Let’s get this out of the way from the start; DualShock 4 is hands down the best pad Sony has ever created. You want to know the reasons? Then stay with me and read me talk about analog sticks, touchpads, speakers and that (seemingly) good for nothing light bar.
Still there? Great. So, as you can see in the pictures, DualShock 4 is a refined version of the pad previous iteration (DualShock 3) thanks to a couple of tweaks in design and brand new features. All the trademark elements of previous DualShock controllers are there; the two analog sticks, de d-pad to the left, the four buttons to the right, and the four triggers at top.
The aforementioned sticks have been submitted to a design change though, taking the concave approach in order to grant an improved grip overall. Though fingers still slip from time to time from the sticks, it’s clearly an improvement from DualShock 3’s sticks, which still featured the convex shape. What may be not so cool about the sticks is its cover, which in my personal experience, has worn out from the left stick on the two controllers I have. I don’t know if it’s a flaw that every DualShock 4 faces or if it’s just a batch of them that had the issue (if you have a DS4, please do share your experience regarding this matter on the comments below!).
Aside from the sticks, both back triggers have been re shaped, this time going from concave to convex, which gives a more natural feel when playing a shooter or accelerating while riding a vehicle. All in all, the whole idea of this tweaks, plus the lower profile on the face buttons and the handles being a little more open, is to give a more ergonomic experience in my opinion, which the controller does and in a big way.
Now, regarding the new features the controller pack, let’s start from the worst to the best ones. 2015 and now we know the light bar apparently has a purpose far more important than just… well, produce light. It seems it will work as a reference point for when Morpheus releases, but as of today, the light bar only does one thing (maybe two) and that is eating our controller’s battery life. That’s hands down the biggest flaw of this controller; battery life, with the patch update that lets you dim it and all, is waaaay below the one we were used to when playing with a DualShock 3. Sony also promoted the light bar as an element that would give some kind of immersion if you play with all your lights off. So far, the only example that comes to mind where this is very well implemented is in Transistor, which in conjunction with the controller’s speaker, makes the PS4 the best place to play said game.
Yes, the controller has a speaker, which is also one of the new features and the one I like the most. Taking Transistor as an example again, the speaker plays a key role in all this immersion game; whenever the sword talks, the sound comes from the speaker. Add that to the fact that the light bar varies its intensity when the sword talks and you have yourself a pretty awesome experience. Another games use the speaker in clever ways (Killzone and its communicator, Infamous and spray cans, etc), so one can only imagine what other uses are there for this cool new addition in the near future.
The last big addition to the controller is its touchpad, which competes with the speaker for the “best new addition” award. The touchpad is super responsive, it is made of a material that makes contact not to slippery, but also not too rough, which is perfect. This feature opens up a lot of possibilities regarding gameplay; take for instance Killzone, where with a quick swipe in any of the four directions, you can change the programming of your robot. As with the speaker, I’m eager to see what developers have in store for us with this new feature.
Minor additions would be the Share and Options buttons; one is self-explanatory and lets you take screenshots, videos or stream gameplay, whereas the other works as a replacement for the Start button. The final addition is the input jack for a wired headset, which doesn’t hurt and it proved to be useful when the wireless headset runs out of battery. To round up, charging method is via microUSB, and can be done with any cable that follows said format.
As I stated at the start of this article, DualShock 4 is Sony’s best effort yet regarding controller design. It feels good, reacts good, and the new additions eclipse the minor throwbacks the controller has. Lastly, it’s worth noting that DualShock 4 is compatible with PC and PlayStation 3, though sometimes it’s up to the games to decide if they will accept it as a valid controller or not (take FIFA on PS3 for example; FIFA 14 won’t let you play the game, whereas FIFA 15 does).