TV outputs so split screen turned into split monitor at parties. empty, but I can't say that I find the dualshock controller terrible by design. I really find it comfortable, and yes I have tried THE XB controllers. they feel out of whack with the lack of symmetry with the sticks. this playstation 4 controller looks too rounded for my comfort

    Bull it was! I loved the DualShock 3. I honestly never understood what people hated about the Sixaxis/DS3... its the same as DS2 but with a beefier feel. Nah, i call BS.

    I had to log in for the first time in months just to say this.

    -- No, no it didn't.

    I'm going to miss the analogue buttons on the Dualshock 2 and 3, games like MGS3 (pressure sensitive inputs) will never play the same on the PS4, but I don't know why'd I'd want to play them on PS4 anyway.

    that boomerang is still hilarious after all these years. good one Sony.

    the only edge the dualshock had over the xbox controllers was that it's much easier to play fighting games on it.

    other than that i totally agree, it was a horrible controller, and everyone saying good things about the DS4, so i'm excited to get my hands on it.

    Personally I've never had a problem with the DualShock controllers, but then again it could just be because I'm so used to them. I've had a PlayStation for every generation since the PS1, so I certainly should be used to the DualShock by now. When I finally did get a 360 though, I found it hard to get used to the controller, and even now I still (occasionally) get confused as to where each button is placed. I guess it's just what you're used to.

      That's pretty much it. I find the X360 controller to be much more comfortable and a better match for my needs, but I had a PS2 for most of the generation prior and had no problem with using its controller. Going back to it now feels really awkward though.

    Ps controller is second only to the SNES controller.

    Last edited 31/10/13 2:07 pm

      I don't know why people rave about the SNES controller. SNES was my console for that generation (my friends had the Sega consoles) and while it was better than the Megadrive controller at least, it wasn't anything special.

        So many more buttons, so much ergonomic advancement over the rectangle-with-two-buttons previous generation! And Super Metroid used all the buttons. You could crouch AND aim up! Revolutionary!*

        * I believe these were the rough beliefs of 12 year old me.

          Oh yeah, it was definitely an improvement over its predecessors and peers, I just don't know why people still rate it even today, when we have a lot of well designed options out there =)

            You could apply that argument to a lot of the classic games of that era too. Nostalgia glasses can make things pretty murky.

    Most sane people would, if given the choice between playing a game using the DualShock 3 or Xbox 360 Controller, would go for Microsoft’s pad every time. Understandably!

    And how about people that are PERFECTLY sane but have hands that are just naturally too small to hold the Xbox 360 controller and be able to reach all the buttons, let alone hold it for any amount of time, like myself.
    How about all of the kids and adults alike that I know that DON'T find it comfortable for one thumb to be higher then the other while playing due to the misplaced joysticks on the Xbox controller.

    And honestly Luke, your whole article is written like a vomit of fan-boy hate.

    I have fairly large hands and I always preferred the feel of the dual shock controller, unsure why maybe it just feels familiar being a PS1 - PS2 kid. I mean come on remember the first Xbox controller lol that feel like I was gaming with a bowling ball.

    To me, ps3 controller > Xbox 360 controller. There i said it :P

    Last edited 31/10/13 2:38 pm

    I prefer the DS3 over the XBox Wii or Wii U controllers.
    I actually own a Logitech DS3 knock off for the PC. I never feel comfortable with the XBox controller.

    So in my mind the DS3 is great (and the seldom used motion controll is great too... though the last time I remember using it was with Heavenly Sword to control arrows), and the XBox controller sucks...

    To each their own I guess.

    I'm old enough to remember clearly the PS1 being announced back in our world of Nintendo, Sega and yes, NeoGeo, 3DO and others. The first pictures of the PS1 controllers produced wide public derision when compared to Sega and Nintendo's and was spared of being the arse of every joke back then only by the existence of the even more ungainly and horrible offerings of the PC-FX and the Jaguar. It was ugly, inelegant and uncomfortable back then and it never stopped being that.

    People may had a chance to realise it when its design made it to the PS2, but again, they were too busy ridiculing the first XBOX's mammoth of a controller. And as the article stated, the chance was again lost in the third generation, after Sony had to quickly pull back from the reactions that the "batarang" prototype had received from press and public. Glad to see that they finally made it.

    Last edited 31/10/13 3:28 pm

    If there was any plus to Sony keeping the DS3 not too far a deviation from past controllers for me, it was that it actually influenced me to buy the PS3 versions of those HD collections and Final Fantasy games over the 360 versions. I actually do prefer the 360 controller, but for those particular games my head was like "the controls for these games are meant to feel a certain way" which I think was partially influenced by the notquitethesame-ness of early PC emulators.

    The dual shock is fine - just let go of the death grip kids.
    (Was the death grip adopted by those used to clinging to their XBricks for dear life?)

      careful mate, they'll vote you down and you'll have to wait for comment moderation like i do now...

    Yeah, call me a fanboy of what ever, but I've legit never had a problem with my DS3, and I didn't 'grow up' with the DS, PS3 was legit my first home console. I have a 360 controller for my PC though, and enjoy it too. Don't see how people manage to whinge about either..

    I used to think the problem with the Dualshock design was the layout, but it's not.

    The actual problem is the horribly short handles that force you to hold the controller above your palms so that your thumbs can rest comfortably.

    I still don't get how many people complain about the thumb position, it's not that hard, you don't use the ends of your thumbs on the sticks so they are bent, the sticks can sit half way down your thumb with the fingernail ends resting next to the Square and right d-pad arrow. And as for "big hands hurt when holding the dualshock", nonsense. I have gorilla mitts and have zero problems.

    I think "sucked" is a little strong. Disappointing and flawed as it was its still one of the best factory console controllers ever made, only really second to the Xbox controllers.

    Surely you mean RGB output and not RGB input? ;)

    Though technically, when the PS1 was released, most people were using composite and a lot of people were still using RF.

    Not being a fanboy here but even though i did like the ps3 more this gen, the controller is just bad, almost developing Rsi from the thumbsticks, therefore where I could I opted for the Xbox 360 on (in some pc games). However the ps4 controller which I used at the EB Expo feels great in regards to the thumbsticks ans the triggers as well. Also for those who dont know, the option button is basically the pause button now.

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