Sony’s DualShock controllers have maintained their popularity through all of their iterations: they are reliable, effective and ergonomically pleasing for millions. However, in line with the rise of professional and ‘hardcore’ gaming, some gamers want to get a little more from their controllers.
The Controller People are a UK company who offer modifications, both aesthetically and mechanically, to DualShock controllers by adding extra features, buttons, and layouts so that gamers can squeeze a bit more out of their controllers. As a long-time fan of the DualShock, I was intrigued to see how they stacked up.
Beginning with the visuals, The Controller People offer plenty of designs: from original Sony colours to outlandish shiny shades; and from funky patterns to game-themed stylings. I saw two designs: one ‘Splash Black’ design and one original Sony blue design. The original Sony blue was as normal, but the unique-looking ‘Splash Black’ design was bittersweet for me. It’s a very cool design with Jackson Pollock-style paint splatters across the controller and sleek plain-coloured buttons. The design, on a hold-it-in-your hands scale, was awkward as the shell parts did not match and so the design was sharply interrupted where the front and back shell parts meet – it wasn’t seamless as I had hoped. While recognising the build of the DualShock may make this tricky, the design was so cool I felt it needed to be seamless to perfect the look, but as it wasn’t, this detracted from the overall aesthetic of the controller.
Having it in my hands, the buttons are where we really start to get an idea of the work that The Controller People do. The standout difference is the introduction of the ClickSticks. These are mini-joysticks on the back of the controller, where the label is and where your fingers often rest. In a nutshell, these are brilliant. They are positioned perfectly and are even incredibly satisfying to press due to their pleasing noise (a click, obviously) and subtle resistance. As a result, they are easy to use and, in a way, encourage your hands to do so. This makes for incredibly swift button combinations, increasingly the actions and abilities you can perform quickly. It seems these were generally aimed for being used for FPSs, with a default setting of X and O being assigned to the sticks, something I confirmed by using them successfully in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. However, now that any button can be assigned to the sticks, there is so much flexibility to their use. To demonstrate and explore that, I incorporated them into the controls for Assassins Creed: The Ezio Collection and even in The Last of Us, with noteworthy success.
The shoulder buttons are slightly different to regular ones, and have been adjusted to offer three different heights of compression to activate the control. The intention is that slightly less press-down means quicker control activation. It’s a neat idea, but probably one that would help pro/hardcore gamers more, as the margins are quite slight. However, even as a more casual gamer, I did enjoy the slightly increased response time of the shallowest setting.
The controller also has an increased response time when attached to the PS4 via the cable. This enhancing feature means that the maximum is done to remove any sort of fractional delay between button pushing and action performed on screen. Very much a feature for the pro gamer, it’s still a neat thing to be able to show off and accomplish in a controller.
These successful modifications bring another dimension to the controller, but are tempered somewhat by build quality; I had a bit of a mixed bag. I saw huge difference in the two controllers I had my hands on, which raised an eyebrow. It seems that such differences can come from the choices in style and modifications.
The first controller immediately felt different as it was incredibly light – to the point of feeling flimsy and fragile. Sony controllers can absorb a bit of clumsiness and survive being fumbled on to a hard floor, but this controller felt breakable. Its light weight was due to the vibration elements being removed, which will benefit those who prefer their controllers light in the hands and responsive, but the resulting flimsy feel was exacerbated by the patterned shell pieces not fitting together snugly. There was movement throughout all the parts, buttons and shell cases that resulted in a weak feel and, alarmingly, in distinct rattles. Things got much better on this front though when I tested my second, the original Sony blue, controller: it had none of these problems. It was tight, solid and felt great in the hands. Some of this may be due to it being an official Sony shell, but it featured the same modifications and was certainly a marked improvement and one which I could put plenty of confidence in. (In fairness to The Controller Poeple, when I did flag the problems, they were responsive and listened honestly, showing exemplary customer service.)
While recognising the craftsmanship and necessary changes that go into modifying, I would expect a controller that’s just as solid and sturdy as the Sony ones. Particularly as the modifications take the price of the controller comfortably above Sony’s DualShock 4’s price, I would want to be just as confident in its build as well as its performance.
Considering both my experiences, I would still recommend The Controller People as modifiers and improvers of controllers. The main thrust of this recommendation would come from the ClickSticks – these could be used by any gamer, are an incredibly good use of space on the controller and offer great flexibility for combinations and actions. This would be closely followed by the shoulder button changes but that is, on the whole, only a marginally noticeable modification. The cool designs will certainly appeal if you’re looking for an edgy design to have a near-personalised controller, too.
The modifications seem to be predominantly aimed at those on the professional or hardcore end of the gaming spectrum, so I am left wondering a little at how much appeal there would be, beyond the ClickSticks perhaps, to casual gamers. Particularly ones that are used to and enjoy the original Sony DualShocks, who may end up having a very busy controller by attempting to add all of the modifications. However, all in all, with some astute considerations and choices, a solid build and design, and a sizeable investment, it must be said, you’ll still get a great controller.
If you want to build your own custom PS4 controller make sure to visit The Controller People at their official website and see what they have to offer.