I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the PS5’s best feature is the DualSense controller. I could probably write 2,000 words gushing over Sony’s new pad and still have superlatives to spare – it’s just that damn good.
The controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are a joy to behold, and more importantly, they have game-changing implications for many titles. I’ve been so impressed with the adaptive triggers in particular, that they’ve even made me consider purchasing games like FIFA 21 on PS5 again, simply so I can feel the difference.
However, it’s the pleasing knock-on effect that the DualSense controller is having for Xbox owners which I’m really thankful for. It may have taken over seven years, but developers are finally starting to use the Xbox controller’s most overlooked feature in games, and it’s probably all because of Sony’s innovative new pad.
If you weren’t already aware (and not many people are), the Xbox controller has “Impulse Triggers”, which feature independent rumble motors inside. These triggers can vibrate to create a more tactile sensation when firing a gun or driving over rough terrain. It’s not too dissimilar to what Sony’s pad achieves using haptic feedback, though it’s admittedly far less nuanced.
They were highlighted all the way back in 2013 as part of Microsoft’s advertising campaign for its new controller, though it seems like developers must have missed the memo as they’ve barely been used in the last seven years.
I’d wager a guess that maybe a dozen or so games actually bothered to implement any sort of trigger rumble, and the majority of games that did were Forza Motorsport 5, 6, 7 and the Forza Horizon series. Even Microsoft’s first-party studios have been guilty of ignoring the feature, which has been particularly frustrating.
This was always a missed opportunity for me, as the controller’s impulse triggers are genuinely great. The effect they have in driving games is immediately noticeable, and it makes a tangible difference to the overall experience. You get a better indication of your car’s brakes locking up, or when you should slam down on the throttle to stop your car from wheel spinning.
The same can be said in Sunset Overdrive – still the best Xbox One exclusive as far as I’m concerned – which gave shotgun blasts an extra oomph thanks to the triggers. And yet time and time again, so many games failed to use them.
It’s important to clarify that the impulse triggers aren’t as impactful as the adaptive triggers in the DualSense controller. The adaptive triggers can change resistance to create more sensations than rumble can ever provide, such as the tension when you pull back on a bow string or jam when your gun locks.
But nevertheless, the impulse triggers are still a great addition that have been criminally underused on Microsoft’s console, and even if they don’t reach the heights of Sony’s new buttons, they help add an extra level of depth over the standard rumble we’ve experienced for decades.
I’m feelin’ it
The good news is that, due to Sony’s insistence of making the DualSense the star attraction of the PS5, more third-party titles are seemingly implementing the Xbox controller’s rumbling triggers. I’ve already noticed that Dirt 5, Gears Tactics and Tetris Effect: Connected make good use of the triggers, and it’s likely that other titles will now at least add some sort of functionality if work has already been done on the PS5 title.
In a perfect world, developers would try to make the most of each console’s unique feature set. But this takes time, money and ultimately isn’t something that will equate to more sales so is often ignored. When a piece of technology becomes standardized, though, like rumble, the share button or motion controls (to a degree), that’s when more developers take notice.
Depending on the success of Sony’s pad, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft release a controller of its own that can provide the same sensations as the DualSense controller. We saw the same business move when Sony created the Move controllers in response to the Wii, and Microsoft went all in on the casual gaming craze with Kinect.
I hope that the tips of my fingers will be pleasantly surprised when playing more Xbox Series X games in the future, then. It makes sense that if developers are going out of their way to add an extra layer of immersion to PS5 games, Xbox games will ultimately benefit too. But it’s admittedly disappointing that it’s taken so long for the impulse triggers to be utilized more, as they’re a really nice feature that has largely been forgotten about in Microsoft’s trusty pad.