The PS5 DualSense controller maintains PS4 DualShock's worst design decision

Even worse, the technological advancements of the PS5's controller could make it's biggest problem more obnoxious than ever.

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As this next console generation dawns, there’s a lot to look forward to. Between utilization of newly designed hardware and software, the Xbox Series X and PS5 are looking like strong steps forward in the home console space at the end of this year. I currently lean towards PlayStation 5. As a fighting game fan, I’ve always favored the PS4 controller, and the regular use of the platform at various events and competition made it the obvious choice for me. It’s looking like it will be the same for PS5, but I have to admit the new PS5 controller leaves me annoyed. It sounds fantastic, featuring haptic response and sensitivity features that promise to provide the most immersive interface possible, but it leaves one of the most unfortunate design choices of modern PlayStation controller design unfixed. I’m talking about the R2 and L2 shoulder buttons left completely uncovered on the PS4 DualShock, and now apparently on the PS5 DualSense controller.

The PS5 DualSense controller aims to improve upon the PS4 DualShock in a number of ways, including haptic feedback, a lightweight, yet powerful battery, and more.
The PS5 DualSense controller aims to improve upon the PS4 DualShock in a number of ways, including haptic feedback, a lightweight, yet powerful battery, and more.

Let me lay out the issue plainly, and any PlayStation 4 player may already know: The PS4 DualShock controller sits directly on the tips of the R2 and L2 as two points of contact when laid down normally. Why does this matter? Well, say you’re watching something on YouTube or Netflix or pause the game on a menu and you put the controller down on the couch to go get a drink, go to the restroom, or whatever. Chances are likely that if it’s the YouTube or Netflix scenario, you’ve come back to find your controller fast forward through an entire video by mistake. If it’s a pause menu, you’ve probably found it cycling rapid-fire through menu pages. The R2 and L2 buttons, besides being two points of contact when the controller is at rest, are also two of the most sensitive buttons on the whole device. And the PS5 DualSense controller seems like it only intends to build upon this.

And boy howdy, does the PlayStation 5 DuelSense controller look promising in how it intends to up the devices capabilities. As revealed in Sony’s first announcement of the DualSense, there were a number of priorities in the improvement of the PS5 controller that included a new built-in microphone array, a new lightweight, long-lasting battery, and technology that takes advantage of systems like the PS5’s new Tempest 3D AudioTech sound engine. However, one of the most important new improvements Sony has been toting is the improvement of haptic feedback on the PS5's adaptive R2 and L2 buttons… An altogether more sensitive system that will allow players to immerse themselves in the pull of a bowstring or the turn of a doorknob like never before.

Unfortunately, the PS5 DualSense's final design seems to imply that it will sit on the sensitive R2 and L2 buttons in a design decision similar to previous PlayStation generations.
Unfortunately, the PS5 DualSense's final design seems to imply that it will sit directly on the sensitive R2 and L2 buttons as two points of contact in a design decision similar to previous PlayStation generations.

Sounds neat right? I thought so. Until I got a look at how the PS5 DualSense controller looks in profile. A quick look at the controllers revealed final design shows that the new PS5 controller sits exactly as the PS4 controller did… with the two most sensitive buttons on the entire device acting as two of the four points of contact when you put the controller down. And if the improved sensitivity on the PS5 controller is any indication, you can probably expect it to cycle through your PS5 home menu, cycle through pause menus, and fast forward through the latest episode of whatever you’re watching if you rest it on a surface that nudges those buttons even a fraction of a millimeter, likely even moreso than the PS4 controller.

Why is this so bothersome? Because it seems so easily fixable. I don’t like the Xbox controllers that much, but look at the L and R triggers. Specifically, look at the way the controller casing is designed underneath them. There’s just a little bit of plastic shielding to ensure the controller doesn’t rest directly on its sensitive points of functionality. How hard would that be to do with the PS5 controller? Certainly the R2 and L2 shoulder buttons have evolved to feature a wider range of motion than we had on the PS2 and PS1 controllers, but why does Sony insist on leaving in a design flaw that could easily be fixed by just a touch of extended plastic molding underneath the trigger? Is it some kind of cost cutting measure? Even if so, it seems counterproductive to the overall health and functionality of the controller.

The design of the PlayStation controller sitting directly on the R2 and L2 buttons began with the PS3 DualShock, but it's only become more of an issue as the buttons have become more and more critical to the controller's overall interface and feedback up to the PS5 DualSense.
The design of the PlayStation controller sitting directly on the R2 and L2 buttons began with the PS3 DualShock, but it's only become more of an issue as the buttons have become more and more critical to the controller's overall interface and feedback leading up to the PS5 DualSense.

