Hands-on With the DualShock 4

With the PS4 making an appearance in homes across the world in just a couple of weeks, (I thought the day would never come), I thought it’d be a great time to talk about the DualShock 4. I think that it’s safe to make the argument that next-gen controllers themselves can be just as exciting, if not moreso, than the actual console itself. A console will always be some kind of box under your television. The controller is something that we will be interfacing with constantly throughout the console’s life cycle, so the controller plays a very intimate role in creating a relationship with our games. Think about it; I know a lot of people (including me) that hate the GameCube controller. But if you were to ask us if we wanted to throw down in some Smash Bros. Melee or Brawl, fuck yeah give us the GameCube controller. Any day.

Dualshock 4

Part of Sony’s challenge in making the DualShock 4 was to keep the nearly 2 decade-long heritage of the DualShock intact while readying it for the games of tomorrow. It’s tough to sculpt a controller that fits the needs of all genres. Once I got my hands around the DualShock 4, I had an inexplicable feeling that it can handle whatever developers threw at it. Here’s just a tiny glimpse.

Size Matters

Brown suede couch not included.

Brown suede couch not included.

What is immediately noticeable is that the DS4 is bigger. When I say “big” don’t take it as “bulky”. It’s a bit… say… huskier in the handles. This gives your hands a bit more room to move. I found that my pinky was resting comfortably next to my ring finger, instead of being pushed off the bottom edges.

DS4 Side View

The underside has a raised surface, so it feels like you’ve got a solid grip when your fingers collapse around the triggers. It no longer has that (literal) super slick feeling. Which is great because sweaty palms come with the territory. What you’ll also notice in the picture above are the triggers L2 and R2, they’re longer and feel like what they are: triggers! Where the DualShock 3’s triggers felt kind of mushy, the DualShock 4 has a better throw. It feels a lot like those awesome triggers the 360 has, which is a damn good thing.

Clackity Click, Buttons and Sticks

As I held the DS4, my index fingers naturally gravitated to the L1 and R1 positions. When I rested them, they actually landed between both sets of shoulder buttons. It feels a lot more comfortable to play shooters. The controllers itself felt confident to play shooters. While playing shooters on the PS3 was very much doable and competent, I intend on using the newly designed triggers proper for PS4 FPS’s going forward. No more cross-console shoulder confusion! The wider housing on the DS4 allowed for my index fingers to rest right on the shoulder button chassis, not over them.

DS4 Front View

Not displayed: DualShock 4’s Glowingness

In the picture above you’ll immediately notice the height of the thumbsticks has been shortened on the DS4. This will allow for quicker, more responsive stick inputs. Which sounds absurd, but will likely be more apparent when playing a game. It’s a bit difficult to tell from the picture because of the shadows from my camera phone (my apologies, I’m not a professional photographer), but the face buttons are a bit more shallow. The feedback from pushing down on the buttons is immediate and certain. Speaking of which, lets take a closer look at the face.

Face!

DS4 Top View

Man… my Dualshock 3 is really beat up… I call em nerd scars

You’ll see that the d-pad and face buttons are grouped closer together on the DualShock 4. It looks like Sony tightened up the button real estate to lessen “transit” time between buttons presses. Trust me, it sounds just as dumb for me to say/type that, but I don’t doubt it will make a world of difference during gameplay. The thumbsticks now have a concave surface which makes for better sustained grips, pushes, and pulls. Looks like this will cut down on that momentum-killing need to reset your thumbs in games that have you pushing forward constantly (Mirror’s Edge, Assassin’s Creed, every Call of Duty ever). Why Sony placed those handy-dandy arrows around the d-pad is beyond me…

1995 felt like a lifetime ago. They grow up so fast... *sniff*

1995 felt like a lifetime ago. They grow up so fast… *sniff*

There are a few other features I didn’t quite cover because… well… I just don’t have a PS4 to test them out on yet. The touchpad feels like a touchpad (duh) and clicks into the controller, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you about how those actions feel in-game quite yet. There’s an input at the bottom of the controller for the headset that is included with the system. I would imagine it works the same way it does on the 360, thank God. Besides that, it looks like the DualShock 4 addresses all the issues of the DualShock 3. Which is a pretty daunting task in itself since the DualShock is already a legendary controller that survived us across 3 generations. The other refinements to the DualShock 4 is considered a luxury at this point. The true test comes once people start playing games with it (I mean, no shit right?). Can the DualShock 4’s new additions and refinements elevate it to legendary status? A design to follow for the Sony platforms to come?

We’ll see. We’ll play.

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