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Well, this is embarrassing. Not a month after returning from E3 and telling a few friends how I didn't feel the new PS4 pad was all that, I've had to reverse my opinion (I'm off on holiday soon, so I suppose now is probably the right time to get some flip-flops in...).

The catalyst for this about-face was a recent Sony event, held in London so those that didn't get to E3 could pop in and see what was shown in LA. I wasn't there to see the games, though, especially when two of the four on display - Killzone and DriveClub - are the sort of titles that seem to hover around the 'okay' like your average DDR player.

No, I was there to go hands-on (again) with the pad. Having already pledged my allegiance - or some bollocks like that - to the Xbox One pad, if not the console itself, I wanted to see if my colleagues who liked it have lost their minds.

Turns out they haven't.

My initial hands-on with the pad had been in a publisher's booth at E3, where I was ejected after about 7 minutes play because the queue had grown too long outside. Maybe it was the control scheme of the game I was playing - Thief, which post-Dishonored made me feel like I was wrestling a gorilla genetically designed to kill all life on earth - but I just couldn't get on with it.

Here I was uninterrupted, and my first impressions were proven wrong. I'd never been a fan of the DualShock 3. It felt like a SNES pad with prongs and sticks glued on, which is exactly what it is. As an early adopter of Sony's third console I also got stung, getting something even worse: the SixAxis. This was a pad that was was so flimsy as to be translucent when held up to light - not a good sign for a system that had Demon's Souls as an exclusive.

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Despite the fact that it looks positively third-party - the touch pad is as jury-rigged as anything from the A-Team - extended play reveals the DualShock 4 has got a positive heft about it. It'll have to be thoroughly tested against the PES Rage Scale (which has seen many, better pads go to the big landfill in the sky), but so far it's looking good.

The analogue sticks have also been adjusted, eliminating the frustrating 'dead zones' of the previous model. Microsoft killed Sony in this regard last time out, especially on the shooter front. Requiring so many unnecessary degrees of motion that you'd be more likely to land up in Antarctica than score a headshot, they were unresponsive and poorly implemented.

Said dead zones have been overhauled for this model. The difference this makes to games like Killzone: Shadow Fall is hard to understate, and playing shooters online should now be less of a chore than it previously was. Speaking of the sticks, they're now concave, meaning that slippage should be less of an issue than before too.

This also applies to the triggers. For reasons known only to Sony's design team, which I presume was so high on weapons-grade hubris that it decided that designing for actual human hands was too simple, the DualShock 3 triggers were convex, meaning that it was inevitable that your finger would slip from them during frantic moments. No such problems exist here, with the company correcting that oversight.

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All told, it feels like the pad is a direct reflection of Sony's attitude this generation. Last gen it was a swaggering bully which was too busy patting itself on the back to realise that it was making more high-profile mistakes than Rob Green taking goalkeeping advice from a drunk David James. Now, it's listened, and seems to be giving gamers what they want.

Are there elements that I wish were different? Yes. L2 and R2 still don't really feel like triggers as they do on the 360 and Xbox One: more buttons with a bit of give to them. Stick placement is also not ideal, for me at least. Again Microsoft's solution is more satisfying: asymmetrical stick placement is better for those with bigger hands.

As a whole, however, this is a far better offering than what went before. I wasn't able to test the motion control capabilities of the pad, but the more traditional control solutions work well enough that even if it's average, or even poor, it shouldn't matter.

So, sorry, Sony. I was wrong. And sorry to Dave in the pub who I categorically told that it wasn't as good as he thought it would be.

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User Comments

DASHONFIRE's Avatar

DASHONFIRE

I don't agree at all with your views on the Dualshock 3, I prefer it to the 360 especially with shooters. Nice to hear you're liking the DS4 though, cannot wait to get my hands on it.
Posted 09:46 on 09 July 2013
Syme's Avatar

Syme

The Dual sticks always made sense to my hands because it feels natural to have the stick that moves the character and the camera in the same place. I know people think I'm crazy but trying to play games (even an FPS) with a mouse and keyboard has never felt right to me, as much as I persist with it. It's alright when they don't have 20 buttons to remember but most of them do today.

But I accept that I have small hands with long flexible fingers so the Playstation pads have always suited me. This description does sound good to me though because the sticks could stand to be a bit tighter.
Posted 09:48 on 08 July 2013
munkee's Avatar

munkee@ BrySkye

I used a Dualshock 4 a few times at E3 and it felt great.

