PS4 vs. Xbox One – Round 2: The Controllers
In our previous round of PS4 vs. XB1, we discussed some of the released system specs and other details offered up by the companies. Now that both consoles have been floating around for awhile, users have first-hand knowledge of just what these big boys are capable of. Since the release though, most gamers have either chosen one or the other, leaving the majority of comparisons up to the upper echelon of critics or the hardcore fanatics, like me!
At a time when consoles are filled to the brim with features and loaded up on the inside with more advanced and complex configurations than ever, it can be hard to draw objective comparisons of performance. Hours of playtime with each is one of the best gauges of performance even if ultimately subjective, and even then these 2 newcomers are astounding in both similar and wholly different areas. The most obvious comparison that came to my mind are the controllers. The DualShock 4 (for PS4) is easily Sony’s most accomplished controller to date, and many people consider Microsoft’s previous controller for the Xbox 360 to be the best-designed controller of all time.
Who wins the round? I give Sony’s DualShock 4 the nod in this case, though Microsoft is proving that “control” can extend well beyond the “controller” with its Kinect add-on. This could be the last generation in which controllers hold so much importance, or at least the last that they remain primary input devices.
DualShock 4 (PS4 Controller)
The PlayStation controller has changed very little from its inception back in 1994, and even less upon the release of the “Dual Analog” in 1997 and the later “DualShock.” On the newest controller, the D-pad, action buttons, and left and right shoulder buttons have changed very little.
The thumbsticks are tighter than the DualShock 3, providing for more precise movement. Taking a cue from Microsoft, the top surface of the sticks is concave allowing for better grip. The LT and RT buttons have been redesigned to function more like a real trigger. Instead of the button being pushed straight down, it now pulls both down and back, giving the buttons a more natural feel when used.
New to the DualShock 4 are the “Options” and “Share” buttons, ostensibly taking the place of the traditional “Start” and “Select” as well as the touchpad in the center. We haven’t really seen the PS4 show off its plans for the touchpad yet, but when and where it is used prove that it’s a responsive feature with a lot of potential. The light on the front of the controller is used to communicate with the PlayStation Camera (sold separately), similar to the Wii / Wii U’s remote sensor bar interactivity.
Overall, the DualShock 4 feels sturdier than the new Xbox Controller. The touchpad will undoubtedly lead to interesting gameplay as the world relies more and more on touch screens. The thumbsticks are arguably the finest that the industry has ever produced. Although these small joysticks are almost always more effective than a D-pad, there are circumstances where the distinct pressing of 4 different buttons can come in handy. The DualShock 4’s thumbsticks almost eliminate the need for a D-pad due to their precision. New trigger mechanisms contribute to a more comfortable playing experience.
Microsoft pretty much nailed the ideal shape of a controller back with the 360, and though the DualShock 4 may come close, it falls just a tad shy. The “Options” and “Share” buttons seem to be squeezed in beside the touchpad, making them slightly cumbersome to press. You won’t be bumping these buttons during play, however, a quick pause may not be in order either. There’s also no option for batteries on the DualShock 4, so like the DualShock 3, the controller needs to be charged either through the system or a separate charging station. It is nice to at least have the option to use batteries available. Needing to point the DualShock 4’s front light at the PlayStation Camera can be somewhat of an annoyance. The camera still correctly interprets body movement and the controller doesn’t need to be held, but it does need to be placed somewhere that the camera can “see” it or the PS4 will endlessly bug you to do so before resuming normal play.
Xbox One Controller
According to almost everyone ever, the Xbox 360 Controller was/is the pinnacle of gaming controllers. The new one doesn’t deviate too far from its predecessor’s design, but it does generally tends to be a little less awesome. The shape remains the same as does the layout. Action buttons are the same, though other elements have seen minor tweaks that aren’t always for the better.
The Improved (Or Not…?)
In this case, it would appear that Microsoft has changed up their controller just so that it wouldn’t be the same, but they’ve made some grievous errors. The thumbsticks are coated with a different material. It’s still rubbery but has moved closer to smooth plastic reducing the grip. The D-pad has been redone to more closely resemble a traditional D-pad, perhaps the one feature from the 360 controller that’s been most derided. I’ve never been a huge fan of the shoulder bumpers on the 360 controller, though these provide slightly more user feedback when pressed. They could still use some work, in my opinion.
“Start” and “Select” have been removed here also, replaced with no-name buttons consisting only of icons. Otherwise, this is nearly identical to the controller that most gamers have known for a while now.
The controller appears to act independently of the Kinect 2.0 device, leaving the user to choose between one or the other and not having to deal with both simultaneously. The new “icon” and “icon” buttons are placed in the center, easy to access but also away from everything else. Out of the box, the Xbox One controller contains nothing except a pair of AA batteries. For about $25, one can purchase a charging kit, containing a rechargeable pack that replaces the batteries. Though the price is a bit outlandish (and it only has ONE battery pack), it is nice to be able to play with either option. As usual, the shape is perfectly suited to human hands.
As much as I hate to admit it, the new Xbox One controller feels cheap. The two halves of the plastic aren’t exactly lined up right, the finish on the plastic looks much less sophisticated than that of the 360 controller, and the action buttons sometimes tend to make a kind of squeaking noise, especially when pressed in quick succession. The thumbsticks feel cheaper too, lighter, and less substantial than those of its predecessor. The trigger buttons require significant force to press down, a fact that younger players aren’t going to like. It may not seem obvious at first, but once you’ve been holding them down for several minutes at a time you’ll realize how much continued strength it takes. Already this has lead to a very sore right index finger from playing Forza Motorsport 5, and I imagine intense shooters will also be rough on the user.
The lack of fresh features on the new controller might make it less exciting to some, but it doesn’t make the controller inferior. Microsoft has proven that their Kinect technology is at the head of the pack, a device that they’re obviously leaning towards when it comes to “controls” and how a game is played. That’s probably why the new Xbox controller won’t seem terribly impressive next to the DualShock 4, but once the Kinect 2.0 is factored in it’s obvious that Microsoft wants to take “control” to a whole new level – one less dependent on traditional, handheld controllers.
I tend to lean towards the DualShock 4 when it comes to aspects of the controllers alone, but that isn’t to say the Xbox One controller is a bad controller. Although I think Microsoft fiddled with parts they should’ve left alone it, the new XB1 controller is every bit as functional and responsive as one could ask for, and both will provide a no-fuss gaming experience.
Love ’em or hate ’em, motion controls are here to stay, and companies are finally able to work around the limitations of the traditional controller. It’ll be interesting to see the concept evolve throughout the reign of 8th generation consoles, and even now we’re adjusting to the idea that controllers no longer have a monopoly on user input. Are these time-tested devices losing their relevance? Maybe a little, but even if the day comes where we no longer need to push buttons in order to jump, enough gamers will still want the ability that it’s hard to imagine the controller as we know it growing obsolete. However, it’s not as simple as comparing one feature to another now that video and motion peripherals are taking on increased importance.
Stay tuned for the next round when we take a look at both the PlayStation Camera and Kinect 2.0 and see who comes out on top.
Written by The Cubist
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