Now that the lid is finally off the PS5, we’re starting to see studios talk about the games themselves, and we’ve seen the physical PS5 console design, I think it’s important to look back to the PS5 DualSense controller reveal earlier this year. While features like ray tracing, 3D audio, eliminating load times, and better visuals are certainly front runners for what will define next-gen, the changes Sony made to its iconic controller hint at games not just looking better, but also feeling better. The DualSense is one of the most important parts of the PS5. It’s a necessary peripheral that becomes the conduit between us and the games. So it makes sense that its upgrades will be, well, “sensed,” when next-gen rolls around.
A Rose By Any Other Name…
The DualShock is an iconic controller. Excepting the original PlayStation controller that didn’t have analog sticks and that weird period after the PS3 launched where we just had the Sixaxis controllers without rumble, Sony has never deviated from the name. Every single PlayStation console has had its associated DualShock, so we all just assumed that the PlayStation 5 would carry on the tradition with the DualShock 5. We were wrong.
Back in April, Sony revealed the DualSense, PS5’s new controller. No, this name change wasn’t due to some weird pending legal issue over the rumble capabilities (sorry Sixaxis). It was a deliberate, carefully crafted move to communicate a whole new generation of controller for PlayStation consoles. See DualSense isn’t a simple step up from the DualShock 4. It’s one of the biggest changes Sony has ever made to its controller line. To change a familiar and “safe” name means the company is very confident in what it’s doing. It’s a huge business decision.
The word “shock” implies just that: a shock, and has effectively communicated the controller rumble that brought big moments in games right into your hands. Rumble has been a part of gaming for decades. And while variable motors and different weights allowed developers to play around with the intensity of the rumble, it really lacked tactile nuance. Just look at the DualSense. There’s now more surface area for your hands to touch the controller. It doesn’t want to just shake your hands. It wants to do something more.
Now think about your touchscreen phone. You can tap on a key—an entirely digital, non-physical button—and the tactile vibrations make it feel real. You can “sense” it, if you will. The DualSense’s name change is meant to communicate that nuance and tactile feedback that the controller will provide. It’s not about shocking players anymore with rumble and vibrations. It’s about allowing players to “sense” elements of the game, becoming more immersed through the controller than they ever have before. The new haptic feedback and adaptive triggers will become a more natural extension of the game, bringing what’s on the screen right into your hands in ways I don’t think we can fully imagine just yet.
Whoa Oh Ooohhh, Talkin’ ‘Bout Haptic Feedback
What’s really set me off thinking about the DualSense—aside from it being an obvious big deal to change the name—is the number of developers that have specifically mentioned “taking advantage of DualSense features” or other phrasing calling out the new controller as one of the highlight, hallmark features of their games. Just take a look at a few of these tweets:
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) June 17, 2020
The Pathless advertised using the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) June 14, 2020
Astro’s Playroom will “tap into the new features of the PS5’s DualSense wireless controller.”
– 1 year after SM
– Set around Christmas
– Miles lives in Harlem
– High tech crime gang as the enemy
– Similar in scope to Uncharted Lost Legacy
– Near-instant loading
– 3D audio + DualSense controller
– Peter Parker’s story is not done
– Overhauled city pic.twitter.com/KnStsUA0Q2
— Armand (@ArmGunar) June 18, 2020
Insomniac shares more about Spider-Man: Miles Morales, specifically calling out the DualSense controller.
Exclusives “more important than they’ve ever been”, says Sony.https://t.co/giwxtK1SH6
Gran Turismo 7 loading times “will be next to nothing compared to what they have been in the past”. Cites unique use of DualSense controller. pic.twitter.com/emxRq2Rt4L
— Shinobi602 (@shinobi602) June 16, 2020
Gran Turismo 7 will use the DualSense to communicate the feel of driving and the terrain.
— Geek Tech – High Tech News (@GeekTech_App_EN) June 18, 2020
DualSense will make a “big difference” for Bugsnax.
And on and on and on. I searched out every major game I could remember off the top of my head from the PS5 reveal. It’s easy to find. Look up news on just about any game we know is coming to PS5, and somewhere, some developer or press release or marketing materials mention the DualSense and its “unique features.” Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. GhostWire: Tokyo. Horizon Forbidden West. All of them mention the DualSense. The same can’t be said of past controllers. The DualShock 4’s touchpad might be the exception here, but somehow the DualSense’s new features feel less like a gimmicky bullet point that saying “takes full advantage of the DualShock 4 touchpad.” Developers big and small seem to be really excited for what the PS5 DualSense controller is capable of and how it will make their games quite literally feel different.
We’re Underestimating Just How Immersive the DualSense Will Be
Aligning with Sony’s original plans to hold “hundreds of consumer events” this year—that now obviously isn’t happening, what with a pandemic and all—the PS5 manufacturer obviously wanted the community to be able to get hands-on with the new console, but perhaps more specifically, the DualSense controller. We can be treated to high-resolution videos and images. We can see demonstrations of the promises of fast loading times. Ray tracing looks gorgeous, even on a compressed YouTube stream. But without the controller in our hands, there’s no way to sense how these games will truly feel.
I’m even eager to see how a current-gen game might take advantage of the DualSense controller with the next-gen version. Games like Destiny 2, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Fortnite are confirmed to be coming to the PS5. How will these games feel different using the DualSense controller, if they take advantage of it at all? Coming from a game like Destiny 2 that I’ve played for nearly 2000 hours, I’m very curious to see if Bungie makes it feel different using the DualSense’s unique capabilities. That one upgrade alone could prove to be an enormous generational jump.
Immersion has always been Sony’s primary focus (and it learned a lot about this field from the most immersive form of gaming: VR). From 3D audio that puts you right inside the world of your games to ray tracing that will make lighting look more realistic and organic than ever before, the PS5 is making enormous strides in immersiveness. And the final touchstone to cap off visuals and audio is feel. While a bit of nuanced vibration in a controller may not sound like the biggest deal, I have a feeling that the DualSense controller will feel like one of the biggest leaps forward from this generation to the next.
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