The PS5 Controller Is Great, But It’s In Danger Of Becoming A Gimmick

15
The PS5 Controller Is Great, But It’s In Danger Of Becoming A Gimmick
Image: Sony/Playstation

Astro’s Playroom is a fantastic game, and the perfect example for what makes the PS5 DualSense controller “feel” next gen. Its unique haptic feedback means you can feel every individual hail drop, hear the tinks of tiny robot feet on glass and use your fingers in a complex game of marbles. There’s a genuine sense of wonder about the DualSense, with Astro’s Playroom showing off the power and potential for next gen controllers to engage players in new ways. But without an active commitment to developing games using this technology, the new features of the DualSense have the potential to become fun but meaningless gimmicks.

An outcome like this wouldn’t be without precedent.

When the PS4 launched in 2013, its controller featured many of the same technologies found in the DualSense, including the local speaker, refined sensors and touchpad. Early PS4 games like Infamous: Second Son used these features for innovative mechanics, like shaking the controller and using it as a spray can for graffiti. Horizon: Zero Dawn used the controller’s speaker for data signal sound cues. But despite a promising start, the full potential of these mechanics were never realised, and later games even saw them drop off the map entirely.

What looked set to be promising, game-changing features were slowly forgotten as the PS4 generation progressed. Graphics got better, loading times got faster but the controller’s additional features remained largely underused.

The PS5 controller is in danger of this same pitfall, thanks in part to a lack of PS5 exclusive titles. With many of the titles currently in development for the console also launching on the last generation PS4, the advantages given by the DualSense controller can’t be fully realised. It would mean PS4 users missing out on important mechanics, or minimal integration for these newer features on PS5.

Realistically, the DualSense controller is capable of creating whole new styles of gameplay, with the rolling ball segments in Astro’s Playroom using the touchpad being key examples of this potential. In later areas of the game, you can even swing the controller as you’d swing on a vine and climb using the trigger buttons with exaggerated physical movements. As it stands, these mechanics can’t be replicated on the PS4, so crossgen games will have limited DualSense functionality on the PS5.

But the problem doesn’t stop there: even next gen exclusive games are having a problem finding uses for the unique features of the PS5 controller. Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition was originally created for the PS4 generation but is optimised for next gen with a bunch of new inclusions. One of these is utilising trigger button feedback to charge Nero’s sword, Red Queen. But outside the revving mechanic and some audio cues delivered via the controller, the game is largely the same. The DualSense controller largely takes a back seat.

Image: Devil May Cry 5

It’s likely the future will bring more purpose for the DualSense controller, but for now it feels more like a gimmick than a useful next gen feature. It marks a future turning point for more immersive PS5 games but until titles are solely developed for the PS5, we won’t see what the controller can really do.

Astro’s Playroom is a great first step but a future where DualSense is integral for gameplay is still a few years away, if it happens at all. To really push forward with next gen, Sony will need to acknowledge the quick redundancy of the PS4 controller and work towards integrating haptic feedback and the usefulness of the adaptive triggers into more games.

With such a minor difference between the last generation PS4 consoles and next gen PS5 consoles, there needs to be a more solid point of difference to build a real ‘next gen’ feeling. The unique gameplay offered by the PS5 DualSense controller is essential to build that feeling, but its newer features need to be utilised well to make a difference beyond being just a simple gimmick.

The PS5 controller is filled with potential, but whether it’ll realise it in this console generation is a question for the future.

Comments

  • Anything third party and you’ll have limited support.. The Xbox One Controller had good (for 2013) haptic rumble behind the triggers, but aside from Halo and Forza, it was never utilised.. I can’t really think of any third party support for it at all.

    There’s no reason not to think the same fate will befall the Dual Sense controller for multi platform games..

    The more I played Astro Bot (and I was blown away by how well it worked) the more I thought of it as a Wii Sports lite of the PS5. Remember when we all played Wii Sports and ‘motion controls’ were going to change everything?? Then 12 months later and everything was just ‘waggling controller’ and we kinda realised Nintendo had duped us with great implementation of the wii mote in Wii Sports that no one else could come close to..

