In Sifu, the DualSense Turns Rain into Haptic ASMR

Rain vibrations make brain go brr.

I don’t have much to add to the conversation around Sloclap’s martial arts game Sifu that hasn’t already been said by people who have played more of it and are more familiar with its portrayal of Chinese culture. I’ve certainly not put in the amount of time it would take to write several guides about it (which you can also find on this website). But from the little time I’ve spent with the aging beat-em-up, one thing that stuck out to me is how it simulates rain using the DualSense’s haptic feedback.

The opening menu of Sifu shows a dark, rainy night outside a school, which later acts as the player character’s base of operations. Within the menu, you’ll find all the usual selections you’d naturally expect in a video game: new game, options, credits, or quit. For most folks, I imagine they hit new game real quick to start the action, but I was lulled into a trance by the DualSense, in a way that I hadn’t experienced with the controller since probably Astro’s Playroom at launch. From the controller’s speaker plays a low hum of rainfall — similar to something you’d hear on an ASMR video or a white noise app. That alone was neat, but what kicked it up a notch was the use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback to simulate the feeling of rain crashing to the surface.

As I held the controller, I could feel the pitter-patter of raindrops pushing against the controller’s mold. It was random and unknowable, just as standing in the rain would feel to my character as I stood outside the school. If there was a pattern the inside of the DualSense was emulating, I couldn’t recognize it. I stood there for quite some time, just feeling the rain inside my controller push against the grips in my hands.

In Sifu, the DualSense Turns Rain into Haptic ASMR

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Since the PlayStation 5 launched in 2020, I’ve found myself turning much of the DualSense’s features off in games, and including recently with the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection. Adaptive triggers, which resist when you push them down to fire a gun, or vibrate as you press the gas of a car, were nice novelties at first, but I’ve never found they add much to my experience on the system. And for some disabled folks, they can actually prove a detriment, so it’s good that those options are there for people who need them. But more often than not, the DualSense doesn’t feel like it adds much concrete value to the games for me.

But even if some developers aren’t doing much with it beyond making it slightly harder to pull the trigger of a shotgun, it’s heartening to see others using the tech to implement new ideas — particularly ones that may not enhance the mechanics of a game, but rather play into the ambiance of a space in ways that weren’t possible with previous controllers. Hell, even Microsoft is asking players if they want to see this kind of tech implemented in Xbox controllers, and perhaps, if it becomes more ubiquitous, more developers will try to find new, creative ways to use it.

I don’t think I’m going to keep playing Sifu. Despite how sharp its action is, I’ve got other things to get done in this busy time of year. But for just a moment, it gave me a brief glimpse into a world where the DualSense’s bells and whistles were more than a toggle I’d turn off at the earliest opportunity.