The 5 best uses of PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller

There are a lot of things to like about PlayStation 5. While I knew I’d appreciate the big upgrade in graphics and performance, what I didn’t expect was how in love I’d be with the DualSense controller. After playing with the controller for a few months, it’s hard to go back to any game that doesn’t take advantage of it.

This is all thanks to the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. The former is an evolution of the motorized feedback found in Sony’s DualShock and other standard controllers. It uses more nuanced vibrations to recreate what’s happening on-screen (similar to the underutilized HD Rumble in the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons).

Adaptive triggers, meanwhile, feel genuinely new because games can dynamically alter how hard you need to press the L2 and R2 buttons. Developers can add varying levels of resistance when performing certain actions, such as shooting a gun or climbing a wall.

Both features sound gimmicky on paper, but the haptics and triggers really do make a difference — they add a sense of tactile immersion I never knew was missing before. Here are some of the best and most creative uses of the controller so far.

Doing almost anything in Astro’s Playroom

Astro’s Playroom is more than just a gorgeous nostalgia trip through PlayStation history (though it’s great at that, too). It’s also a fantastic preview of what the DualSense can do for all sorts of genres. The controller emits unique sounds (via its small speaker) and vibrations whenever you walk around, and both can change depending on what kind of surface you’re stepping on.

When walking on metal, for example, you’ll hear sharp “ting” sounds followed by a series of light vibrations. You’ll feel the same pitter-patter when you’re on the beach, but it sounds as if you’re kicking up sand with each step.

My favorite use of the DualSense is in the PlayStation Labo area, which has a gacha machine that has different PlayStation-related items inside. When you’re using the machine, both triggers feel like they’re at their maximum level of resistance. There’s just something really satisfying and meditative about pulling the lever with L2 and then crushing the capsule toy with R2 to reveal your prize.

Heading off-road in Dirt 5

Dirt 5 is a great example of what the DualSense can add to racing games. The haptics aren’t as nuanced and detailed as in Astro’s Playroom, but the intensity of the vibrations change depending on the type of track you’re on. What’s more impressive is how the adaptive triggers play into this feedback. L2 and R2 rapidly click and shake in concert with the haptics, creating a convincing illusion of how rough it is to drive through mud, or the precariousness of trying to drift through an ice-covered road.

I don’t typically play a lot of racing games, but I might have to start paying more attention to them if other developers embrace the DualSense as much as Codemasters did with Dirt 5.

Feeling the hits in Madden NFL 21

One of the more surprising additions in the PS5 version of Madden NFL 21 was just how much it uses the DualSense. The adaptive triggers have some tension when you’re sprinting with the football or trying to swim through the offensive line. If you’re playing without headphones, you’ll hear a variety of sounds through the speaker, like the quarterback yelling out pre-snap adjustments or a harsh beeping noise if the play clock is running low.

But above all, I love the way Madden uses the haptics. Smaller interactions, like when the ball is hiked to the QB, are more realistic now: You feel a sharp tap at the start of every play as if someone actually put the ball in your hands.

Tackling also feels much different, especially when multiple players are involved. Instead of experiencing just one long vibration during a gang tackle, you feel a quick succession of hits. It’s a near-perfect mimicry of the way football pads forcefully collide on the field.

Shooting in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Like EA, Treyarch dove head-first into incorporating the DualSense. Every gun in Cold War has a unique feel when it comes to the haptics and the adaptive triggers. But in general, larger weapons like the M60 light machine gun are harder to aim with (you really have to push down on L2) than smaller guns like pistols or SMGs. Those weight and performance differences add to the immersion of the campaign, making you feel like a badass covert agent whenever you wield a heavy sniper rifle or when you’re just trying to stealth kill enemies with a knife.

These features aren’t ideal if you’re going for a high K/D ratio in multiplayer — they probably slow down your overall reaction time — but I keep them on because they’re fun to use.

Traversing in The Pathless

The Pathless takes a subtle, yet effective approach with the DualSense. You can move faster through the game’s fantasy world by shooting arrows at floating gems, which then replenish your energy bar (used for sprinting or jumping through the air). A meter around the gem tells you when it’s time to shoot, and if you let go too early, you’ll miss the target. But R2 offers additional feedback via a short clicking noise that occurs when the meter fills up, and I found that to be a more convenient way of knowing when to let my arrows fly.

Developer Giant Squid is more judicious about the haptics, but I like how it’s deployed in certain cutscenes and boss fights, like when you feel the individual footsteps of an eight-legged beast as it stomps around an arena.