Well folks, there she is. The PlayStation 5’s new controller, the “DualSense.” Go ahead and add it to your browser dictionary now because you’re going to be typing it a lot in the coming months, I’d wager. As you can plainly see, the DualSense features the same standard input configuration as every other PlayStation controller since the introduction of the original DualShock in 1997, with some striking cosmetic and form-factor differences between this new model and the current DualShock 4.
The big new thing — or should I say, big new things — are haptic feedback (rather than force feedback, aka traditional rumble) and what Sony is calling “adaptive triggers.” Based on the wording in Sony’s announcement post on the Official PlayStation Blog, it sounds like the DualSense’s new haptic feedback capabilities will be somewhat akin to the Nintendo Switch’s HD Rumble, enabling “a variety of powerful sensations you’ll feel when you play, such as the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud.”
“We also incorporated adaptive triggers into the L2 and R2 buttons of DualSense so you can truly feel the tension of your actions, like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow,” the post reads, acting like “adaptive triggers” is a totally normal phrase to just throw out there. This is the only example given of how adaptive triggers might work or what purpose they serve, but just based on this extremely vague bit of detail, they do sound distinct from the rumble triggers found on the Xbox One controller.
That all sounds neat on paper, but I’m concerned that haptic feedback and fancy triggers will end up going mostly unused by developers outside of Sony’s first-party studios. Extra controllers are already super expensive due to the current generation’s inclusion of trackpads, speakers, IR blasters and other unnecessary ephemera, so I can only imagine how much a DualSense will cost if it’s got all the DualShock 4 stuff in it and this new tech. (I refuse to pay $100 for a controller, Sony. I know you haven’t said that’s what you’re doing, but I just want to tell you ahead of time, it ain’t happening. Times are tight.)
Meanwhile, in the “changes that actually matter outside of a handful of first-party Sony titles” category, the DualSense features a USB-C port, thankfully (if not predictably) upgraded from the DualShock 4’s micro-USB slot. Said port will be used to recharge the built-in battery, and while Sony claims to have put “thoughtful consideration into ways to maintain a strong battery life,” it doesn’t go into specifics about how long that battery life might actually be. The DualSense also has a built-in microphone, “ideal for jumping into a quick conversation,” but Sony recommends a full headset for like, actual things.
Speaking of headphones, Sony hasn’t shown us what the bottom of the DualSense looks like yet, so we’ve no idea if it retains the DualShock 4’s expansion port and/or headphone jack. We also don’t know the actual dimensions of the device, how much it weighs, or why Sony decided to rename the Share button as the “Create” button, other than to have one more bullet point to put on a slideshow somewhere.