We’ve already established in previous articles that the PlayStation 4’s refreshed controller is a thing of beauty. The analogue sticks feel sturdier than a body builder’s biceps, the triggers melt under your fingertips like a Mini Milk in the microwave, and the light bar looks snazzier than Chewbacca donning Dolce Gabbana shades. One thing that we haven’t spent too long talking about, though, is the touchpad in the centre of the peripheral.

Much like the rear sensor on the PlayStation Vita, developers have yet to make a convincing argument for the shiny surface. Augmented reality showpiece The Playroom allows you to practice your Pong skills with the clickable companion, while you can cycle through your power-ups in Killzone: Shadow Fall – but outside of these scant examples, content creators have been decidedly quiet about the added input. Does that mean that the superfluous function is already redundant, though – or is it merely being overlooked?

Inspiration in navigation

Of all the potential uses for the touchpad, the most obvious option pertains to navigation. The advent of smartphones and tablets has made it second-nature for us to swipe through menus, and we suspect that this trend will continue on the PS4. In fact, if you look at the way that the system’s user interface is arranged (above), it seems certain that you’ll be thumbing your way through your games and applications in much the same way as you do your albums on an iPod Touch.

The d-pad will always be there should you need it, of course, but there is something satisfying about skimming your finger across a surface in order to bring a menu to life. We suspect that most titles will employ the added extra in much the same way, too, allowing you to dash through options screens with a daring digit rather than relentless jabs on the face buttons. It’s not exactly going to change the way that you interact with your games – but it could make browsing through them that smidgen simpler.

Browse like a breeze

Speaking of which, it seems inevitable that you’ll be able to use the touchpad to surf the Internet. A leaked video showing the PS4’s interface confirmed that the next generation platform will include a web browser, and we suspect that the responsive surface will allow you to interact with pages in much the same manner as a laptop’s pointing device. The unit can be clicked, so tapping on links should be a fairly simplistic affair.

Using the analogue sticks to navigate websites on the PlayStation 3’s browser can prove a bit clunky, so the added accuracy of the central surface should make perusing Push Square a doddle. Of course, with smartphones and tablets such a common inclusion in so many households, it remains to be seen how often you’ll actually be booting up the next generation console’s window into the web. Still, we suppose if the platform holder’s committed to including an online application, it may as well ensure that it’s easy to use.

Games, games, games

While the aforementioned usability aspects all make more sense than standard deviation, it’s the actual games where the touchpad starts to look a little confusing. As mentioned, Killzone: Shadow Fall already uses the smooth surface to allow you to cycle through power-ups, while Blacklight: Retribution is employing the added input to trigger taunts. Outside of these, though – and The Playroom’s aforesaid Pong option – implementations are much harder to predict.

We know that inFAMOUS: Second Son is using the unit for finger-scanning mini-games, so we suspect that studios like Quantic Dream will have fun with the immersive aspects of the interface. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be surprised EA Sports brought back the brilliant touch screen aiming from the Vita version of FIFA Football. We also reckon that smartphone-centric games such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds could work on the system – although the fact that you’re not interfacing directly with the screen may lessen the appeal of those types of experiences.

Is it worth it?

The amount of time that we’ve spent actually pondering the above uses for the touchpad – several hours, we’ll have you know – evidences just how little immediate reason there is for the DualShock 4’s touchpad. However, it also explains why we’re lowly writers rather than big-shot game designers, and we’re hopeful that more imaginative minds may come up with some more interesting uses for the unit than ours.

Still, the more options the merrier – and we suspect that’s it that thought process that encouraged Sony to include the shiny surface in the first place. Considering it probably costs pennies to manufacture, we don’t think that there’s any harm in letting studios experiment in order to explore what works. That may end up being little more than menus, or it could be something that fundamentally changes the way that we play. If nothing else, at least developers have another button to use should the existing eleven not prove good enough.


How do you think that developers will employ the DualShock 4’s touchpad? Are you comfortable with its inclusion, or do you think that Sony should have left it on the cutting room floor? Let us know in the comments section below.

Do you think that Sony was right to include the touchpad? (60 votes)

Yes, there’s no harm in it and it could lead to some interesting ideas

80%

I’m waiting to see some more implementations before I decide

17%

No, it will only be used for menus and the d-pad works fine for those

3%

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