While we still don’t know what the PlayStation 5 console will look like (or whether it will really still hit its “holiday 2020” release window), we at least know about its controller. The PS5’s gamepad, dubbed the DualSense, largely resembles previous DualShock models, but it appears to have just enough changes under the hood to merit a mostly new name.
Tuesday’s surprise announcement comes courtesy of the official PlayStation Blog. The biggest technical difference comes in the form of a wholly updated “haptic feedback” suite, which we understand compares favorably to Nintendo’s “HD rumble” feature in its Switch Joy-Con controllers. Sony senior VP Hideaki Nishino doesn’t go into fine detail about how the DualSense’s rumbling will differ from the DualShock 4 line, but finer-tuned haptic feedback can offer a greater range of rumble sensitivity and placement than most gamepads offer, at least when done right. “Stereo” rumbling feedback that carefully rumbles from one side to the other could be possible with such a system, but Sony didn’t clarify.
Nishino only mentions one specific DualSense rumbling bonus compared to other gamepads: “Adaptive” rumbling feedback. Nishino offers a vague description of how pressing the PS5’s “L2” and “R2” triggers will let players “truly feel the tension of your actions, like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow.”
While Nishino’s text doesn’t say so, the controller’s charging port now appears to be a USB Type-C connector, though it remains to be seen whether this will enable faster battery charging in the future or whether the DualSense’s internal battery will be any bigger than the wimpy DualShock 4 offering. Without official specs just yet, we’re left trusting Nishino’s pledges of “strong battery life” and “lessen[ed] weight.” And it’s not just new rumbling tech that might weigh this controller down; the DualSense will also sport an embedded microphone array, which Nishino describes as appropriate for “a quick conversation.” He recommends that players still use a dedicated headset “for a longer period.” Neither the above images nor the official PS Blog post confirms whether or not to expect a 3.5mm headphone jack.
PS5 design hint? VR issues?
Otherwise, the star of the DualSense announcement is its new, bold two-toned design, a first for a launch PlayStation gamepad. While it’s the boldest reimagining of the PlayStation controller concept in years, it’s still ultimately conservative in comparison to the PlayStation 3’s “boomerang” concept, which was eventually scrapped. Sony’s first revealed DualSense model sports a white controller with black accents, along with a tiny array of blue LEDs peeking through its newly arranged “light bar.” Could this be a loud hint to a similar color scheme in the PS5 hardware itself?
Speaking of that light bar: Though the PS Blog doesn’t mention it, the previous DualShock 4’s light placement was set, in part, because the optional PlayStation Eye camera tracks that controller’s location via RGB sensing of its lights—and the same goes for PlayStation VR’s array of LEDs. DualSense, on the other hand, includes no such massive LED block transmitting in the direction of a camera, and it’s a hint that any new PlayStation VR headset (which Sony has suggested but not formally announced) will use a totally different sensing system. This also puts into question how PSVR backward compatibility may or may not work with PS5—since some current PSVR exclusives currently revolve around DualShock 4 RGB sensing (particularly the stunning Astro Bot: Rescue Mission).
Beyond the above new features, every button, joystick, and basic concept from the DualShock 4 (including its giant touchpad) returns in slightly modified form, although its “share” button has been rebranded as a “create” button. Unsurprisingly, Sony didn’t describe exactly what will make the button different this time around.
Sadly, the most exciting rumored feature for the PS5’s controller, linked to a patent about biofeedback sensors built into a Sony gamepad, didn’t appear in Nishino’s post. Since he didn’t include any teases of “more controller features to be revealed,” we’re not optimistic about Sony surprising us with news of a heart-rate sensor hidden inside the DualSense, but, hey, who knows? We’d take PS5 backwards compatibility with DualShock 4 gamepads as a consolation prize, but we imagine that kind of information will have to wait until later confirmation as Sony continues its drip-feed of PS5 details over the next few months.
Listing image by Sony / Aurich Lawson