The DualShock 4 Has Become A Great PC Controller

The DualShock 4 Has Become A Pretty Great PC Controller

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.

There are already a number of good setup guides around the internet, but here's one from DS4 Tool creator JB Hebbel:

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?


Comments

    Are the rumors of the DS4's battery being the worst greatly exaggerated?

      I don't have an issue, it lasts longer than my old 360 controllers with the charge n play packs in them.

        How's the compatibility with XInput games? Is it plug and play?

          I use an older program (DS4toX-input), 100%. The PC just sees it as a 360 controller.

      As a somewhat tragic Sony fanboy I effing hate it. I get about 4-5 hours before it dies and having a second controller constantly on charge is nearly a must.

      That said on PC it wouldn't be much of an issue if you had it connected with a cable.

        Wait, really? I mean it's been ages since I used my Wii U but I'm pretty sure it would usually go for about three hours before the gamepad needed a recharge. I mostly just use it with the thing plugged into the charger since the cable's so long that it isn't a problem, but still. Surprising that the DS4's that power-hungry.

          I think the Wii U game pad is heavy enough that the power cable doesn't really mess with the balance of it. Plus the cable is usually plugged into the nearest outlet rather than being dragged across the floor between the TV and the couch. I really don't notice that it's plugged in like I do with XBOX and PlayStation controllers (or Wii U Pro controllers).

            I use the Wii U Pro controller on my PC! Feels great and has an 80 hour battery life, I've honestly never even charged it once since the first time when I bought it. It rules.

              Also, the buttons match Xbox buttons :) :)

        Odd... mine last for ~8 hours no fuss (I know this time because that is how long into a marathon recording I got with a friend, although technically it was a bit longer than that as the controller wasn't perfectly charged)
        I do turn off the LED indicator though and have it set so it BARELY shows a little red when it is low.(rather than being full brightness)

        classic mayonegg, blame battery life for in-game performance ;)

        It's 4-5 hours. In no way does that require a second controller constantly on charge.

      One thing to boost battery life a lot is to change the settings and dim the led indicator brightness and reduce the on board speaker volume through the PS4 settings. Not sure if the pc software allows the same.

    I use a Logitech F310. I can switch from XInput to DirectInput with a flick of the switch, and I read it works as a PS3 controller too. It doesn't vibrate though, which I don't really care for anyway. The triggers are a bit tough to push though.

      I use a Speedlink Strike FX SL-6567 Wireless Gamepad. DS3 style body and layout with Xinput/Dinput/Dinput Hat (hold down the mode button which takes the PS button place to switch between Xinput and Dinput, then tap it to change between Dinput and Dinput Hat), Rumble Function. In most respects just like a DS3 but it also has finger grooves moulded in the back and the triggers point outward rather than down.

    I have a dedicated PC gamepad (Saitek P2500), but occasionally I need more buttons than the gamepad has. I was already using the PS3 controller for some games on my PC. It usually doesn't matter if Xbox button prompts are used, one of the awesome things about PC gaming is that you can mod the games! And replacing button prompts in a game is a pretty trivial mod to apply.

    Last edited 21/10/14 1:43 pm

    The DS4 has replaced my old 360 controller as my go-to for PC gaming,

    Using rzer sabertooth for PC controller gaming. Love that mechanical buttons compare to membrane buttons from standard controllers.

    I use the Xbox 360 Controller.
    Main reason is that i have the wireless receiver for it.

    However, the trackpad capability would be a godsend as i use my PC hooked up to my TV aswell.

    I use a DS4 on my MSI laptop. Like Kirk said in the article, I also have to re-pair it every time I use it due to bluetooth being weird in Windows 8. I admit I've only used it while playing on the SNES emulator I have installed, but it works great with the DS4 Tool software.

    Last edited 21/10/14 1:59 pm

    i use the PS4 remote, using DS4tool(not the one linked) this one allows the ps4 track pad to be used as a mouse

    I bought an Xbone controller as soon as they released windows drivers and I quite like it. The dpad is a massive improvement, I even played through a fighting game with it (inJustice) but the bumpers took a little getting used to.

    The PS4 controller is another option I guess, but I have read that you have to unsync it from the PS4 before using it on PC, or else you might end up turning on the PS4 while using it. As someone who would switch between PC and PS4 on a semi regular basis that would be annoying, I'd rather just have separate controllers and have button prompts on screen match what's on the controller.

      This is easily avoided by powering off your PS4 and unplugging the power cable from the back of it. That's what I do

        But not everyone have their PS4 placed in a place that you could easily do that. I have my PS4 slotted nicely into my TV rack and it is very troublesome to take it out just to remove the power cable.

    At the end of the day I'm just not a fan of installing more junk. If the DS4 requires something third party it's going to have to be really, really good to get me to use it on the PC. I think the trackpad is halfway there but it's just falling short of converting me.

    I've tried the DS4 but I've had troubles with both the bluetooth pairing and the game recognising the controller at all or being super laggy (Dark Souls). After reading this I'll give it another go when I move onto other games, and I'll probably leave it plugged in this time.

    still feel the Xbox One controller is far superior in every way possible, shoot me for not getting on this whole playstation bandwagon this gen

    I found my controller lasts multiple sessions without charging, it was a massive jump on the already superior Xbox360 controller

    I think if Sony improved their controller, their online play / features and their range of exclusives they would be a lot better for it

    but then again they don't have Halo or Forza either so yeah

    I used a PS3 controller with DS3tool before I realised how much malicious crap comes with that software. Was also tired of having to boot it up everytime I wanted to use it. Just swtiched to 360 controller. Much better.

    Going through the exact same thing on shadow of mordor, just get the marker in the circle then a B pops up on screen and my brain panics hard. My controller is leveling the orcs a lot more than me

    While the Xbox controllers work better and I love their whole just plug and play aspect I do value the sony controller more - I havent setup DS4 on my PC yet (have always had DS3) but thats only because I cant take my eyes away from the PS4 for long enough ;)

    Anyone have any recommendations for a cheap but good receiver?

    Oh man. Wireless keyboard and mouse makes playing games with my 360 wired controller so freaking easy. Movies/music/TV shows too. Love it.

    I couldn't get DS3 Tool to work, whenever I connected the controller my computer would crash :/

    I still use a 360 controller, I have two Xb1 controllers but cbf syncing them between devices. The 360 controller I use is USB, so zero effort. I only bought it to use on the PS3 with an adapter originally anyway.

    I use xbone controller and my only gripe with it is how loud the buttons are it can get annoying at times.

    I use a Logitech F710 in the lounge, and a 360 wired controller in the puter room. I prefer the 360 controller by far.

    I bought my 360 controller a year before I even got a 360, definitely the best controller out there.

    As for the author's comments about the PS4's analogue sticks I think you'll find that most people will say the Dual Shock controllers have always had the worst thumbsticks, they are prone to clashing if you don't have child-thumbs and don't have much precision or grip (pre-DS4, haven't tried one yet).

    It's also important to mention that a USB cable only has a range of 2 metres without a booster in between so using a cable isn't really an option if you have a HTPC, which is really the only set up where you need a controller.

Join the discussion!