PS5 DualSense Modular Controller Review: Luxe Game Changer

A DualSense Edge is shown in its carrying case, with the interchangeable analog sticks, charging port and backpaddles also seen below.

photo: Eric Schulkin

I’ve spent about a dozen hours playing games with the new DualSense Edge. First of all, all the new bells and whistles of the PlayStation 5 modular controller strikes me as extremely redundant. I’ve played video games on standard controllers my whole life with no issues, and even the settings the controller has don’t really seem to solve issues I’m having in some games – like missing buttons for additional inputs or mapping shortcuts for usability. But that all changes during a game of surveillance 2.

I’m in a firefight, playing as Soldier: 76, and while I’m blocking my opponent’s team well enough, I don’t realize that a Pharah has flown around the fight and into our backline. By the time I hear her, she’s already launching missiles at my team, and turning to face her with my right thumbstick, I’m also using the rear paddle to reload without having to move my thumb to the square button or pull a claw maneuver to perform both actions. Because of that split second, I shoot down Pharah before she can do too much damage. Then the gears in my head start turning about the benefits of the DualSense Edge.

In most action-oriented video games, the switch between winning and losing a fight can be made in a split second. The more I use the DualSense Edge and play around with its various settings, the more I recall moments over the years where, if I had been able to change the things these controllers allow, I might as Rather than dying in the milliseconds it would have emerged victorious, I had to press down on a release button and lift my finger to release it. The controller’s adjustable triggers, which allow me to set the travel distance between the default setting and two shorter ones, are like a huge boon for me in shooters over watchmostly because they make the time to shoot a bit faster, but those few seconds add up over the course of a game, and one second can mean the difference between a shot fired and reaching your own HP.

The Overwatch 2 Hero Select screen will appear with Soldier: 76 selected and in the center. Overlapping the game is DualSense's controller profile selection screen, which includes the default profile and a second profile called Overwatch.

With the DualSense Edge you can create. Controller profiles and swap them out on the fly.
screenshot: Blizzard/Sony/Kotaku

Customization also has benefits for those with chronic pain, as adjustable triggers, different height analog sticks, and different length back paddles give the DualSense Edge multiple ways to customize a standard controller to make it more comfortable to use. I end up using the shorter rear buttons because I have smaller hands anyway, so it feels like a more natural fit how I’m holding a controller, although some people who have a lighter touch may find more benefit from the longer paddles would.

That being said, if you’re a person who has trouble holding a traditional controller, the DualSense Edge probably won’t alleviate your problems. However, Sony has codenamed the upcoming controller “Leonardo Project” was specifically designed to be as customizable as possible for those who need it for accessibility reasons. The DualSense Edge offers a lot of great options for fine-tuning your own controller experience, but ultimately it’s a fairly traditional controller that might not tick all the boxes.

That being said, the DualSense Edge still feels like a luxury item in many ways and has some notable downsides for the $200 price point. The one that would likely give people pause is the battery life, which is noticeably shorter than the original DualSense (not that it also has great battery life, but I digress). Unlike the standard controller, however, the DualSense Edge comes with a nearly 10-foot braided USB cable and plug to keep it connected to your PlayStation 5 and charged. It’s not ideal, but if your entertainment center is set up for it, you can at least charge the DualSense Edge while gaming pretty easily right out of the box.

The biggest disappointment of the DualSense Edge is that despite the extra buttons, actual control scheme customization is entirely limited to moving existing buttons to the back of your controller. When I’m playing a game on my PlayStation that’s designed primarily for the PC, I often feel aching for buttons. The most recent example was Final Fantasy XIV, which I made the mistake of launching on PS5 and not PC – navigating this game on a controller still feels insurmountable to me on a DualSense Edge. I was hoping that the extra buttons would give me the ability to assign specific shortcuts to the other buttons, but the rear paddles really only act as replacements for buttons that are already elsewhere on the same controller. Now that I’ve spent some time with it, I realize this is beyond the scope of what the DualSense Edge is supposed to do, but if you’re hoping to use the controller as a way to expand your input options, this is it not what you are looking for.

The DualSense Edge's Customize Button Assignments menu appears, with a diagram of the controller labeling each button with a possible input.

With the DualSense Edge, you can move the input of any key to a different location on the controller. Want your L2 to behave like a circle button? You can.
screenshot: Sony/Kotaku

Furthermore? The DualSense Edge feels premium. It’s so sturdy and heavy that the original DualSense feels like a toy. The touchpad has a glossy, detailed finish that is sure to turn heads. It feels really good in the hand and looks good when you put it down. But despite the quality build, I still have to wonder if the average person needs it.

Unless you’re the sickest of online gaming sickos, many of the benefits DualSense offers feel like a luxury. It’s objectively better than playing with a standard controller, but it comes at such a high price point that I have a hard time recommending it to the average person. But at least I think differently about video game inputs. So often the way we interact with games via controllers makes up for the shortcomings of the device we’ve received. This is how things like claw grip manifest. We press the face buttons with our index fingers because the button we need isn’t available on the back of the controller where our fingers are usually located. Controllers like the Xbox Elite and DualSense Edge are confirmations that the modern controllers we use have drawbacks worth addressing. And even if it feels like a premium device, it’s a sign of a well-made device that has opened my mind and my game to new ways of playing. PS5 DualSense Modular Controller Review: Luxe Game Changer

Curtis Crabtree

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