  • The thing I found disappointing with the PS4 controller was this very thing – the lack of support for its extras. The big touchpad wasnt just a touchpad or giant button, it had individual inputs mapped to each of the corners. And that feature was grossly unused for the entire lifespan of the console.
    Gamers cry out for new and innovative improvements with controllers, but when they come its up to the developers to push them and make them normal. Unless its a console like the Wii that lives or dies on the concept, it just doesnt happen though. Even with the Wii it was only a couple of features that became normal.
    There were plenty of options to make use of the features on the PS4 dualshock as well, it just didnt happen. It was a disappointment tjere, I hope it isnt with the PS5.

  • I guess they could have just kept the controller the same and called it the DS5?! So glad they actually went the extra mile to add something ‘new’. While I’m sure many 3rd parties won’t fully support all the features, or support them well, the fact is, they are there to be used. Astro’s Playroom is the perfect example of how to do it well. It’s there and blends in without being in your face. The additional sensations really boost the experience.

    Sure it’s not ‘integral’ for gameplay, then again, either are higher frame rates, 4K and super fast SSD’s, but damn they make the gaming experience so much better.

  • Almost all of these innovations are at some point left behind as most people are looking for a the traditional gaming experience. Doesn’t mean the ps5s rumble won’t always feel amaing and the controller itself seems to be such a massive improvement. Ive hated PS controllers since ps1 but this one looks promising

  • Very true, though to be fair, rumble functionality is already a gimmick but it’s one that’s become a standard across the industry over time.
    I also think it differs from the touch pad in that it’s an upgrade to a feature that developers already like rather than something that’s value isn’t immediately obvious to developers.
    I think as long as Sony makes good use of it and makes the tools available to developers, it might just become the new standard.

    On a side note, I could help but feel that the game that should have released on PS5 that would’ve have been the perfect showcase of the Dualsense, was Death Stranding.
    Not only does Kojima love this kind of thing, the game seems like it was made for haptic feedback.
    The time fall rain and driving/walking on solid/semisolid/liquid surfaces are all things that could’ve been simulated by the PS5 controller to amazing effect.
    Even the feel of BB thrashing and rolling around in his pod.

    • Kojima’s studio’s been very quiet about a PS5 patch for Death Stranding, and I strongly suspect it’s because they’re taking their time with a high-quality patch that takes advantage of the haptics. Like you said, the controller can force you to work harder in response to terrain and that is abso-fucking-lutely Kojima’s shit, and there’s no way he would see that and not want to go back and put it in.

  • This new pad sounds interesting but for me, backwards compatibility of my old Xbox One controllers on new games is a big factor in why I’ll get an Xbox Series X over a PS5.

  • Definately going to end up a gimmick.
    The PS3 had “SIXAXIS” – barely anything used it
    The VITA had a touchpad – barely anything used it
    The PS4 controller had a speaker – barely anything used it
    The PS4 controller had a touchpad – barely anything used it
    The PS4 controller had a lightbar – mostly made redundant by the already existing and better suited move controller, so much so the PS5 controllers have ditched it.

    Sense a pattern here?

    Hell the Xbone One and Series S/X controllers have “impulse triggers” and have had for ages – barely anything uses those either.

  • A Playstation controller being described as ‘great’ rather than ‘uncomfortable unergonomic cheap feeling trash’ is something I never thought I’d see! I’ll probably still wait for the custom Xbox style controllers before I get/play any PS5 though.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I really hope developers spend time and invest in “controller experience” as part of their game. They’ve achieved something pretty special with Astro Bot, the controller feels great. It’s not a “must-have” feature but it felt odd to play the game without the controller’s feedback on.
    On the other side, I’ve been playing Days Gone for the first time as part of the Plus pack. The way they use the touchpad is laughable, to say the least. It’s completely counter-intuitive and frustrating.

  • Honestly maybe I was over hyped but thr ps5 controller is not that amazing. Playing astro was cool for sure but didn’t really grab me as a must have feature.

  • I think the lesson is that innovative input methods won’t catch on long term if they’re used as platform differentiators.

    If a studio is developing a multi-platform game they might make use of one platform’s unique input features, but they can’t make it central to the control scheme. So you end up with the most common operations being mapped to the shared inputs of all consoles, and the unique inputs being something you can ignore.

    So the best hope for seeing the PS5 controller’s new inputs adopted by games would be for Microsoft to steal those innovations for the Xbox controller, and vice versa.

    • Also proper PC driver support – imagine what all the random indie devs might try if controller touchpads or fancy directional rumble were natively supported rather than needing to use Steam controller mapping workarounds just to be able to remap buttons!

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!