PS3's DualShock 3 Controller Unboxed

An old familiar friend makes its triumphant return.
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An old familiar friend makes its triumphant return.
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When we first heard
Sony's PlayStation 3 was debuting with motion controls instead of rumble, we
nearly broke down in man tears. The SIXAXIS controller bites, and it bites hard.
Not only do a limited number of PS3 games use the motion controls, but when
they're actually implemented, the game usually becomes an exercise in
frustration (we're looking at you Lair, and your demon
dragons that go where we don't want them to go!). That's why when Sony finally
settled its five-year-long lawsuit with Immersion, the brains behind
force-feedback technology, we were anxiously counting down the days till the
PlayStation's revered DualShock controller made its long-awaited return from the
dead.

And finally, the day has come—at least for some. Japan
got first dibs on the new DualShock 3 controller on November 11, but Americans
won't be able to get their hands on it until Spring 2008. But we got one. And
take our word—it's sweeeeeeet.

If you've been playing with a
PlayStation 3 SIXAXIS controller for a few months, you will feel right at home
with the DualShock 3—there's really not that much difference between the two in
terms of size dimensions and button layout. The D-pad is still on the
upper-left-hand side of the controller and the two analog sticks are still
positioned parallel from each other on the bottom half. We would have preferred
to have the D-pad and the left analog switch positions, which would really help
with aiming in first-person shooters like Resistance.

There are some noticeable differences from the SIXAXIS,
however. The new ceramic white color of the DualShock 3 (also available in
original black) makes the controller look sleeker and prettier (too bad a
matching ceramic white PS3 is only being released in Japan for the foreseeable
future). There is also a considerable amount of extra weight to the new design,
due to the addition of the DualShock motors—that's a good thing. We're very
pleased with how the new controller drops in our hands, and it doesn't feel like
it's made from cheap plastic (even though it says "made in China"), which was
one of the major faults of the SIXAXIS' design.

As for how
the controller performs, we've heard rumblings (pun intended!) that the feedback
of the DualShock 3 was a bit different than its PS2 predecessor. We tried out
several games and took notes:

Gran Turismo 5
Prologue Demo (available at the Japanese PlayStation
store)
We took one of the Nissan Skylines out for a spin around the
track and were pleasantly surprised to feel how polished the rumble was in the
game. On straightaways, our hands were greeted by the soft purring of the car's
engine. On turns, the rumble softened as the brakes were applied, and ramped up
as we accelerated into the next track section. Overall, the controller feedback
was accurate with what was going on in the game, and the vibrations felt more
refined than our previous experiences with rumble in the Gran
Turismo
series.

Uncharted: Drake's
Fortune

The game play for Uncharted,
one of our favorite games, only gets better with the inclusion of
force-feedback. Each gun has its own specific rumble—a handgun produces short
bursts, while a grenade will create a considerable shake. When blowing up
barrels of dynamite, your controller emits a vibration that's dependent on where
you are standing. If you're near the explosion, the controller goes crazy. If
you're sniping from far away, you won't feel anything. Again, the controller
reacts well with the game play on the screen.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of
Destruction

The thing you'll notice is that each one of
Ratchet's weapons has a different rumble. For example, the Alpha Cannon produces
a soft vibration when loading up the gun and a substantial rumble when the round
is fired. Ratchet's wrench pound is even more awesome to execute now that your
controller doesn't just sit in your hands limp and silent.

Our Take
The
award-winning DualShock controller is back, and it has brought its ugly sister,
SIXAXIS, with it. We're glad Sony finally settled their lawsuit and, though it's
not really a step forward at all in game technology, our imported controller
looks and feels great. The hardware developers put enough meat on the new design
to give the controller a better presence in players' hands. While rumble was
added to some games with the release of the PS3's 2.00 firmware update, it
doesn't feel like it has been just tacked on. We expect, and have been told
that, DualShock 3 will work with all PS3 and most PS2 games sometime in the near
future. Till then, we're glad you're back, DS—we've missed you.