One of the first controllers I ever used as a kid was the DualShock 2. I hated it. Nothing about it felt comfortable to hold, and the way the thumbsticks were laid out threw me off. Nearly 20 years later, my opinion hasn't changed — much like the DualShock's fundamental design.
When the PlayStation 5 was announced, I had hoped — rather naively — that the DualShock's inevitable redesign could finally change my mind. While I haven't seen or held the controller yet, likely to be called the DualShock 5, early impressions don't sound too great. In fact, according to Wired, it just looks to be more of the same.
I really don't understand Sony's thought process behind the design. The ergonomics are bad. It doesn't fit as comfortably in your hands as the Xbox controller does, the DualShock 4's light drains its battery — which is notoriously bad, and the symmetrical thumbstick layout doesn't feel natural. Even the triggers are lacking. They aren't shaped to mold around your fingers at a curved angle; they just abruptly come to a straight edge and drop off. It doesn't fit your natural grip.
Its giant touchpad does nothing of actual use other than take up space where a smaller button would have sufficed. Games generally aren't built to support the touchpad for anything more than a way to pull up a menu. It's a gimmick that's overstayed its welcome.
There's a reason a lot of premium third-party PS4 controllers — not always taking into consideration thumbstick position — look more like that of Xbox controllers, the Astro C40 TR and Razer Raiju Ultimate being two prominent examples. There's even one of a lesser-known brand that's just a wholesale ripoff of the Xbox One controller's design. You'll be hard-pressed to find examples of the opposite where a third-party Xbox One controller looks like a DualShock clone.
The second I had a usable PS4 controller in my hands that wasn't the DualShock 4 was the second I realized I could never go back. As it stands my DualShock controller sits in a drawer collecting dust, which I only cleaned off to take pictures for this article.
For everything that Sony does right with its hardware and software, I still can't fathom how it continues to drop the ball when it comes to the DualShock controller. A controller is one of the most fundamental aspects of gaming.
You can't deny that the next DualShock will pack some impressive features with haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, but those don't make or break a controller. The intrinsic physical design does. No matter how many bells and whistles you cram into it, there needs to be a solid foundation. And the DualShock doesn't have one.
It isn't right to dismiss the DualShock 4 controller completely without acknowledging what it does well and where it bests its competitors. The Share button is a feature that I hope every company employs going forward. Gaming is a social experience now more than ever. The importance of being able to quickly share your favorite screenshots and accomplishments or just broadcast your gameplay to an audience with the press of a button cannot be understated. Sony was ahead of the curve on this one.
And its internal battery that can be charged via USB is something I hope Xbox will adopt as well. I hate wasting batteries, or using a controller until it's dead only to realize I don't have any batteries left. Sure, I could buy a separate battery pack, but it'd be even better if Xbox designed its controllers like that to begin with so that they are included in your purchase of a console. (Yes, the Elite Series 2 uses a battery rechargeable via dock or USB-C, but it's also $180.)
What do you think of the DualShock controller? Let us know in the comments below!
Swap and play
Use a real controller
It's expensive, but well worth the price. After using the Astro C40 TR controller, you can never go back to a regular DualShock. The ability to configure your thumbstick layout is an added bonus on top of extra paddles and hair trigger toggles.
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Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.