Between delays and a lack of heavy-hitting launch titles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X launches could be seen as a little underwhelming with little reason for most people to run out and pick one up on launch day.
This all changed when I picked up the DualSense controller. Picking it up for the first time with it turned off, I wouldn’t say it felt next-gen because of any particular thing, but just because it feels fairly different to the DualShock 4. It’s heavier, it moulds to the hands better, and just feels more premium.
However, the second you boot up Astro’s Playroom is when the power of the DualSense controller really comes to light. It’s a Wii Sports moment that I’d almost guarantee will leave anyone holding the controller surprised and delighted. I’d read Toby’s impressions of the DualSense controller as well as many other impressions, but it really is the type of things you have to get into your hands to feel.
I can only talk about one level of Astro’s Playroom currently, and as a pack-in game, it’s really fantastic. It’s far more than a tech demo, and definitely a solid little game in its own right. Jumping into the Cooling Springs level, you feel every little bit of movement in the sand thanks to the new haptic feedback in the controller.
I was skeptical that this wouldn’t go that far beyond current vibration, but you feel it in every little bit of the controller. It’s similar to the HD rumble in the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con but I’d argue that it works better here because you’re feeling it throughout the entire controller. I didn’t realise how much of a difference it made until I went back to another game that didn’t have haptic feedback.
Next came the use of the Adaptive Triggers, which again, I understood before going hands-on, what they’d do, and thought that I could imagine what the sensation would feel like, but I was in a bit of disbelief when I actually got hands-on with them. There was a moment that I can only really compare to holding a Wii Remote in Wii Sports for the first time or jumping into PlayStation VR for the first time. It’s a moment that I think will really hit home with anybody who picks up a DualSense controller, and will really resonate with any gamer no matter how hardcore they are.
Again, I can only speak about one level in Astro’s Playroom, but this specific level has you suiting up in a spring suit, with the Adaptive Triggers providing resistance and actually giving you a tangible sense of how much you need to press down in order to correctly make the jump that you want to make. It takes it beyond looking at the screen to see how much your character is springing down, because you can actually feel it on your finger dips. Astro’s Playroom should be the first thing that you play on your PS5, equally because it’s incredibly fun, and sets the stage for what the PS5 is trying to do in the innovation space.
Going into this generation, I don’t think I ever expected the most exciting thing about a new console to be the controller, and a very tactile mechanic that is going to play a big part in a lot of these games initially. Sure, the SSD is still exciting, and having more horsepower is nice, but the DualSense controller feels like something new, and that’s always exciting.
Obviously, it’s going to be interesting to watch how developers continue to use the Adaptive Triggers. They obviously require a decent amount of work and require the right in-game mechanic to pair them with, so hopefully they aren’t just used as a gimmicky factor and are continued to be used in ways such as how they are in Astro’s Playroom, which genuinely add to the immersion factor.
Obviously, the last leg on the road to next-gen is exciting, but I think we’ve got an exciting 6-12 months ahead in seeing how developers take advantage of the new hardware. I’m hoping that I’ll continue to be surprised and delighted by how these consoles, and the DualSense controller in particular is used to create new experiences, and freshen up some seasoned franchises.