Ever since the PS5 was released, many people — myself included — have praised the revolutionary technology behind the DualSense controller. Most PlayStation exclusives support haptic feedback and adaptive triggers to some degree, and third-party DualSense support is flourishing as well, but there wasn't a big showcase for the tech aside from Astro's Playroom. That's changed now that Returnal has arrived on PS5. You've heard people calling this the first true next-gen game, and they're not exaggerating. That's exactly what it feels like, in no small part due to the PS5's SSD and extraordinary controller.
From the moment the game begins, you're in the pilot seat of the space shuttle, and as it's barreling through asteroids and suffering a major malfunction, you can feel everything. The rattle of the shuttle as it shakes. The tiny jolt of pressing a button on the control panel. The DualSense is taking you through space, and you're along for the ride with Selene. It's almost indescribable how its haptic feedback can be utilized in such subtle ways to make different actions actually feel different.
Some sort of haptic feedback complements nearly everything you do in Returnal. When Selene jumps, you feel it. When she dashes, you feel it. Even when she takes out her Atropian Blade and slashes it through the air. Pressing the left thumbstick to run provides another jolt, almost as if you're kicking off from the starting point of a race. The way the haptics work makes you experience these motions through the controller.
Waking up on Atropos, the pattering of the rain pelts the controller, much like it does in Astro's Playroom. As you step under cover, you'll quickly realize that the controller stops rattling. Like walking under an awning, you're shielded from the elements. That the game and controller are smart enough to register when this happens and provide the appropriate feedback is incredible. But the haptic experience doesn't end there.
Even pulling up your map and scrolling through your inventory utilizes the DualSense's haptics. And all of this is complemented beautifully by its 3D audio and the built-in microphone on the DualSense, capturing the haunting sounds of Atropos and transporting you to the Giger-esque alien planet.
For as amazing as the haptics are, I haven't even mentioned how Returnal uses the adaptive triggers yet. Though this can be changed in the settings, by default, your alt-fire mode on every gun is used by pressing the left trigger down fully. To aim down your sights and fire it normally, you'll press it halfway, and there's tension at this midway point to stop you from pressing it too hard if you don't want to use your alt-fire mode.
All of this tech working in tandem creates a mesmerizing experience you don't often get in other games. It also makes the case for why Returnal isn't on the PS4 — and why not every exclusive should be. It would be a fundamentally different experience without the DualSense controller, regardless of the console's SSD and near-instant loading. I can't imagine playing Returnal any other way. It's one of the best PS5 games there is right now.
I said this when the PS5 was released, and I'll say it again, I'm tremendously excited to see how future games utilize this controller. There's a lot of untapped potential on display.
Stuck in a loop
Outstanding use of the DualSense
Embark on a harrowing journey on the alien planet of Atropos, where every death sends you back to the beginning. You'll need to keep calm and explore your surroundings to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious civilization and hopefully make it out alive.
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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.