News Article

Talking Point: Do the PS4 Controller's Gimmicks Add Anything Worthwhile?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Bright like a touch light

You’ve (hopefully) had the PlayStation 4 in your home for a few weeks now, meaning that you’ve had ample opportunity to test out all of the devices features and functions. We’ve already polled you on your overall impressions of the device, its social capabilities, and more – but now we’re turning our attention to the DualShock 4’s various gadgets and gizmos. Do extras such as the touchpad and light bar actually add anything to your experience, or are they just a waste of resources?

Controllers don’t come cheap for Sony’s next generation console. A standard piano black peripheral from Amazon will cost you £49.99 and $59.99 in the UK and North America respectively, with the European exclusive Magma Red and Wave Blue options retailing for an extortionate £69.99 ($115). We daresay that the high prices can primarily be attributed to the platform holder (and retailers) trying to recoup losses on the system itself, but it’s also clear that the handset is packing some serious technology under the hood. The abovementioned illuminated strip and sensitive surface clearly add costs to the unit’s manufacture over the DualShock 3. The question is: are they worth it?

It was hard not giggle earlier this week when Square Enix flaunted Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition’s unique features on the PS4. The publisher mentioned that the controller will flicker orange and red when protagonist Lara Croft employs her torch – a clever but completely unnecessary utilisation of the light bar. Killzone: Shadow Fall employs it to display your health, while Need for Speed: Rivals opts to switch hue depending on your chosen faction. Other than that, though, the feature’s uses seem fairly scant. Granted, on-board augmented reality application The Playroom fuses the camera with the coloured panel in order to offer some PlayStation Move-esque motion tracking – but how many developers are truly likely to take advantage of this in the future?

The touchpad is in a similar predicament. Pinching to adapt the zoom on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s colossal map makes sense, while the OWL works great in Guerrilla Games’ abovementioned first-person shooter – but we’re yet to see many other more meaningful uses just yet. The overpriced high-definition port of smartphone smash hit Angry Birds: Star Wars seems like the type of title that would benefit from the responsive rectangle, but our review pointed out that the traditional analogue stick offered a much more reliable method of control. If not even games designed around tablet touch screens are making the transition, then what purpose does it serve other than as a giant replacement for the absent select button?

Admittedly, there are advantages to some of the DualShock 4’s other gimmicks. The enhanced motion sensor, for example, has enabled the platform holder to improve greatly upon thatgamecompany’s already exceptional botanical excursion flower, while the added rumble motors feel fantastic in almost all of the next generation console’s launch games. Furthermore, it’s still early days, and there may be some titles in production that prove the value of all of these added features. The upcoming Thief, for example, employs the illuminating panel as a means to provide feedback on whether you’re in the shadows or not. Played in the dark, this will augment an additional layer of immersion in the stealth game.

However, we’ve been waiting almost two years for valuable uses of some of the Vita’s various functions to emerge, and outside of Tearaway, very few games have actually used them in interesting ways. With the light bar sapping controller battery, we think that Sony should at least incorporate an option to turn it off at a system level. But with these features embedded into the DualShock 4 for the rest of the generation, did the platform holder make the right decision by including them in the first place?

What are your favourite implementations of the PS4 controller’s gimmicks so far? Are you getting frustrated by the light bar? Have you thought of any interesting ways in which the features could be used? Do you wish that the manufacturer would have just kept things simple? Illuminate us in the comments section below.

Do you wish the DualShock 4's light bar could be turned off? (76 votes)

Yes, it drains the battery and creates glare


Meh, I don’t actually care


No, it really doesn’t bother me much at all


Please login to vote in this poll.

Would you like the controller's touchpad to be used a bit more? (74 votes)

Yes, I think it has plenty of potential


Hmm, I’m not fussed either way


No, I’d rather just stick with buttons


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User Comments (29)



Paranoimia said:

I can't really fault the technology, it's just that developers need to think of ways to put it to good use.

I don't find the light glares too much, but it clearly drains the battery quicker, so I'm glad I bought a second controller. If they're not going to let you turn it off yourself at system level, then developers should turn it off (which they can do) if their game won't be making 'necessary' use of it.



ShogunRok said:

Part of me thinks that this is tech that will never reach its potential, just like the sixaxis. And personally, I couldn't give a damn, I don't feel the need to have a light on a controller that I'm never bothered enough to look at.



get2sammyb said:

I think that aesthetically the light bar is a pretty inspired inclusion, as it gives the controller a real futuristic look. I agree that it doesn't really add anything at all, though. I play in the dark and quite close to a wall and was expecting the ambient light to help me in Killzone, but I realised after a few hours that I needed to look down at it to notice it was even changing. Plus, it does drain the battery badly. I think an option to switch this off at the system level would be appreciated.

Also agree that the other features are never going to get used as much as they should. In the case of the motion sensors, I think that's a bit of a shame - especially considering they actually work now.



