With each new PlayStation generation comes a new DualShock controller – that is, until the PlayStation 5. Sony’s upcoming console comes with the newly named DualSense controllers.
Sony has covered some of the major changes before: New adaptive triggers, an updated grip, better battery life, a “create” button replacing the “share” button, a microphone array … But the devil, as they say, is in the details, and going hands-on showed the potential this controller had.
At Sony’s hands-on event earlier this week, I got to put the controller through its paces in three games – SackBoy: A Big Adventure, Square Enix’s Balan Wonderworld, and Astro’s Playroom. Of the three, the latter showed the most how the DualSense controller could shine.
There’s definitely a different feel with the DualSense controller. The grips feel slightly stockier and grippier, without affecting the ergonomics for those with smaller hands. The thumbsticks have more texture than the DualShock 4’s, which I preferred right away, and they seem less likely to suffer from wear and tear. As for the other improvements, it’s best to describe how it felt within the games.
That said, I did notice a small buzzing from my headset plugged into the DualSense, while the controller was being charged via its USB C port. It’s not a major issue, since most of the time you’ll be using it wireless anyway. Anyway, read on for more on the games and controller!
SackBoy: A Big Adventure
A new LittleBigPlanet adventure is upon us, and this time SackBoy gets the titular role. This 3D platformer puts you in charge of SackBoy, who has to foil the plans of the evil Vex.
What SackBoy managed to do was to showcase the power of the PlayStation 5’s graphics. With more power and pixels, SackBoy looks absolutely great, especially close-up. You can see all the stray bits of yarn sticking out of him and the other characters, and there’s more packed into the graphical seams of the game.
We did manage to try one level where the Dualsense’s motion sensors come in handy. There, you’ll have to tilt the controller to move certain platforms – and you can move the platforms while controlling SackBoy separately. It does feel more responsive than the DualShock 4. I’m pretty keen to see how the other SackBoy levels will integrate more DualSense features.
SackBoy also had time trials, but those were pretty tough, especially if you’re aiming for gold. Getting a silver is easy enough, but man how on earth do I get quick enough to get a gold medal?!
SackBoy: A Big Adventure looks fantastic and has a fine level of polish ahead of its launch, and looks to be a promising 3D platformer.
This is the Square Enix game that has been shrouded in a little mystery, especially since it’s done by a new studio, and has the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog behind it. In my short time with it, I can say that this is as “Japan 3D action platformer” as it gets.
While the game didn’t quite seem to push the PlayStation 5’s graphics capabilities as much, though there were some interesting scenes where the ground you’re traversing on would get deformed on the fly. Controls were pretty straightforward – and didn’t really seem to lean on any of the DualSense features.
Balan Wonderworld felt like a version of Kingdom Hearts III mashed up with Sega’s Nights series. You’ll be able to unlock new animal-based skills along the way through costumes like “Piggy Pounder” and “Dainty Dragon”, each with their own benefit in combat and platforming. I’m sure I had a puzzled / bemused look on my face throughout the hands-on, but there’s also a sense that Square Enix are totally embracing the the weirdness and quirks of the game, with no tongue-in-cheek at all.
The kids will love it, I guess? If anything Balan Wonderworld did show that not all games might maximise the full potential of the DualSense. But with the improved grip and touchsticks things felt good. If anything, I think Balan Wonderworld helped convey how comfortable the new PlayStation 5 controller is.
Just as Astro Bot served as a way to introduce the capabilities of the PlayStation VR in the form of a game, Astro’s Playroom aims to do the same for the DualSense controller.
For starters you’ll get a guide through the various features of the controller, including the adaptive triggers and the microphone. But the fun really starts when you explore the various worlds in the game, each of them focussed on the capabilities of the PlayStation 5.
I got a go at the Cooling Springs level, which is aimed at reminding us that the PlayStation 5 has some nifty hardware to prevent overheating. In it you bring Astro through an icy world, while making full use of everything the DualSense can do.
And what fun! As Astro skates his way across the ice, the way the controller vibrates with each skating action, and with the corresponding sounds from the DualSense’s speakers (not the TV), it takes you deeper into the game. And whether it’s an explosion, or specific actions you’re making, the controller vibrates differently. You can even feel vibrations moving from side to side, or emanating out from the centre. Vibrations actually have some granular detail, which is pretty amazing.
At a few points Astro puts on a froggy suit (zipped up by swiping up on the touchpad). You’ll need to point Astro in the right direction by tilting the DualSense, and then pull back the trigger depending on how far you want to jump. The motion sensor comes into play here, but so do the adaptive triggers. Unlike the simple triggers of your, the adaptive triggers provide resistance when you’ll pulling back on them. And the more you pull, the more resistance you’ll feel (as long as the game has that feature, they otherwise feel like regular triggers).
It makes for more immersive gameplay, and also helps you get a feel of how far you want to be pulling. In another area Astro gets his hands on a bow and arrow, where you can get a better sense of how far you’re pulling on the bow. With another weapon, a machine gun, each pop of the bullet corresponds with a nice kickback on the controller.
And in another part of Cooling Springs, you get to blow on the controller to propel Astro forward. This we didn’t get to try – you don’t want spittle all around, what with COVID-19 – but I did notice that rubbing the microphone port will at least get the propellers moving.
And even while you get familiar with the controller, Astro’s Playroom is the perfect nostalgia blast for PlayStation fans. There’s lots of easter eggs in there to keep you busy, and you will definitely want to visit the PlayStation Labo portion of the game. I spent the most time there just walking around, gleeful, like a child again.
Play Has No Limits
I actually haven’t managed to purchase a PlayStation 5, especially with the consoles selling out quickly after the go on sale. In a sense, there’s no rush – my PlayStation 4 is running fine, and I’ve been told not to buy into the hype. (And it’s a matter of time before I get it.) But I have to say, having held the new DualSense controllers in my hands, the hype is real. No thanks, Sony, for making my FOMO worse.
So while my attempt to make like Nathan Drake failed utterly, I think my time with the PlayStation 5 showed that Sony is on the right track. I wish we had more games to really push the PS5 just to see how good the graphics can be, but with the DualSense controller alone, there’s much to be excited about the PlayStation 5.