What The DualSense Controller Teaches Us About PS5

What The DualSense Controller Teaches Us About PS5

We got our first glimpse at the DualShock 4's successor today. Here's what we can infer about the PS5 based on this new info.

Today, Sony casually dropped more news about the PlayStation 5. It was news revealed in a similar fashion as it has this whole next-gen cycle—from sit downs with Wired and Digital Foundry, to a very dry technical breakdown courtesy of the soothing voice of Mark Cerny. This time, it was a link to the PlayStation Blog. In a blog, Senior Vice President of Platform Planning and Management, Hideaki Nishino, revealed the controller for the PlayStation 5. And no, it isn't called "DualShock 5."

Instead, it's the DualSense. "DualSense marks a radical departure from our previous controller offerings and captures just how strongly we feel about making a generational leap with PS5," Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and president Jim Ryan says in a statement in the blog. Introducing new features like haptic feedback, increased tension on back triggers, and more, it's shaping up to be a robust overhaul of what we've grown accustomed to over the PlayStation console family's lifespan.

But unlike the Xbox Series X, we haven't seen the PlayStation 5 console yet. The DualSense, really, is our first glimpse at what the console itself could look like. So, here's what we can infer about the PS5 from today's next-gen controller reveal.

The DualSense is rethinking the PlayStation controller. | Sony

Sony's Really Gunning For That Big Buzzword: "Immersion"

One of DualSense's new features is haptic feedback, which in essence, sounds adjacent to Nintendo Switch's "HD Rumble" functionality that's only used in like two games. In its blog, Sony describes the functionality as being able to feel the "grittiness" of a car as it drives through mud. There's also increased tension in the triggers—the same R1, R2, L1, L2 as past DualShocks—wherein players will now feel every facet of an action, such as drawing a bow back to shoot an arrow in the example given. To the chagrin of our own Reviews Editor Mike Williams, there appears to be no rear paddles as we suspected there might be after that recent DualShock 4 attachment. Sad.

It all feeds into one of the big technical innovations Sony paraded during its recent specs deep dive presentation for the PS5: its Tempest 3D AudioTech, wherein audio will ideally conform to how everyone's individual ear is shaped in order to deliver the best possible sound. While the PS5 may not have the sheer teraflops power that the Xbox Series X is boasting, it's aiming its next-gen sights elsewhere. From its unique SSD, described at length during Cerny's recent presentation, to the immersion-minded technology imbued in the DualSense, the PS5 is trying to grip the full attention of players more than past consoles.

The Xbox One has had something similar to this capability in its controllers since launch. With its "Impulse Triggers," developers have been able to implement directional vibration in Xbox One games, in addition to the shoulder triggers offering varying degrees of feedback. With the Elite 2 series of controllers, even analog sticks have adjustable tension. So, this sort of functionality in controllers isn't wholly new to home consoles or anything.

Sony finally got the memo though. With the PS5 and DualSense, Sony wants you to feel more present while playing games. On the surface, it sounds gimmicky like the Switch's HD Rumble—in the same realm as how I kinda loathe whenever my DualShock 4's internal speaker speaks out loud to me in certain games. Of course, we won't know how the haptic feedback, advanced 3D audio, and adaptive triggers feel until we get our own hands-on with the next-gen console.

The PS5 Is Seemingly Abandoning The Micro-USB, And Maybe Traditional USB All Together?

While there aren't details of what cords the DualSense will require, it's easy to spot two particular inputs on the controller. On its face, below the PlayStation logo button (which is no longer a circle) and what looks like a minus-symbol—possibly a mute or talk button judging from the microphone icon near it—there looks to be a small circular headphone jack. (It will also let players chat via an in-controller microphone array without a headset for "quick conversation[s]," which sounds not great, honestly?) On its top-end, in place of where a micro-USB cord once plugged in for the DualShock 4, there is a thinner input slot that looks similar to the USB-C. The Xbox's current Elite 2 controller and its next-gen Series X controller also utilize a USB-C port, which has quickly become the standard in the tech world.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the PlayStation 5 proper abandoning the USB wholesale in favor of USB-C slots. Currently, the PlayStation 4 Pro has three USB ports. The Xbox Series X is confirmed to have three USB 3.2 ports already.

Punching Up How We Share Our Gaming Experiences

One key new tidbit in the blog is that instead of the popular "Share" button from the PS4 era, it will be replaced with a "Create" button. "[W]e've built upon the success of our industry-first Share button to bring you a new "Create" button feature," writes Nishino in the blog. "With Create, we're once again pioneering new ways for players to create epic gameplay content to share with the world, or just to enjoy for themselves. We'll have more details on this feature as we get closer to launch."

While details of what Create's functionality will entail are sparse, that quote does bring to mind the "State Share" feature that Google teased back when it first revealed Google Stadia in 2019. With State Share, Google proposed that players would be able to jump into the game they're watching, using the same save state as the streamer themselves. As of 2020, the feature is still not in Stadia, but in theory, it's a neat idea and a step in the right direction as we head into a new generation.

Despite later lagging behind in terms of the PlayStation 4 Pro compared to the Xbox One X, one feature that Sony was forward-thinking on from the start of this generation was its implementation of the "Share" button. Nowadays, the Share button is essential for sharing screenshots of games we play; of funny clips we experience. The new Create button is maybe the most fascinating glimpse at what the PS5 will allow players to do and share next, considering how useful the Share button has proven itself to be over the course of this generation.

Ugh. | Sony

The PS5 Might Be Ugly?

Potentially most damning is that Sony appears to be abandoning its single-color palette for its launch console. My knee jerk reaction to the DualSense's white and black two-toned color scheme is that whew, it's ugly. It looks like a third-party Xbox controller, not even a third-party DualShock.

The original PlayStation is iconic, with its gray-ness and bright primary colored logo. The PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 subsequently carried on a pure black launch color scheme, though the shape of the PlayStation 3 was definitely the ugliest of the bunch. (I'll never forget that round, oblong rectangle shape.) The roundness of the DualSense's controller has me concerned that the PlayStation 5 will be closer to the PS3 than the PS4. Only worse.

Part of my shock about the DualSense controller's look is due to the shape of the controller itself, which looks larger and more rounded than DualShocks have been in the past. As someone who's always favored the DualShock's shape to that of the Xbox controller, it's a huge bummer. (Admittedly, Microsoft has always had superior build quality despite me not being a fan of their shape—such as with the modular Elite series.) Even with user mockups showing the controller in a single shade like black, the curvier controller just doesn't look good. The face buttons look wrong too, as they teeter on the edge of the button shape itself.

It has me really worried about how the console itself will look. We already know what the Xbox Series X, or at least one model of it, will look like. It will basically be a monolithic PC tower, but for your TV. PlayStation has long had solid console designs, even if some of its controller experimentations—remember the Boomerang—have been iffy. Xbox, meanwhile, only found slick design relatively recently with the Xbox One, and now the Xbox Series X. It's come to understand that simple is better. With the DualSense, I am worried that Sony is taking a big step backward to something I wouldn't even like seeing in my entertainment center, which is a shame for my home console of choice.

In Ryan's statement, he notes that we'll be seeing the console in the flesh "in the coming months" as we speed toward its release window of Holiday 2020. With COVID-19 still bustling in the world though, that release window is looking increasingly uncertain by the day. As always, we'll be following all the next-gen news as we float into the rest of 2020.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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