The DualSense’s Haptic Feedback and Adaptive Triggers, Explained by Devs

But will third-party devs take advantage of them?

In the lead up to a new console launch, a lot of technobabble gets thrown our way as if it should mean anything to us before we have the device in our homes, Among that technobabble has been Sony touting out the PlayStation 5’s new controller called the DualSense, and that it will be bringing with it some haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that weren’t present in the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4. What if you, like me, are technologically illiterate and don’t know what that means? Well, Sony has gathered a few PlayStation 5 developers to explain how they plan to use these features in upcoming games.

Through a post on the PlayStation Blog, several developers broke down specific uses for haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Before we get into how those are integrated into specific games, let’s break down what those actually are:

Haptic feedback is the use of vibrations on a device to stimulate the feeling of touching something, and the inclusion of it is part of the reason the new controller is called the DualSense instead of simply DualShock 5. This goes beyond the general vibrations you’ve had on your controller for years, and is more targeted and specific to in-game situations.

Adaptive triggers will make the L2 and R2 buttons on the DualSense resist your pushing down on them or straight up lock down to simulate actions like your gun jamming or pressing down on the gas pedal in a racing game.

So let’s check in with some devs about how they’re putting this technology to use. You can check out the PlayStation Blog post for all of the testimonies, but here were a few that really stuck out to me:

Dinga Bakaba, the Game Director behind the recently-delayed Deathloop, said that the team at Arkane Lyon is using the adaptive triggers to block using the buttons to indicate that your gun has been jammed:

I’m really excited by the adaptive triggers and the haptic feedback, both features that will bring some physicality in game experiences, and give important feedback,” Bakaba said. “Deathloop being a first-person shooter, we do a lot of things to make weapons feel differently from one another. One I like is blocking the triggers when your weapon jams, to give to the player an immediate feedback even before the animation plays out, which prompts the player in a physical way that they have to unjam their gun.

According to Brian Horton, the Creative Director on Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the team at Insomniac is using the DualSense’s haptic feedback to try and emulate the senses and abilities of the superhero at the game’s center, whether that be in providing feedback in the direction of an enemy approaching, or by simulating the feeling of electricity moving throughout Spider-Man’s body.

“In Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, we’ll be hinting to players which direction attacks are coming from by providing haptic feedback from the appropriate direction on the DualSense wireless controller,” Horton said.
“What does it feel like to use Miles’s stealth ability? How does a Venom Blast feel? Because of the high resolution of DualSense wireless controller’s haptics system, we can really push the dimensionality of the feedback. For instance, as you hold down Square to do a Venom Punch, you feel Spider-Man’s bio-electricity crackle across from the left side of the controller, culminating in the right side on impact.”

In the case of Horizon Forbidden West, Guerilla says it will be using the adaptive triggers to make weapons in the game feel more distinct. Perhaps something like the triggers resisting more when protagonist Aloy pulls back an arrow in her bow than when she uses any kind of firearm?

“Horizon Forbidden West features new weapons that are designed to feel unique and play a specific role in combat with machines and human opponents,” said Game Director Mathijs de Jonge. “The DualSense wireless controller adaptive triggers will help us to make the weapons feel even more unique and satisfying to use.”

For a game like the Demon’s Souls remake, which is heavy in melee combat, the plan is to use haptic feedback to create a sense weight to fighting by giving you feedback with every strike of your weapon and every well-timed use of your shield.

“With the DualSense wireless controller and the power of haptics, we can make the combat [in Demon’s Souls] feel grittier, darker, and deadlier,” said creative director Gavin Moore. “Now you feel every blow as you strike down your enemies and cast each spell. You’ll experience the force of a titanic boss’ attack as you pull off a well-timed guard. Metal strikes metal when your foes block your attacks or you block theirs. That extra sensory feedback through the controller allows you to know your attack hit home and your perfectly-timed parry was a success, so you can react faster and more decisively.”

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Ultimately, a lot of the platform-specific tech ends up being used mostly by first-party developers. Even as recently as The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog used the PlayStation 4’s touchpad as a means of playing its in-game guitar, and I realized it had been a minute since anyone had used the touchpad as anything more than a big button in the center of the DualShock 4. It makes sense for third-party developers to not invest the time and resources into utilizing these things as they make their games for as many platforms as possible, and given that much of Sony’s developer testimony came from first-party developers or ones with some exclusive deals going on, it does make me wonder how much we’ll see these features taken advantage of in the next generation…whenever that starts, because as of this writing, we still don’t have a release date or price for the PlayStation 5 beyond the nebulous “holiday 2020” window we’ve been getting for months.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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