Xbox has always had the superior controller, in my opinion, but then the DualSense shows up and makes me question my beliefs.
Sony revealed the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller last week and quickly proved it was going for revolution instead of evolution with this generation. I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say in my life when it comes to PlayStation controllers: I love it. That’s not to say I don’t have my complaints — the thumbstick layout is still a huge detriment in my opinion — but damn does it showcase the improved ergonomics beautifully.
The DualSense sports a modernized, minimalist look that I’m all about, with new textures to aid your grip. The D-pad, touchpad, face buttons, and outside of the grips are all in a sleek white while in-between around the thumbsticks features a stark black to add some contrast. There’s no color to speak of, and the black and white two-tone color scheme works tremendously well.
Then you turn on the controller, and the thin light bar strip surrounding the touchpad glows an iridescent blue to accentuate the DualSense and make it stand out. And that’s only mentioning the outside of the controller. The internal technology is just as impressive.
From what we know so far, two of the most significant features in the DualSense are its adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. The impulse triggers on the Xbox One controller, and soon the Series X controller, are effectively watered-down versions of what Sony claims with its adaptive triggers, which can allow players to actually feel the tension of their in-game actions, like drawing a bowstring. Working in tandem with its haptic feedback, the levels of immersion are unprecedented for controller use.
I thought the impulse triggers on Xbox were impressive enough already, so much so that when the batteries in my controller start dying, it feels weird to be playing a game without those sensations and feedback. To hear that Sony is taking this idea one step further has me incredibly excited.
Sony is going for revolution over evolution this generation.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect, though. My biggest gripe is the thumbstick layout, which is once again symmetrical (inline), as opposed to Xbox’s asymmetrical (offset) configuration. That’s a huge step back in my book. I’ve gotten used to the symmetrical layout of the DualShock, but that was out of necessity. I didn’t have any other type of controller when I first bought my PS4. Now I almost exclusively use my Astro C40 TR, which lets me swap the left thumbstick and D-pad positions to create an asymmetrical layout.
Its triggers are also disappointing, but I’ll still want to use them myself before I pass final judgment. I prefer the angled design that the Xbox One controller has because it mimics the natural resting position of your finger when it’s on the trigger. The DualSense triggers just seem to cut off at a 90-degree angle.
Despite all of that, I think it’s a significant improvement from the DualShock 4. The shape of the chassis itself looks much more comfortable, and the face buttons and D-pad look less squishy than the DualShock 4’s are. Time will tell if they also feel more tactile, but I have high hopes thus far.
I won’t mince words. I’ve hated the DualShock controller lineup since I was a kid playing on my friend’s PS2. I’ve repeatedly called them trash. The Xbox controller lineup — and yes, even the Duke included — has always felt better to use. And that’s saying something when I could hardly fit my hands around the Duke as a child. My friends and I would argue over who got to use the Xbox S controller. It was beyond my comprehension how Sony could continually make controllers that were so inferior to its competition.
One of the main reasons I bought an Xbox One over a PlayStation 4 back in 2014 was because of its controller. I picked it up at a demo station in Best Buy and just knew. That’s how seriously I take my gaming controllers. They can make or break the experience for me. I’m okay with Microsoft hardly changing the Xbox One controller for the Xbox Series X because why change near-perfection? Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
If the amount of likes on the DualSense’s Twitter announcement are anything to go by, people were indeed hungry for more PS5 information, and I don’t blame them. That’s the kind of brand power that PlayStation has. Ubiquity across the globe. It’s the kind of brand power that will carry it far into the next-generation regardless of which console has more teraflops.
At this point, I can’t say for sure which next-gen controller I’ll end up liking better, but the PS5 DualSense is really making me question my loyalties. Now, if only Sony could change that thumbstick layout.
- PlayStation 5: Everything we know so far
- PS5 vs. Xbox Series X: How they compare
- PS5 Specs: What’s in the next-gen PlayStation
- Will PS4 games work on the PlayStation 5?