A new console generation always brings a sense of excitement built around higher frame rates, beefed up resolutions and a seemless user experience, all of which are apparent in the PlayStation 5. Yet after some hands-on time with the machine, I came away more impressed with the system’s excellent new DualSense controller. Sony’s new console is accompanied by a piece of kit that could well and truly play a big role in enhancing a game’s immersion in ways I didn’t think possible.
A departure from the DualShocks of yesteryear, the PS5’s DualSense controller is truly something else. Much like its older brothers, the controller itself feels premium — it’s a bit bigger but fits in the hand well. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take me too long to adapt to the controller given it isn’t that big of a design difference when compared to its older brother. I did appreciate the subtle changes, though, like the illuminated light bar now looking less intrusive, a sizeable touchpad, and a nice textured backing grip. These all come together to form a premium piece of kit.
The biggest win, though, is the DualSense’s adaptive triggers. New console generations always bring gimmicky little features and I had full confidence this would likely be the same… Then I spent an hour with Astro’s Playroom. Suffice to say, I can absolutely see this being a game-changer if developers pick this tech up and run with it.
The DualSense would accurately recreate whatever I was doing in-game, whether I was pushing through a dust storm or firing off a toy arrow. The latter gave me my first taste of what the controller could really do — emulating bow tension in the triggers as I drew back an arrow to shoot. The triggers felt harder to press down, and as I let go of the shot it felt like they snapped back into place, ready for another crack. It was one of those ‘aha!’ moments, and was an experience I was absolutely compelled by.
Haptic feedback was also used in interesting ways during my time with Astro and his many mates. Trodding through sand felt noticeably different to skating at speed through the beautifully designed icey levels, for example. There was a certain nuance to it — and it can be minute in detail — but certainly helped bring the whole experience together.
These moments were consistent throughout Astro’s Playroom, and helped immerse me in the game’s world even more. That said, I can’t wait to see how the DualSense is used in games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. And honestly, these features need to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated — from a technological standpoint, they could well change the way we interact with games on the system, whether that’s swinging through Harlem or taking a shot at goal in FIFA. I finally understand why PlayStation have been getting developers to talk about this tech in their games — it’s bloody brilliant. Going back to an older controller will feel weird.
The console itself, while a behemoth, looks beautiful in the flesh. It’s sleek, super quiet and load times are fantastic. While I only had time with Astro’s Playroom, I was still able to enjoy jumping between different levels extremely quickly — collecting artifacts along the way and having a great old time doing it.
Speaking of Astro’s Playroom, I had a blast with it. Those expecting a full-fledged Astro Bot sequel will have to wait a little longer, though this is no brief tech demo — it’s a hilarious little platformer that is a genuine delight to play. There are PlayStation-themed easter eggs sprawled throughout the handful of levels, and the game itself shows off what the PS5 can do in a variety of compelling ways. The controls feel tight, there’s a bunch of collecting to do and hidden areas to find and, considering it’s pre-installed on every PS5 console, should be on your to-play list come November 12.
With just a couple of short weeks remaining before the PlayStation 5 officially launches, I’m excited to fully dig into the nitty gritty of the system and play through the plethora of titles on offer. There’s been so much talk about the fast loading times, the more stable framerates and resolution output of the machine, yet I’m most excited to get some quality time with the DualSense and see what it can do in games like Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Not long to go now.