The PS5’s new controller is amazing, here’s how it works

The new DualSense adaptive triggers. TronicsFix (YouTube)

Adaptive triggers are key to the DualSense haptic system

When I first picked up the PlayStation 5’s new DualSense controller I was totally blown away by the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The PS5 ships with Astro’s Playroom, which is the perfect showcase for this controller and everything it’s capable of. Sony has added haptic feedback to its new PS5 controller that makes you feel the environment in Astro’s Playroom, with adaptive triggers that provide tension when you’re drawing a bow or pulling on a cord.

While it’s easy to dismiss it as just another fancy vibration feature, the new DualSense controller goes beyond what I’ve ever experienced on a Nintendo Switch, Xbox controller, or even the great haptic feedback you’ll find on modern smartphones. The key addition are these new adaptive triggers, that really change the way games feel.

A new teardown, spotted by Polygon, shows exactly how the adaptive triggers are able to provide realistic tension using a special geared motor. TronicsFix has torn apart the DualSense controller to provide us with an inside look at these new triggers. When current isn’t running through the motor then the triggers feel like regular ones, but as soon as current is added through the motor this generates tension and resistance for the triggers.

These triggers are the highlight of Astro’s Playroom. You can feel the tension as you pull on rope to move throughout levels. This pack-in game even transforms you into a loaded spring at one point, where you feel the tension of a spring in the triggers. You can see this resistance in action, below.

Astro’s Playroom is clearly the best demo of this new controller right now, but more games are coming that will make special use of the DualSense. Fortnite is using the haptic feedback on the DualSense to make players feel like they’re holding different weapons, and the triggers will also adapt for ranged weapons.

In NBA 2K21 the adaptive triggers will change as a player’s energy drains, adding more resistance on the sprint trigger. PS5 exclusive Deathloop will also use the adaptive triggers to make weapons feel different, and even block the adaptive triggers when a gun jams.

The DualSense will clearly shine in first-party PS5 exclusives, but FortniteNBA 2K21, and other titles show that there’s some early third-party interest in what this new controller is capable of. If developers keep experimenting with the DualSense, then PS5 owners could be about to experience a very different feel to the next-gen of games.

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