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The DualShock 4 Is The PlayStation 4's Achilles Heel

by Matt Bertz on Nov 03, 2014 at 09:35 AM

Nearly a year into the console generation, the PlayStation 4 has proven to be a strong rebound console for Sony, outpacing its nearest rival at nearly a two-to-one clip. This is a much better start than the PS3 had, which alienated consumers with sticker shock early on and proved to be a finicky platform for developers due to the unique architecture of the Cell processor. Thanks to Mark Cerny's developer-friendly architectural design, an improved PlayStation network, and slightly better graphical capabilities than the Xbox One, the PS4 looks to be on strong footing moving forward.

After spending the majority of my time gaming on the Xbox 360 last generation, I find myself using the PS4 as my console of choice for third-party games these days. But if there's one area the console that needs improvement, it's the controller. 

This feels like a strange statement to make considering how much of an improvement the DualShock 4 is over its predecessors; its trigger placement, concave analog sticks, and touchpad are all noteworthy modifications that make it the most ergonomically friendly controller Sony has made to date. But after extensive use I find it to be lacking in several important areas. So what are these major drawbacks?

Fragile Analog Sticks

I am not hard on my controllers. With six years of heavy use on the PlayStation 2, I only went through two controllers. Same with the Xbox 360. My original DualShock 3 is still in service on the rare occasion I boot up the PlayStation 3. But I'm not even a year into the PS4's lifespan and I need a replacement largely due to the poor material that covers the analog sticks.

I first noticed some wear and tear a mere month into owning the PS4. After playing a lot of NBA 2K14, which requires aggressive use of the analog sticks, some of the material started to fray. It's gotten worse since, ripping around the edges and exposing the slippery plastic base underneath. Like last generation when overheating Xbox 360s created a new market for third-party cooling attachments, peripheral companies have noticed this glaring fault with the DualShock 4 and are coming to the rescue with attachments that offer improved, more durable grips. Some users have gone as far as to perform controller surgery to implant the vastly superior Xbox One analog sticks.

You could go to these lengths to improve the controller, but you shouldn't have to. 

Poor Battery Life

The second major flaw with the DualShock 4 controller rears its head way too frequently. Even after overnight charges I rarely get more than two evenings' worth of performance from this power-guzzling controller. Toward the end of the second night I often find myself sitting directly in front of my television so this electricity addict can be tethered to the console and get its fix.

The most likely culprit for this excessive energy wasting is the light bar on the back of the controller, a superfluous feature the player doesn't even see while playing a game. Dimming the brightness apparently does little to preserve precious battery life, so I would love an option to turn the light off completely if it meant I could get an extra hour or two out of the basic functionality. 

Even with that extra juice, the DualShock 4 would still come up short compared to the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Sixaxis, and DualShock3 controllers. Some evidence surfaced that may indicate Sony plans to address this shortcoming, which we hope is true.

Sticky Bumpers and Broken Triggers

The layout of the triggers and bumpers feels much more comfortable with the DualShock 4, but several GI editors have experienced jams on the R1 and L1, and others have had their trigger hinges break (which is covered under the console warranty). I've especially been victim to sticky bumpers while playing FIFA. Every time a button jams, it takes my focus of the action on the pitch while I fiddle with the bumper to unstick it. This is a noticeably bad feature if you're playing competitive sports games, shooters, pinball, or any other titles that demand constant use of the bumpers. 

Savvy users have proposed solutions for this problem online, but again, why wasn't this caught during the testing phase? 

Even though I'm a big fan of its ergonomic design, the DualShock 4's craftsmanship is so shoddy that for the first time I'm comparison-shopping with third-party alternatives instead of just buying the same model for a replacement. Hopefully in the coming year Sony shores up these weaknesses and releases an improved model, because this one doesn't meet the quality standards of the rest of the console.