PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller – Evolution or Revolution?

At the start of 2020, PlayStation heralded the arrival of PS5 by first showing their new controller design: the DualSense.

Whilst it’s a little bigger to hold than the DualShock 4, itself enlarged from the DualShock 3 before it, DualSense comes packed with new features – and it’s one area where Sony has undoubtedly excelled and stood themselves apart from the competition. If you’re new to the generation, make sure to give the pre-installed Astro’s Playroom a go. A perfect platformer in its own right, as well as fantastic fan-service for PlayStation fans, this little gem deftly demonstrates the potential of each function of the controller. With many features themselves simple evolutions of what we’ve seen before, the revolutionary elements of the DualSense are what really make it stand out in the new generation.

With the recent arrival of the Cosmic Red and Midnight Black DualSense controllers, we decided to take a good, hard look at Sony’s excellent controller and how its features have been implemented in games so far. From chatting with friends to riding roller-coasters, here’s how we think the DualSense is shaping up.

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Microphone

With the arrival of the PS5, we said “goodbye” to the inconvenience of multiplayer invites: Saving your campaign, closing the game, loading the multiplayer game, getting your headset, joining a session etc. Now, if you’re invited for a round or two of Destruction All-Stars or a quick excursion in Marvel’s Avengers you can simply accept the invite and the PS5 will have you in your friend’s lobby, chatting and ready to go, all within a few seconds. Plus, if it is “just a quick game” (but when is it ever?) you can stay comfy on the couch and easily use your DualSense’s high-quality speaker and microphone.

Sony used Astro’s Playroom to demonstrate every feature of the DualSense, including the microphone, asking you to blow pin-wheels to move platforms around, but it’s clear that the primary function here is for chat. The improved detection range and quality of the microphone mean background noise transmission is kept to a minimum and the power of the speaker (as noted below) gives crisp and clear audio from your pals as you Hulk-smash your way through yet another cookie-cutter AIM base.

Speaker

It’s been commonplace for a while now, that when you collect audio logs, they will play through your PlayStation’s controller, so the function itself is nothing new. But while we may be used to this function from the DualShock 4, the DualSense’s upgrade is obvious, with crisper, clearer definition and clarity.

A smart use within Bugsnax is that each creature in the game, whether a common Crapple, a prickly Pineantula or a sneaky Snakpod, has something to say when you capture it: its own name! Some are cute as a button, like Strabby’s and Sodie’s, while others are a little more sedentary, like everyone’s favourite banana-based Bugsnax, Scoopy Banoopy.

Even when voice-chatting with friends, if you don’t fancy wearing a headset but still want to be able to hear your commanding officer without the rest of your household being bossed around, too, have the sound output through the speaker. Coupled with the microphone which also features on this list, these are just two examples of how the speaker’s evolution and elevation in quality has helped Sony deliver on their promise.

Dualsense

PS button quick menus

The “Share” and “Options” buttons from the DualShock 4 remain largely unchanged, but the familiar “PS” button in the centre of the DualSense takes on a new life.

Since PlayStation 3, your PS controller has had a button in the middle to access some form of user interface. The earliest implementation was necessarily restrictive, only allowing access to a small amount of functions whilst a game was in-play. As we moved to the PS4, more functions were available mid-game and suspending games became possible, but with the PS5, however, a more functional UI now means you can take a break from the action to do virtually anything the console allows, without having to close the game.

Crucially, however, Sony has added some new gadgets for a new generation: Activity Cards and Best Game Help (so long as you’re a PS Plus subscriber). Activity Cards allow you to jump between sections of your game in an instant, without needing to quit to an internal menu screen, while Game Help lets you view picture-in-picture guides of almost any section or challenge of PS5 games.

Here’s a top tip for this one: get used to booting via Activity Cards – It takes seconds to get back into the action. Miles Morales will load from a cold-start to playable from your latest save within 10 seconds – it’s incredible.

Adaptive Triggers

Sony has come a long, long way from the DualShock 3, where developers disliked the L2/R2 trigger function so much, they actually began mapping in-game triggers to R1.

With the DualShock 4, that was rectified, with significantly improved sensitivity and responsiveness. Now, with the DualSense, we are seeing a total revolution in how the triggers can be used. The recently-released Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart showcases this well, with R2 having two functions: press halfway to arm or spin-up your weapon or to lock it on target, then press the trigger the whole way to fire, with each stage feeling clearly distinct.

Even from the console’s launch, there was early implementation of this key feature in DIRT 5. Drift around a muddy corner and feel the tyres slip as you try to accelerate out of it, or brake harshly on gravel and you’ll feel the anti-lock braking system kick-in, stuttering your wheels as you approach the rocky outcrop ahead.

It’s moments like these that we were promised in the run up to the PS5’s release and it really makes the new controller feel a step-up from its predecessor.

Colour-changing LEDs

Where the DualShock 4 had a light bar on top, meaning you wouldn’t generally see it during gameplay, the PS5 has four subtle LEDs, conveniently positioned on the front of the DualSense, just around the touchpad.

The familiar uses within single-player games remain, with your health level often represented through the familiar green/amber/red phases. But multiplayer is where this function shines: games can change which LEDs as illuminated based on which player you are and their colour will match your in-game avatar’s colour

It’s a smart switch from the PS4, allowing even quicker reference mid-game if you find yourself driving into walls or falling from ledges purely because (and admit it, we’ve all done it) you forgot who you were controlling.

Haptic Feedback

The vibration function in the DualSense controller has been revolutionised. With haptic feedback, the controller gives a far greater sense of space in the world; you can now feel exactly where explosions happen or gunfire comes from.

There are many examples of how this improves the experience within games. In racing games, you may be able to feel the difference between driving on tarmac, dirt or sand, for example. And in Planet Coaster, when you hit a hump in the track of a rollercoaster, it’s the but absence of vibration that brings the nuance. In the real world, as negative G-force lifts you out of your seat sending your body upwards, it lessens your contact with the coaster, and so lessens the vibration you feel. Take a ride on your creation in Planet Coaster and you’ll find the haptic feedback absolutely nails this sensation.

It’s no longer that rumble is either on or off; feeling the haptics change depending on your situation in a game is just incredible.


The potential of DualSense has been so deftly-demonstrated already that we can’t help but feel excited for what’s to come. We’re awaiting sequels to fantastic titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, as well as new IPs like Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop and the thought of how these may implement the DualSense makes the mind boggle. Will Kena have the little Rots running all over her via haptics? Will the speaker allow supernatural presence in Ghostwire to breathe down our necks and prickle our hairs? Will Colt feel the triggers of his guns resetting as he repeats yet another Deathloop?

Only time will tell, but we’re sure that the revolutionary DualSense will be instrumental in elevating our play to new heights.