If you’re using a controller to play a PC game — I know, I know, shhh, it’s OK — chances are the on-screen prompts you see will match up with an Xbox controller. But you don’t have to use Microsoft’s controller with your PC; you actually have a lot of options, including the PS4’s DualShock 4.
I really like the DualShock 4, but while I’ve known for some time that it’s an option for PC, I’d been putting off setting it up. I’d heard that it wasn’t that consistent, that it was kind of a headache, that it was better to just stick with an Xbox controller. So, I’d opted instead to start using an Xbox One controller, since Microsoft released drivers earlier this year.
It worked fine, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that I just…don’t really love the Xbox One controller. (Personal preference!) Some things — the triggers, mostly — have grown on me over the past year, but I still haven’t gotten comfortable with the thumbsticks. Too wiggly for my taste. So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to finally see how the PS4 controller would do on my PC.
First of all, setup: The most important thing you’ll want to download is the DS4 Tool software. DS4 Tool is a cool, donation-supported bit of custom programming that acts as a wrapper, letting the PS4 controller interface with your PC’s standard XInput controller driver. Basically, it makes games think that your DualShock 4 is an Xbox controller. Its creators regularly release updates, and at this point, the software has gotten very reliable. I’ve yet to encounter a game that doesn’t work with it.
I’ve been playing PC games with a DualShock 4 ever since setting it up, and I’ve been happy with the experience. I’ve had some minor issues, mostly when using the controller wirelessly via Bluetooth — for example, sometimes I won’t be able to get the controller’s LED light to do what I think I’m telling it to do with the software, or I’ll occasionally be unable to wake the controller and will have to re-pair it with my Bluetooth receiver. (This one, for the record.) But generally, it works well, and I sense those issues are mostly related to the weirdnesses of Bluetooth — when I wire the controller directly into my PC via micro-USB, it works perfectly.
It must be said that both the Xbox One and 360 controllers still offer a smoother experience than the DualShock 4 — both of those are essentially seamless at this point, so the DS4 Tool, while not all that finicky, is still the more finicky option. It also did take a little doing to get my brain to read on-screen Xbox prompts and translate them to the PS4 controller. (I think my brain could use its own wrapper software.) You might miss a few QTEs at first — I died a couple of times in Shadow of Mordor thanks to that — but I got used to it pretty quickly.
The DualShock 4 has one advantage that I didn’t anticipate: The controller’s built-in trackpad. (I know! The trackpad!) I play a lot of games with my PC plugged into the TV in my living room, especially around this time of year. While I can navigate some things using Steam’s big picture mode, I still need to do a fair amount of mouse-clicking in between games: Checking for new graphics drivers, switching my sound output options, tweaking something in Nvidia control panel, etc. Fortunately, most of those things are single-mouse-click operations, and it’s nice that I can take care of them without putting down my controller.
The DS4 trackpad is such a natural fit for PC that it’s too bad Sony hasn’t made good on their past intimations of PC support and released official Windows drivers. I’d still welcome an official driver, though at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the DS4 tool winds up remaining the better option.
If you like the feel of the PS4 controller and like having control of your mouse from the couch, it’s certainly worth giving DS4 Tool a shot.
I thought I’d make a poll to see which controller you all use for PC gaming (when you do use a controller.) If you use more than one, go with whichever one you use more.
Given that the DS4 Tool has been around for a while now, I’m guessing that a good number of you out there already use it. If so, how has your experience been?