InsertNameHere said:

I'm still curious as to how the lightbar creates glare. I did a test with my move controller, which shines just as bright, and I didn't find any noticeable glare until I got super close to the TV. Which means that people have to be sitting at least 2-4inches from their screen if they're getting glare.



mistakable said:

I like the light bar personally, I don't mind the additional drain to the battery life too much seeing as the charge lead is a decent length, also my TV doesnt suffer from glare as the screen isn't made from a highly reflective material.
I would love to see more use of the touch pad though, it works really well in KZSF Imo.
Also Pro-tip for glare issues, just get a better tv; the controller is fine.



Deadstanley said:

I like the light bar. Due to its intensity, I can usually see it reflecting off of some surface as I play in the dark but that's only if I'm looking for it.

I would have thought that in NFS Rivals it would have been really cool if when you turn on your sirens if the light bar would flash red and blue. I think in Warframe it goes red if you're low on health. The way I look at it is that it's similar to the rumble feature. I never really notice if it's there or not, but nowadays it's pretty standard to have it, so it's included and utilized.

As for the touchpad, I'm surprised Sony didn't bake that into the PS4 menu. Instead of pressing right multiple times to get to the game or app you want to use, you should be able to also swipe and zip past a bunch in one motion.

I'd love for the motion sensing controls to be used more in FPS type games. I prefer the keyboard and mouse to the gamepad because of the precision. With a gamepad it's always a fight against sensitivity in the analog sticks. What I really enjoyed about Uncharted on the Vita was that if you aimed with the L button then you could slightly tilt the Vita and get deadly precision very quickly as opposed to fumbling the cross-hair around a target's head <looks at Hitman: Absolution>.



Reverend_Skeeve said:

I also like the light bar, but as most, I wish there was a possibility to turn it off. I have to charge my DS4 daily and assume this would not be the case without the light. I like the look of it, but until now, it is indeed just a gimmick I could do without.

The touch pad is nice, although a little too sensitive it seems...text input with it seems jittery, but I'm curious what devs will find for uses for being used as a thumb scanner in inFamous is a nice, little touch. cough

The gyros I like as so fine in Flower, so yay for them.

Another thing I wish for is the ability to turn off the DS4s internal speaker/output the speaker audio together with the normal PS4 system audio. I mostly play in the evening when my daughter is asleep, so I turned the volume down to zero to not disturb her/the wife, but now I can't hear the Killzone audio logs, for example. Plugging my headphone into the DS4 and output all audio over the DS4 --> headphone is a possibility, but the volume isn't that great, so I tend to plug my headphone into my TV, because it's louder that way, so an option for that would be appreciated.

That said, this is all easily fixable via an update, so I'm not too worried...and the DS4 is still the goddamn best controller I ever used.



Pink_Floyd said:

The only complaint I have about the DS4 is the battery life isn't grate other then that only time will tell how the touchpad will be implemented.



Tasuki said:

I like the light alot it kinda neat when you are playing in a dark room. As for the touch pad I had no idea what its used for on games. Guess I should press it more often to see what it does.



chazaroonie said:

I like the light bar and I think the touchpad is a genius idea. In Killzone it essentially adds 5 extra buttons to the pad, up down, left, right and... in I guess is the best way to put it. PC gamers are always talking about hotkeys and the like making their games better, so I think the touch pad could end up being a game changer. I do hope so, I think the dualshock 4 is an inspired piece of kit.



ShogunRok said:

I think at the end of the day, if I had to pick between a light that's barely useful and a much better battery life, I'd go with battery life every time. It's pretty shocking how fast the DualShock 4 runs out after playing PS3 with the DualShock 3 for almost 7 years. Constant reaction of "what, already?!" when the message pops up telling me the battery is low.



Ps4all said:

@get2sammyb I also noticed the battery life of the dual shock 4 is poor. I attributed this to the fact that all my chat audio was routed through the ds4 as my pulse headset isn't compatible yet. I wouldn't think an LED light would be to harsh on the battery. Still, I do miss the ds3 battery life. I keep one ds4 on charge while I play with the other.



RaymanFan2 said:

In answer to the article title title: No, IMO.
Except for improved rumble, which is great.
The improved motion sensing is welcome, but I don't want to be using it at all in games other than those specifically designed around it, like flower.
I also don't want games designed around it to feel forced.
Remember the Ratchet and Clank weapons that required you to tilt the controller, while simultaneously playing the game proper? Yeah, that wasn't fun.



ReigningSemtex said:

I love everything about the dual shock 4 except that the battery life sucks there should be an option to turn it off really because at the moment it feels like the dual shock 4 is on charge as much as my wii u gamepad.



Visiblemode said:

The touchpad has TONS of potential. Already love it in Killzone and Assassin's...much more can be done too.



Bad-MuthaAdebisi said:

Light on the front??? What, I can't even see it. Pointless. The touch pad works fine for simple commands but using it to move a cursor as in war thunder does not work, its awful. But other than this I think its a pretty decent design and a nice step up.



Jaz007 said:

I think the touchpad has great potential and that it's already being put to good use. I think it would be nice to let the light bar be turned off unless the developer says otherwise, the extra battery life would be nice. I think the real killer is when is when your PS4 a few feet away from your bed and a charging controller is making a freaking bright light with the light bar while your trying to sleep. I hope that they at least put an option there to turn it off.