It doesn’t feel outlandish or whiny to ask that Sony create a solution for this issue. I am a PlayStation person for now (not rabid, but it’s my go-to system for sure). I want the PS5 to be the perfect step forward that it promises to be in every way. I want to enjoy advanced 3D sound, modular M.2 SSD upgrades, ray-tracing to produce cutting edge water and weather visual effects, revolutionary haptic feedback, and more. What I don’t want to worry about is so very carefully putting my controller down to do anything really quick for fear that the lack of protection on arguably the two most important buttons on the device will be triggered to obnoxious or outright inconvenient ends. And I don’t feel like I’m alone in this concern in the slightest. Sony. Step up your game. Protect your shoulder buttons. Don’t make PS5 players wait for third-party controller designers to figure it out for you.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
    • reply
      June 11, 2020 10:16 AM

      I don't think this has ever caused an issue for me and the PS4 has been my primary console for 5+ years. I think the stick layout or the seemingly icky d-pad would be a bigger problem. I've mostly gotten used to the former and it's wait and see for the latter.

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        June 11, 2020 10:32 AM

        As much as I use my PS4 as my main film and video platform, I can't tell you how many times I've put my controller down to get something or do something quick and it fast forwards rapidly through an episode because the L2 R2 buttons are also fast forward and chapter skip buttons on everything. It's inconvenient and it doesn't have to be with just a little extra plastic.

        • reply
          June 11, 2020 10:50 AM

          Yeah, it happened a few times to me as well. I just put it down very gently now, then that problem doesn't occur.

      • reply
        June 11, 2020 10:33 AM

        I’ve put my controller down a bunch of times and accidentally heavy hit a merchant/NPC in Dark Souls. ><

    • reply
      June 11, 2020 10:33 AM

      As a fighting game fan, I’ve always favored the PS4 controller

      As a fighting game fan, I have many joysticks. I even have a 6 button pad. Are you sure you are a fighting game fan?

    • reply
      June 11, 2020 10:58 AM

      maintains the worst design decision?

      Worst design decision?

      I'll agree it's a bad design decision, but uh, that big huge battery-sucking 🔋 light bar was by far the worst design decision.

      That stupid light can't be turned off (when using it for PS4) and is only functionally useful if you have a PS Camera and are playing a game that utilizes that specifically like Astrobot. Sometimes a game will change the color of the light bar, but that's purely cosmetic novelty, hardly useful.

      The L2 and R2 are bad but I don't think I'd even put that design decision in the top 3 of bad stuff about the DS4.

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        June 11, 2020 11:01 AM

        That's a legit point. The DS4's battery life is ridiculous, all for a bit of functionality no one ever uses.

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        June 11, 2020 11:04 AM

        Worst.

        The light bar doesn't do anything besides eat battery and that's not even that big of an issue. Controller still lasts hours upon hours and charges quick. Put a PS4 controller down normal and it will trigger the L2 or R2. and it's an issue that absolutely doesn't have to exist if they'd just mold the controllers base to act as new points of contact as opposed to the most pressure sensitive buttons on the device.

        It's only going to get worse as PS5 evolves the functional sensitivity of L2 and R2 further.

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          June 11, 2020 11:12 AM

          Controller still lasts hours upon hours and charges quick.

          😂🤣😂✋🙇

          😯😮

          😐🙂😁😆😂🤣

          • reply
            June 11, 2020 11:21 AM

            I don't know what to tell you. Generally, mine can go for hours before I have to worry about plugging them in and they'll be ready next time I need them without fail. Maybe my hardware's just in good health... minus obnoxious L2 R2 design. :3

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              June 11, 2020 12:44 PM

              Same. I have never once had to stop playing a game because the battery died on me. If you're playing so long that your battery is dying then re-evaluate some life choices lol.

          • reply
            June 11, 2020 4:09 PM

            You don't have launch day 2013 controllers do you? You know you can go into settings and turn light bar to 'dim' mode? Ours lasts for ages.

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        June 11, 2020 11:23 AM

        I like knowing the cops are on me in GTA V based on the flashing blue and red light.

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        June 11, 2020 12:08 PM

        Yup. It's just as pointless as other RGB bullshit. I have never gone "OH MY LIGHT BAR IS RED FUCK I BETTER CHUG A HEALTH POTION"

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          June 11, 2020 4:10 PM

          It was a cool concept though and as lacker said, the red / blue flashing is one of the few that is easily noticable by the eye when not looking at the controller even.

          Also radio chatter out of the controller was good. I like DS4.

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      June 11, 2020 11:00 AM

      That is really bad. I actively choose other clients for movies because I've accidentally fast forwarded in Netflix more than once when setting that controller down.

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      June 11, 2020 11:10 AM

      Any steps closer to the Xbox/Switch Pro controller are good ones. I couldn't use the PS1/2/3 controllers for more than 20-30 mins at a time because they were so uncomfortable to hold and would make my ring and pinky fingers esp on my right hand start to tingle and go to sleep. The PS4 controller was better in that front but is still uncomfortable to hold and the battery life is non-existant.

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      June 11, 2020 12:11 PM

      The thumb stick positions are the worst thing for me. They're not so bad on the DS4 since it's wider, but you could almost bump them together on earlier ones, and they're still not as comfortable as offset. Shitty afterthought positioning from the PS1 that sony is now stuck with.

    • reply
      June 11, 2020 4:00 PM

      It's a mild annoyance at best. The shroud around the buttons though - looks jagged on the fingers and a place for 'gunk' to build up.

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