PS4 Controller is a revolutionary evolution of Sony’s famous DualShock technology. The core design of the PS4 controller is similar to prior Sony DualShock controllers hailing all the way back to the original PlayStation. Originally, the PlayStation featured a basic controller with a D-Pad, four buttons split between the left and right shoulders, a select/start button and the iconic Sony button set (Square, Triangle, Circle and X). Eventually, Sony released the Dual Analog controller for the PS1, which added two analog joy sticks to the set up, but the Dual Analog soon phased out of existence as Sony introduced the first DualShock controller. The DualShock featured two vibrating motors that responded with vibrations to the action taking place on screen. This DualShock technology has become the signature feature of Sony systems ever since.
After the PS2, Sony was riding high on their market dominance, which lead to the crazy promises about what the PlayStation 3 was capable of (it will talk to gamers’ toaster like a schizophrenic homeless person) and some complacency on Sony’s part (which lead to its slipping console supremacy in the seventh generation). This insanity and hubris might have been initially seen as partially or wholly responsible for Sony doing away with the DualShock line of controllers for the Sixaxis controller that launched with the PS3. The Sixaxis controller featured motion sensing technology providing six degrees of freedom to the controller allowing for a wide range of motion. Additionally, the Sixaxis added more precision to analog controls with higher sensitivity and the controller received digital and analog inputs simultaneously during gameplay. The frame below the L2 and R2 buttons was removed to give them a trigger feel changing the analog input from pressure sensitive to distance sensitivity.
Outside of that, the Sixaxis remained similar cosmetically with the exception of the PS home button (allowing players to return to the XMB, switch controller port or turn off the system) replacing the analog button beneath the select/start buttons, the lack of L2/R2 frames and the four LED lights to indicate controller ports. Finally, the Sixaxis added wireless technology to the controller, but the motion control innovations resulted in the loss vibration in the controller (a lawsuit about the rumble technology was a bigger hurdle than the motion sensing). Once the Immersion lawsuit was settled in March 2007, Sony was able to add rumble features again to their controllers leading them to release the DualShock 3 with Sixaxis technology that allowed for both motion sensing and rumble to work simultaneously. The Sixaxis was almost immediately discontinued and gamers have politely forgotten about it much like everyone’s JNCO pant phase in middle school. The DualShock 3 remains the dominant Sony controller leading right up to the newest innovation of the technology with the PS4 controller.
The PS4 controller features an updated design of the popular DualShock look. DualShock 4 looks more ergonomic than prior iterations. Sony took plenty of input from developers (such as Naughty Dog, Media Molecule and other first-party Sony studios) on what lacked in the DualShock 3 that they could implement to make it better. What is most striking about the PS4 controller is the added light bar above the charging port. This light bar registers where the controller is located allowing it to track the position among multiple controllers. That gives the PS4 the ability to keep track of who is holding which controller, so if player one hands off to another player across the room, the split screen will re-adjust, moving player 1’s screen to this new location. Or if players simply swap places then it registers that as well. The light bar will change colors to let people know which player is which on screen and the patterns on the bar will change to respond to status in game such a low health.
The PS4 controller also features improved Sixaxis motion sensing refining the sensitivity of the Sixaxis sensor for improved functionality. On top of the controller is a touch pad that is multitouch, which will allow for new gameplay opportunities by either thumbing or flicking the touchpad. Additionally, controller for the PlayStation 4 features a speaker located above the PS home button that will add some extra high-fidelity sound dimensions to gameplay. On the bottom of the PS4 controller is a headphone jack that will allow players to jack a Mono Headset into the port allowing for chat during games. The Select/Start buttons have been combined into the new “OPTIONS” button that will allow players one simple button to pause the game or change settings in the game.
“SHARE” may be the most intriguing new feature of the PS4 controller. This “SHARE” button is located next to the D-Pad and it will allow players to share gameplay immediately with the press of a button. With this share function, gamers can now upload footage of impressive gameplay directly to streaming services such as Ustream or directly to Facebook so friends can see their achievements. Players no longer have to worry about converting video formats like they have to on the PC, the PS4’s share button will allow players to share easily with friend in real-time. Lastly, the unit can be charged in a dedicated charging station during system standby or use a smartphone charging cable via the USB port.
It has been a long road leading to the latest innovations with the PS4 controller, but the DualShock 4 may be the best Sony controller yet.