When is a third party controller not a third party controller? When it’s the HexGaming Rival PS5.
No, that wasn’t meant to funny but the HexGaming Rival PS5’s status is making my brain hurt. There are, technically, no third party PlayStation 5 controllers, partly because there’s all sorts of technical shenanigans involved with getting a non-official controller working with a console. The HexGaming Rival PS5 is, technically, a third party controller; the lack of an official Sony logo is pretty telling. But what HexGaming has done is take the guts of an official DualSense controller and use them to create its own controller.
The controllers are currently available through HexGaming’s official website, though they may end upon Amazon at some point. You have the option of customising your controller’s appearance, and for an extra $30 you can add “Fastshots” triggers which make the L1/L2/R1/R2 buttons hair-sensitive, though I skipped out on that. Typically, you’re looking at a price tag of between $249 and $300 for a customised controller.
Hey, where are you going? Just give me a second. Yes, the HexGaming Rival PS5 is pricey, but while it shares some of the guts, it’s not meant as a like-for-like replacement for your official DualSense. Like the company’s Hyper PS4 controller, it’s meant to be on a par with an ‘Elite’ Controller and if you’re a PS5-owning FPS player it could really up your game.
Unlike the Hyper PS4, the Rival PS5 doesn’t sport a new, wider shell, mainly because the standard DualSense doesn’t need it. It has fractionally more heft than the DualSense which made it sit more comfortably in my hands. The same is true of the two rear buttons; even before I started using them, my fingers found their place there.
When you start messing about with the programmable rear buttons, that’s when the fun really starts. It’s true you can rearrange buttons using the PS5’s accessibility options but being able to copy any two buttons to those real buttons is a major boon. I’ve never really been a fan of having to push the joysticks in to activate a function so, right away, I remapped those to the rear buttons. It was a joy to have to think about pushing the sticks; stealth mode? Hit the rear left button. Night vision? Rear right button.
Granted, depending on the game you’re playing, you might want to copy other buttons (the original button retains its function) but you can copy any function, including the touchpad click. This is particular valuable in FPS games because, more often than not, “switch weapon” is mapped to one of the face buttons. So, for the half-a-second you’re switching to another gun, you’re only using one of the thumbsticks. If you map weapon left and weapon right to the rear buttons you can switch weapons without so much as blinking.
Speaking of thumbsticks, you can swap the textured concave sticks out for domed thumbsticks, or a mixed, but longer, textured and domed pair. I stayed with the texture sticks but the option’s there if you want it. Another boon for FPS players is that the L2 and R2 have a much reduced travel distance so it’s much quicker to get off a shot. The latter also proved handy in the PS4 version of Street Fighter Anniversary, letting me fire off strong kicks and strong punches quicker than before.
However, there’s a catch. No, I’m not talking about the fact that the Rival PS5 doesn’t come with a cool case (though you will be able to buy one separately later). The problem is, because the L2 and R2’s travel distance is so short, it means you can’t use the PS5’s adaptive triggers for different functions.
Take Returnal, for example. On the official DualSense PS5 controller you press the L2 trigger slightly in for free-aim mode, and all the way in for secondary fire. Tap the trigger on the Hexgaming Rival PS5 and you get secondary fire, with no free-aim. In theory, you should be able to press the trigger in just enough to activate free-aim but it’s not practical. The Hyper PS4 had buttons that let you change the travel distance but they’re absent from the Rival PS5.
Fortunately, Returnal will let you change the controls so that another button activates free-aim, and this is a non-issue in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, but you could find yourself having to tweak the settings of any game that employs a similar mechanic. The upside is that with the Hexgaming Rival PS5 it’s easier to get the drop on Returnal’s foes than with the vanilla DualSense.
The Rival PS5 is a great piece of kit – and not just because you’re not getting genuine Sony parts. If you’re a first-person shooter enthusiast, the kind of person who plunges hour after hour into online matches and aspires to go pro with Apex Legends, you’ll find a lot to love in this controller. The Hexgaming Rival PS5 is squarely aimed at pros – and it has the potential to give you an edge over the DualSense-owning competition. Whether that advantage is worth the asking price is up to you.