Carl-G said:

I didn't like the touchpad features in 'Killzone:SF' :-/ Just trying to select what the OWL should do was a pain in the ass while trying to kill the bad guys at the same time :-/ It just felt like i had more buttons to press + the other thing i hated in KZ:SF was the small on screen text :-/ God knows why game makers think everyone has their faces stuck to their TV screens

  • I like the light on the DS4 pad but you can't really see it while gaming so a bit pointless really. The best New thing i like is the speaker on it, that made me jump the 1st time someone spoke thru it
  • They should of put a small microphone on the pad so you could use voice controls without buying a Cam or using that headphone thingy.
    Apart from that the pad is cool;)


Reverend_Skeeve said:

@Carl-G Agree on the text-thingy...most of it I can read okay, but the comics you can find are barely readable for me, as is the text when you speak to Sinclair when on mission (the little picture of him in the upper right corner). I have a 46" HDTV which is probably not too outrageously huge compared with what others may have and in many cases maybe bigger than what others play on...I don't understand either how text issues like this can still happen...those arose at the beginning of current gen already on the would think devs would've learned by now.

Do they do all their testing on 50" HDTVs and beyond? Only thing that'd make sense...



rastamadeus said:

Did they stick your own profile/Trophy collection on the pad in the end (so if you take it to someone's then you have your Trophies) or not? Will likely be getting a PS4 this Sunday and just curious.



Deadstanley said:

@ReigningSemtex Off topic, but the big reason I don't play my Wii U anymore is because it seems everytime I go to play that the tablet battery is dead. If I keep the tablet horizontal, not on the stand, it maintains the charge. If it's upright on the stand it loses charge while not even in use, so I guess some battery contact is being made.

Supposing that I do start on a full charge, it's done in about 2 hours... which is okay I guess considering I have other things to do, but it really shouldn't be that way.



ReigningSemtex said:

@Deadstanley wow really 2 hours that's pretty awful mine is about 4 I don't think it helps leaving it in the charge stand (which is what I do) I think it helps kill the battery quicker, I bought a pro controller for £15 most games support it and the battery life is great but I believe Nintendo now sell an upgraded battery for the gamepad which is supposedly a big improvement on battery life.

I can't see Sony selling a better battery for the dual shock 4 unfortunately I am guessing battery life will improve on later models at which point I will buy one of those and eBay my current ds4.



charlesnarles said:

Devs need to come up with intuitive ways to include them into the standard genres without being gimmicky. Fallout 4 is begging for use of the touchpad for the Pip-Boy and minigames, which means TES can also use it for tons of interactions. No more tilting to maintain balance over pits of death, please : ) I love tilting to peek out in BF4 (gotta select the setting), but it still needs to be way more sensitive. Idk if a Camera would help that, tho. Do need turn off option for the light. I also want an option for the light to display the dominant color on the screen as dynamic ambient lighting



Gamer83 said:

The touchpad could be very cool. It certainly frees up the face buttons and directional pad in shooters so gives more options for different commands. And also with a game like Injustice I'm glad I'm allowed to use it for the mini games rather than mashing the face buttons. Saves on the wear and tear. The light bar I don't really have an opinion on one way or the other. I thought how it changed colors based on health in Killzone was cool but it doesn't add or detract from the gameplay. I will admit if the option was there to turn it off I'd probably do so more often than not but maybe Sony can still find an interesting use for it, we'll see.



-CraZed- said:

"The publisher mentioned that the controller will flicker orange and red when protagonist Lara Croft employs her torch – a clever but completely unnecessary utilisation of the light bar."

I tend to play in the dark. I have already noticed the light bar change color during game play and while it is subtle it adds that oh hey that's cool factor when I do tend to notice it. Plus the light bar makes it very easy at a glance to identify your controller after taking a break during multiplayer games AND it works with the camera for Playroom and other Move titles.

I like it and hope it stays as is. Maybe I'm in the minority but I'd have to say the minority in this case is smarter than the majority



JaxonH said:

The lightbar is on the front where you can't see it, so I really don't understand it changing colors and stuff. I mean, for whom? If YOU can't see it, then why bother? Nonetheless, I don't see it necessarily hurting anything, so I'm not against it either. Either way, doesn't make a difference to me.

As for the touchpad, I'm not sure how sold I am. I mean, Vita's rear touchpad sounded ingenious when it launched, but now after owning it almost 2 years, I'm convinced it was a "show-off" feature. Sounds great on paper, but not that useful. Games had to go out of their way to use it, and sure, climbing up ropes in Uncharted was cool, but the analogues would be just fine for that.

Having said that, I'm not against the touchpad either. I mean, it's not hurting anything by being there, so why not, right? Who knows, developers might surprise me with a shockingly inventive use for it down the line.



yakuzah said:

Apart from the initial novelty factor and when you play two player the lights change accordingly, I can't see a real use for the lighting on the controller.

Option to turn if off would be great, and preserve the already terrible battery life.



artemisthemp said:

I wouldn't care about the Blue light on the DualShock 4 if, it wasn't because it drain the battery and can a little hard to enjoy a movie in the dark with a blue light on the wall

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