I'm one of those people who has been playing Playstation since the first console release and yes I have become so accustomed to it that anything else feels wrong. The Dualshock 4 is fully upgraded, but still feels exactly like a Dualshock should. It also felt more expensive and incredibly responsive in combination with the games I played.
Posted 21:40 on 07 July 2013
LSR's Avatar

LSR

Well consider this, the xbox controller and any other controller is considerably inferior to play FPS games and anything that requires any sort of accuracy anyway so that is out the window for considering on my part.

As for controller type I see FAR too many people stating that a single controller is a be all end all, I have large hands (I am 6'3") and certainly have more strength in my hands than most gamers due to my work as a blacksmith... I have NEVER EVER had an issue with the ps3 controller outside of the shoddy spongy nature of the l2 r2 buttons, if they had retained the initial digital input stylings of the original dualshock and dualshock 2 they wouldn't have been an issue for me, concave or no... But hey I guess I just have a bit more control over my hands.
The sticks are designed to be rolled around the edges and levered btw, it is a preference thing but unless your hands are coated in butter there should be no slipping at all nomatter how many hours.

As for the weight and size of the controller, stop gripping so hard and weight doesn't mean build quality in this case, it just means weight... I lift ~900-1000kg over the course of a day when working with rail plates and see absolutely no reason why I need extra weight in my controller.

The sixaxis sensor was also terrible I will give that, terrible spongy triggers and horrible sixaxis sensor...

Everything else is either how you are used to the controller or personal preference in the case of these two controllers.

Also both analogues down the bottom work for me too so -shrugs- it fits well with the intended dynamic of holding hte controller.
Posted 15:02 on 07 July 2013
Devil_Slicer's Avatar

Devil_Slicer

I've never used a dualshock before the 3rd iteration. It's nice to see them tighten up the triggers, buttons and what not. Personally, I was fine with Dualshock 3, with my only gripe being its long-term durability. After 2 years, the analog sticks are a nightmare to use.
Posted 12:41 on 07 July 2013
BrySkye's Avatar

BrySkye@ Ghost_Dog

The thing about the Dualshock design is that's it's 16 years old and hasn't really undergone any major changes to it's basic feel until now.

Quite simply, a lot of people are just utterly accustomed to it, especially when the Playstation consoles are their system of choice.
Some gamers have quite literally grown up using the same controller design and its a fundamental part of their gaming experience, warts and all.

When you are that used to something, anything different just isn't going to feel right and probably won't for a long time.
I'm sure the DualShock 4 will have this problem with long-term Playstation gamers.
Remember the likes of the VG staff spend a lot of time with all the consoles, so rather than becoming used to any one controller, they preferences will tend to gravitate to those which are designed the most intuitively.
Posted 11:44 on 07 July 2013
reynoldio's Avatar

reynoldio

As mentioned below, it's interesting to read the article from someone who is firmly in the chunky-pad camp talk about the more svelte controllers - but as a fan of the DualShock 3 and someone who's played PlayStation more than I've used the 360 pad I have attached to my PC (KEYBOARD AND MOUSE BABY!) I'm wondering if I'll appreciate the changes.

I don't like extra heft, I don't mind about the stick location, I never noticed dead zones or issues with the triggers (you big moaneys) so will it actually feel weird to me?

I'm sure I'll enjoy it whatever! Interesting to see how (if?!) the touchpad gets used much, though.
Posted 11:23 on 07 July 2013
Ghost_Dog's Avatar

Ghost_Dog

Personally, I've never understood the hate towards the Dualshock 3 pad (though I admit, the Sixaxis was far too light due to the absence of the rumble feature). Maybe I have small hands?

But it's good to hear that the new PS4 incarnation is a step-up.
Posted 10:39 on 07 July 2013
AdesteFideles's Avatar

AdesteFideles

I've been using a 360 controller for PC gaming the last few years and have only recently re-started playing PS3 games. Jesus! Going from the 360 to the Dualshock has been a difficult transition. Especially since I went directly from Dark Souls to Demon's Soul.

For me the Dualshock is just too small. My pinky fingers continually fall off the bottom on the controller and the stick placement just feels all wrong.

Maybe things will be better if this new controller is even just slightly bigger.
Posted 23:45 on 06 July 2013
BrySkye's Avatar

BrySkye@ MJTH

I wouldn't say you're in the minority.
I'm sure many would agree with your assessment, at least in relation to 2D games.
Though it's debatable they've become bigger this gen... There were plenty on the PS2 and Gamecube, just very obscure in some cases because there was no digitial distribution methods and stores didn't want to stock them.
But it's the rebirth of retro-gaming via the virtual console, etc, that's prompted quite the renaissance for the genre beyond handhelds.

That's why there are many alternative controllers to suit that niche, and it is still a niche with the vast majority of those games being the likes of XBLA or indie titles.

