The same general feel of the controller as well as the X, circle, triangle, square buttons and rear triggers are essentially mirrored from every generation to the DualShock 4. But are the buttons on the latest version pressure sensitive?
On the PS4 DualShock 4 controller, the face buttons and D-pad buttons are not pressure sensitive. Only the L2 and R2 shoulder triggers are pressure sensitive and, thus, feature analog sensors.
For comparison’s sake, the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, on the other hand, have DualShock 2 and DualShock 3 controllers that feature pressure sensitive face buttons.
But what’s the real reason that Sony decided to ditch pressure sensitive face buttons for the PS4 in the first place?
Let’s dive in to more detail below and see how much of a difference this button configuration change really makes.
Pressure Sensitive Face Buttons Became Popular With PlayStation 2 Games
As the DualShock controllers have progressed, so have their locations of pressure sensitive buttons.
When the PS2 console launched with its complimentary DualShock 2 controller, it came out with face buttons that were pressure sensitive.
This meant that instead of having buttons, including shoulder triggers that would only register a 1 or 0 (press or no press), there were now face buttons that could serve different functions based on how hard or lightly they were pressed.
However, the shoulder triggers on the PS2 were still not pressure sensitive.
It’s for this reason that game developers that wanted to design various same-button functions in their titles could do so only on the face buttons.
But How Are Pressure Sensitive Buttons Represented In Games?
Starting with the PS2 and carrying over into the PS3, several titles featured pressure sensitive face button functions, including:
- Metal Gear Solid
- Grand Theft Auto
- Wipeout HD
- Need For Speed
- Ace Combat
- Gran Turismo
Pressure sensitive functionality spanned across the D-Pad buttons as well, used for controls like zooming, air braking, and map toggles.
The X button was popular as the original acceleration button in racing games since that was the only pressure-based option, where pushing the button harder would accelerate the vehicle more.
Sports games also featured these buttons for passing harder or faster depending on how hard they are pushed.
Do Other Consoles Have Pressure Sensitive Buttons?
Even though Sony had pressure sensitive face buttons during the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 generations, they were the only company to have such a feature on a console controller.
This meant that game developers would design their titles one way for competitor platforms like the Xbox and Nintendo, then create exclusive pressure-sensitive features just for Sony DualShock face buttons.
If you can see where this story is going, pressure sensitive face button features started becoming less and less popular among game developers.
This especially as game titles expanded, deadlines loomed, and the need for creating seamless titles that were congruent across all platforms were essential.
Because no gamer ever appreciated playing a new release that is full of bugs.
The Downside of Pressure Sensitive Face Buttons
No other console manufacturer featured pressure sensitive buttons except Sony, forcing game developers to make these features for only one console.
And this also created confusion and frustration among gamers as well.
For instance, if somebody didn’t know to follow the tutorial or read the manual for a Playstation game that had these pressure-sensitive face buttons, they would have no idea to press the button different ways to achieve difference functions.
Also people that were familiar with other consoles that just started playing on the PlayStation had difficulties getting used to the Sony-only face button feature.
So as time went on, so the popularity diminished for developers to incorporate pressure sensitive face button schemes in their games.
But The PlayStation 4 Still Has Pressure Sensitive Shoulder Triggers
It made complete sense for Sony to drop pressure-sensitivity on the face buttons for the PlayStation 4 console DualShock 4 controller.
They understand that the feature is not as popular as it used to be, and is specific only to one platform, which creates more work for the developers.
Now, as like the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 features pressure sensitive shoulder triggers that have much wider sweeps and more precise hold points than previous generation face buttons.
This is especially the case in racing games, where Sony gamers didn’t understand why they were losing acceleration during a race, can now brake into a corner with the L2 trigger at 70 percent pressure so that the wheels don’t lock up, and accelerate at R2 with the same amount so the car doesn’t spin out (the newest race simulators are this controller demanding!).
And now that pressure sensitive buttons are the same across all platforms, with digital (press on or off) face and D-Pad buttons and analog shoulder triggers, game developers can pinpoint these functions more accurately in their titles.
Like how precise a pass is shoveled or flown across the ice in NHL, what kind of shot is made in NBA, or how fast the wheels are spinning in modern racing games.
Will The PlayStation 5 Feature Pressure Sensitive Face Buttons?
The chances that pressure sensitive buttons return with the PlayStation 5 are slim to none, nor does it make sense.
Popularity among game developers to include this feature toward the end of the PlayStation 3 generation was going down tremendously to the point that gamers weren’t even noticing them on newer PS3 titles.
Pressure articulation on face buttons, and their resulting ergonomics, are not nearly as accurate or comfortable as shoulder triggers like those on the PlayStation 4.
Expect to see even more accurate pressure sensitivity, along with more fine vibration feedback, with the shoulder triggers of the DualShock controller on the PS5.
Microsoft, in particular, has improved their shoulder triggers substantially over their previous generation controllers, featuring comfortable bump stops that don’t click when fully pressed down quickly.
Which is great for rapid trigger first and third person shooter games such as Call of Duty, Ghost Recon, and Apex Legends.
Knowing this, I’m sure Sony will incorporate a smooth bump stop feature in the shoulder triggers of the PS5 DualShock 5 controller to better compete with the Xbox controller.
Face buttons with pressure sensitivity are a Sony specific feature that was released only on the DualShock 2 and DualShock 3 controllers of the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 consoles.
As popularity decreased among game developers to incorporate pressure sensitive functions in their titles, so did the lack for their need on the face buttons of the DualShock controller.
Thus, pressure sensitive face buttons have given way to more precise analog shoulder triggers that sense pressure with greater accuracy and comfort on the DualShock 4 controller for the PlayStation 4.
The rising popularity and need for ultra-precise, competitive, pinpoint accuracy on shoulder triggers shows a lot of promise that Sony will continue utilizing pressure sensitive shoulder triggers on the PlayStation 5 DualShock 5 controller and beyond.
With variable-colored light bars, Sixaxis motion control, and sweeping touchpads, it seems all but likely that we would ever see pressure sensitive face buttons making a return to the DualShock controller family in the future.
Nor does it really make any sense to bring the old technology back into these controller, among any of the gaming platforms.