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PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller is a return to Sony’s legacy of innovation

Sony gave the first look at the upcoming PlayStation’s controller. Called the DualSense, it’s a significant departure in terms of form from the DualShock design, which was kept relatively unchanged from the original PlayStation through the PlayStation 4. With significant upgrades, such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, the DualSense looks to be Sony’s best controller yet and marks a return to the PlayStation’s spirit of innovation after a series of underwhelming revisions.

Unlike the recent DualShock controllers, the DualSense adds new features that will change how players experience games. The adaptive triggers are a notable change that will give developers more freedom than ever. For the first time, game creators can program the resistance players feel when pressing the triggers. It can help players “feel the tactile sensation of drawing a bow and arrow or accelerating an off-road vehicle through rocky terrain,” Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan explains.

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As the name suggests, allowing players to physically feel the games they’re playing is central to the DualSense’s design philosophy. It’s no longer just an input device but also a way for games to interact with players. Paired with the adaptive triggers is haptic feedback, which replaces the rumble mechanics previously in the DualShock line. This gives players a wider range of feedback, similar to the HD rumble of the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. When combined, these two features add a tactile element long absent from gaming.

The later DualShock models weren’t entirely without innovation and inspired pieces of the upcoming DualSense. The new controller’s Create button is a direct successor from the DualShock 4’s Share button. Sony didn’t provide specifics for the new control, though it’s seemingly doubling down on allowing players to share gameplay moments online. The PlayStation 4 was a big step forward for consoles from a social standpoint, and it’s smart for Sony to continue down that path as both Microsoft and Nintendo add similar buttons to their latest controllers.

The gaming community holds the DualShock line of controllers in high regard based on the level of innovation it originally brought to the table. After quickly replacing Sony’s analog controller and adding in rumble, it became the go-to example of how essential having two analog sticks is for gaming’s future. While alterations were made in the placement of the sticks, both Nintendo and Microsoft made twin joysticks an industry standard in the years following its introduction in 1997.

After the original DualShock disrupted the industry, future revisions became more difficult to spot. The DualShock 2 looked nearly identical, although it sported a major improvement by switching from digital buttons to analog ones. This allowed developers to measure the amount of pressure applied to buttons. Unfortunately, this feature was underutilized, especially by non-exclusive titles, but it did allow for a greater range of input for games that took advantage of the upgrade. The PlayStation version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater remains the definitive release with its pressure-sensitive controls allowing players to perform more advanced close-quarters combat maneuvers.

Both the third and fourth iterations of the DualShock would underwhelm in terms of innovation. While they sported some cool features, such as motion control for the DualShock 3 and a touch pad on the DualShock 4, few games used them in a meaningful way. Thatgamecompany’s Flower used motion controls wonderfully, giving players control of the wind. The controls were intuitive and let gamers of all levels take part. But for every Flower, there were dozens of others that forced integration. The frustrating log-balancing scenes in early Uncharted games marred otherwise smooth gameplay. The DualShock 4 added a light bar, which largely functioned as an annoying battery drain until PlayStation VR launched and used the light for controller tracking.

Though each additional DualShock iteration expanded what the controller could do, the DualSense is the first Sony controller since the original analog model to have the potential to change how players interact with games going forward. The haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are the types of changes that excite both players and developers rather than serving as a gimmick players forget about shortly after launch.

With all the extra features, it makes sense that the DualSense brings the first major ergonomic change in Sony’s controller design. PlayStation controllers have largely sported the same mold, with small tweaks over the years, since the original console launched in 1994. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies here, but that attitude limits creativity. After 20 years of iteration, Sony is back to truly innovating with its controllers rather than simply improving upon the status quo.

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Get these 6 PlayStation VR2 launch games to showcase its features
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If you're planning on buying a PlayStation VR2 at launch, be prepared for an intimidating process as you decide which games to pick up first. Early adopters will have a lot of options to choose from, as Sony's latest headset will support over 40 games at launch. The bulk of those, though, are ports of preexisting VR games from the past few years. That makes it a little tricky to figure out which games actually showcase what the PSVR2 is capable of and which will feel like a dated experience that doesn't benefit from new tech.

To help guide you, we've spent time playing through a wide variety of launch titles, from classics like Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge all the way to Horizon Call of the Mountain. While there are plenty of games that we've enjoyed, including charmers like What the Bat? and Jurassic World Aftermath Collection, six games in particular act as great showcases for various PSVR2 features. Whether you're looking to test its power, Sense controllers, or audio options, you'll want to put these six games in your digital shopping cart.
Horizon Call of the Mountain

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PlayStation VR2 adds even more games to its launch lineup
Gameplay from Sushi Ben, an upcoming PlayStation VR2 game.

