The PlayStation 4 controller is just slightly better than the best thing ever
What people like or dislike in a video game controller is often subjective; our hands come in many sizes and shapes, and what feels comfortable to me may be intolerable for you across lengthy playing sections. There is no perfect controller, as everyone is looking for slightly different things in how they control their games.
That being said, the PlayStation 4 controller may be the best thing since sliced bread.
The sum of its parts
It’s hard to measure the controller against its peers without having a variety of controllers right next to each other, but the DualShock 4 feels larger in my hand, with a much more rounded design where you grip the controller. It’s also slightly heavier, and the overall design rests against the natural curves of your hand in a much more natural way.
My first thought when a developer placed the controller in my hand was the following: “Holy shit, that’s nice.” It takes a bit to work backwards to figure out everything Sony did in the design to get that reaction, but there you go.
It felt almost too good, like I was holding something illicit. I was afraid it would be taken away. It felt like the first time I touched a girl’s breast in the backseat of a car with fogged up windows, scared that her parents were going to fling the door open and start yelling at me. I wanted to grab the controller and run. I wanted to nuzzle it against my face and ask it who is a good controller? Who is a good controller?
You’re a good controller, you sexy thing, you.
The triggers are likewise more comfortable, curving slightly inward to hold your finger. The buttons and D-pad likely have some subtle distinctions between the Dual Shock 4 and the previous PlayStation 3 controllers, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference. The controller comes with rumble, standard, so we don’t have to suffer through Sony claiming that force feedback is a “last-gen” feature because it doesn’t want to pay to license it.
The analog sticks have a cupped design and a firmer feel; I never had the sense my thumb was going to slide off. I was able to try a hands-on demo of the upcoming Playstation 4 Killzone title, and in that game you swipe the touchpad to switch between different secondary powers. The action felt accessible and effective, and you can click down on the pad as well, just as you would the touchpad on your laptop. The director of the console version of Diablo 3 told me the touch pad was one of the things they were looking at while porting the game to the PlayStation 4, although they weren’t sure what they’d use it for quite yet.
The touchpad is a better move than you think. With more big-name games being released and ported to and from mobile devices, and even consoles like the Ouya, a touchpad on your controller means you’ll be able to play those games on your console. Microsoft’s answer to touch controls is the Kinect, an expensive accessory that is likely partially to blame for the system’s $500 price point, while delivering a control mechanism that is still nowhere near as precise as a physical controller.
This is Sony’s play for better ports to and from other devices and, while I’ll need to play more on it to know for sure, so far it seems like that gamble paid off. The touchpad is already much better than the similar control mechanism on the Ouya controller. There is a light on the back of the DualShock 4, and that's going to let the new camera see where you are in the room or use the controller like a PlayStation Move. It's neat that it's there, but I'm not holding my breath for this feature to become very important. There is a also a port on the bottom for a mono ear bud and speaker that will allow voice chat in online games.
So that's the breakdown of things, but everything taken as a whole has created a controller that feels almost stupidly great in my hands. Yesterday I felt my next child move for the first time. I felt her tiny feet kick through my wife's belly, my hand finally being given its first tactile evidence that my child is alive and healthy. That experience was several steps higher than feeling the PlayStation 4 controller for the first time but, damnit, they were closer than I'm comfortable admitting.
The PlayStation 4 controller is up there with Otter Pops after a squirt-gun fight, and grilled cheese sandwiches. It's a good book and a hot bath, and Flight of the Navigator. I can't wait to play more.