Last night’s Sony PS4 announcement conference provided gamers with a glimpse into the future. Some specifications of the PS4 were revealed and some new games were announced. One of the bigger announcements was the unveiling of the new Dualshock 4, the PS4 controller. In truth, we had already seen some prototype versions of the new DualShock 4 just before the conference with a few leaks found throughout the interwebs. Nevertheless, we got the final version (or perhaps the final design is still flexible) last night, and from the looks of it, it could be the best game controller yet.
Of course, let me try to explain my reasons. For starters, the controller still maintains the DualShock identity, with the typical button layout for the D-pad and for the face buttons. There’s also the now standard dual analog sticks, updated with new looking heads that are concave rather than convex. Rumble support is still included, although sixaxis support wasn’t specifically stated. The general size of the controller is similar to the DualShock 3 and the grips on the handle sections seems to have been improved to offer better and more ergonomic hand support. These somewhat standard features and improved features are a natural evolution of an already good controller.
Now onto some of the new features. Let’s start off with the PSMove-esque light bar found on the top of the controller. Not only does the bar itself look good, but if implemented well, could add more variety to how players game. If the light bar functions much in the same way the PSMove functions, we could finally see more games implement precision control in genres such as FPS and even RTS. RTS games have been having a hard time materializing on consoles, perhaps this is just the controller required to help get it up and running on consoles. Having recently played Dead Space 3, I can imagine using the DualShock 4 to manually change the plasma cutter shooting angle using the light bar. In the heat of the moment, it’s much easier knowing what angle you’re shooting at when it corresponds to your controller.
The other new feature included on the DualShock 4 is a touchpad. Now, this wasn’t really touched upon either at the press conference, so it’s hard to see how it can be implemented well in games. I could definitely see it being useful in indie games though. With Sony’s seemingly increased interest in hosting indie games on PSN, more creativity could be added by simply including the touchpad. We’ll just have to wait and see how it is used. Outside of games though, I can see it being very useful. Scrolling the user interface (the new XMB) and other applications like an internet browser would be much easier and smoother with a touchpad. It could be that Sony intend to primarily use the touchpad for these extra features rather than in-game, but it being there might just spark some creativity in game developers.
Finally the remaining new feature on the controller is the new ‘Share’ button. Primarily used for social interactions, this seems like a simple but useful feature to include on the DualShock 4. Of course, only those with a heavily integrated social and gaming life would be able to fully utulize this function, but again it simply being there will spark interest from everyone. Depending on how the social integration is handled, many gamers could be uploading pictures and videos, or helping out other gamers if called upon.
One thing I would say I would have liked to of seen, are extra diagonal buttons on the D-pad. This would be highly useful in fighting games, but would also provide more buttons for HUD purposes. It would certainly be a great addition, but as it stands now, the DualShock 4 looks to be feature packed, comfortable and highly useful.