Sony has finalized the launch lineup of the PlayStation VR2 headset just before its February 22 release. With that comes the confirmation of the new games coming to the PSVR2 platform throughout the rest of 2023, including a sequel to a critically acclaimed PlayStation VR title, as well as many exciting ports.

Starting with the newly confirmed launch titles, ports of the Viking rhythm game Ragnarock, 1980s anime-themed motorcycle combat game Runner, sci-fi simulator Startenders: Intergalactic Bartending, medieval sword-fighting game Swordsman VR, and VR Guitar Hero-like Unplugged: Air Guitar will all be available on February 22. This cements the following list as PlayStation VR2's 43-game launch game lineup.

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Bringing VR’s best Star Wars game to PlayStation VR2 was a no-brainer, devs say
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When ILMxLAB learned about the PlayStation VR2, Director Jose Perez III thought it was a "no-brainer" for the studio to bring the Oculus Quest game Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to the new headset.
"We're always looking at how we can push the fidelity of the work that we're doing," Perez III tells Digital Trends in an interview. "PlayStation VR2 is ridiculously powerful; we got really excited about what we could bring to that. We started talking with our friends at Sony because we had a great relationship with them for Vader Immortal, and it was really a no-brainer. Then, you put the headset on, you start feeling the haptics, and you start seeing what you can do with the visual fidelity and lighting, and it's like, 'Oh, this is awesome!'"
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge - Enhanced Edition | Official Trailer | PS VR2
PlayStation VR2's launch and its first wave of games are nearly upon us, and Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge Enhanced Edition is one of those titles. This is a make-or-break time for VR, which is still struggling to move into the mainstream but could become more popular if Sony's headset can offer a compelling and accessible virtual reality experience. Ahead of its release, Digital Trends spoke to Director Jose Perez III and Producer Harvey Whitney from ILMxLAB to learn about the process of crafting one of these critical "no-brainer" launch games and PlayStation VR2 will ultimately stand when it comes to the future of VR gaming.
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Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge was originally released for Meta Quest VR headsets in November 2020. It's set on the planet of Batuu, which people also explore at Dinsey parks, and follows a Droid Technician who gets caught in the middle of a grander fight against the First Order after crash-landing on the planet. At the time, it was meant with decent reviews and only got better as its story was completed and expanded with the Last Call DLC.
After getting the "Enhanced Edition" of the game for PlayStation VR2 greenlit, ILMxLAB actually had to go and make it. As the team was dealing with new hardware for the first time, producer Harvey Whitney thought it was good that the team's first project on PlayStation VR2 was an enhanced version of an existing game.
"Early on, knowing that we already had the content that was created for the original, that changes things quite a bit," Whitney tells Digital Trends. "We're not redeveloping the story and coming up with all of that. We just had that opportunity to work as a team and ask, 'What do we really push here, and where are the changes that we want to make, and what we can do to really take advantage of this hardware?'"

The VR space is full of different headsets with unique specs, with the much higher specs of the PS VR2 standing out. The PlayStation VR2 sports some impressive specs compared to its VR peers, displaying content in a 4000x2030 HDR format at a 90Hz or 120Hz frame rate. Plus, games have the PS5's power, spatial, and brand new Sense controllers to take advantage of, rather than the 2013 console and 2010 motion controls that limited the original PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR2 supports Roomscale, Sitting, and Standing play styles, which added more complexity as Tales from the Galaxy's Edge supports all three. Thankfully, Perez III that bringing Tales from the Galaxy's Edge to PlayStation VR2 was relatively manageable because of how impressive the system's specs were.
"A lot of the development processes are similar [to other VR platforms]," Perez III says. "We're still working inside of Unreal, and we're doing a lot of those same processes. But we don't have to look at performance quite as much as we do on some of the other devices, so we're able to open up a lot of things or not be as concerned about certain things. That comes with better hardware."
Better hardware, better games
Looking at the biggest games of the PlayStation VR2 launch window lineup, the visuals of titles like Horizon Call of the Mountain and the VR modes of Resident Evil Village and Gran Turismo 7 are impressive. In our discussion, Whitney also made it quite clear that one of the real advantages of working on this remaster was not having to worry about strict limitations on the visuals or even the audio. "We got lucky in the sense that there's a lot more to PlayStation VR2 that we hadn't had previously," Whitney says. "We could really push the graphics and make it shine. But then there were also some other things that came into play. We totally redid the audio, it sounds amazing."

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