When I want to play 2D games on the Xbox 360 or PC, I use my pdp versus fighting pad which doesn't even have an analogue stick.
Prior to that I was using Madcatz licensed Street Fighter IV fightpad.
Again, no analogue sticks, just a big ol' D-Pad, though it was the 'floating' variety, which is why I later got the microswitched pdp one.

Essentially, trying to make one controller do both results in a compromise.
In that compromise, most favour the Analogue sticks and buttons. Personally, I have to agree, though I will also concede that the domination of the FPS and TPS now means it might be time for the 2nd stick to start migrating upwards, swapping locations with the buttons in much the way the Wii U Pro has done.

None the less, if you want to play 2D games, it's better to get a controller truly designed for that which, let us remember, is what the Playstation pad was intended for.
Analogue sticks were just bolted on in the only place they could go as an optional feature that very very very few Playstation games actually required.
I only know of Ape Escape and... possibly some RC helicopter game?
Posted 23:30 on 06 July 2013
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH@ BrySkye

2D platformers now have become a much bigger genre this gen, then they have been for some time. I understand that it's not the biggest genre of the current gen and 3D is more important.

That doesn't stop me from feeling uncomfortable with that controller layout set up. Even though I know I'm in the minority there. I'm glad that the Wii U controller pro/ PS4 pad does suit my preferences though.
Posted 22:13 on 06 July 2013
BrySkye's Avatar

BrySkye@ MJTH

Quote:
I've said this before, but I don't like I how the 360 (or gamecube controller) had their analogue sticks not level. I love 2D platformers most and not having the Dpad the same level of the buttons annoys me. This annoys on the 3DS.
You understand why though, right?
How many 2D platformers are released for current consoles that are not re-issues of games from much earlier, pre-analogue, consoles?
They are there, but it's a pretty tiny number and even less of them go on full retail sale beyond digital distribution.
Most games are 3D based, and that's what the controllers are designed around.
So they put the controls you use most, the analogue stick and the buttons, in the locations most natural for your hands.

That's why Nintendo made the classic controller and, going even further back, the Gameboy Advance Player controller, in the exact mold of the SNES.
Click for Image
I imported one from Japan myself. Works brilliantly on GBA games and also 2D ones like the Japanese version of the Sonic Gems Collection (which also included all 3 Streets of Rage games, removed from the Western release).

But hey, could be worse...
Click for Image
That is not a photoshop job.
Posted 21:40 on 06 July 2013
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH

It's good to see the PS4 pad has fixed some of the DualShock 3 problems. Both the PS3 and 360 controllers had their problems. The PS3 controller had bad triggers, and was bit small and light (although I didn't mind the size and mass). The 360 has, a horrible d-pad and, in my opinion, a bad analogue stick layout, and I don't like concave sticks. I've said this before, but I don't like I how the 360 (or gamecube controller) had their analogue sticks not level. I love 2D platformers most and not having the Dpad the same level of the buttons annoys me. This annoys on the 3DS too.

If the Wii U Pro controller had analogue triggers, then it would be best controller this gen to me.
Posted 21:12 on 06 July 2013
BrySkye's Avatar

BrySkye

I never really considered a difference in the dead zones, but then again I never even considered trying to play an FPS on a Dual Shock.
Not after trying Time Splitters many moons ago.

I'm all for the tweaks, though I still maintain the left analogue stick is in the wrong place. There's a reason why both Nintendo and Microsoft adopted the other approach for the Xbox and Gamecube.
Thought he Gamecube was bloody awful for FPS games too, if only because the C 'stick' was really little more than a nub for manipulating 3D cameras and was never intended for extensive use as a main input.
Nintendo did then switch to the PS layout for the Wii classic controllers, but that must be balanced against compatibility with the Gamecube controller for N64/Gamecube games and that the Classic Controller had to have major consideration for 2D games where the D-Pad remains the preferable input.

Mind you, I haven't had a chance to hold one yet, but there seems a good chance the Wii U Pro controller may be as close as we've gotten to ergonomic perfection so far.
...Of which I will soon have to buy one, given that NSMBWU (lol...) has been patched to add support for it.
Posted 19:56 on 06 July 2013
GingerMessiah's Avatar

GingerMessiah

The Dualshock 4 looks interesting to say the least but I'd be lying if I said it looks more appealing to me than the Xbox One controller. Playing on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 for numerous years I can say the 360 controller is far nicer and the easiest to use; due to the fact the Xbox One controller looks practically the same as the 360's, I think I'll prefer it out of the two.
Posted 19:31 on 06 July 2013
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