The other day, I wrote about how I would never bother with an XBox 360, mostly due to the awful controller it uses. Naturally, I decided to do a bit of a series on video game controllers. Since I have already described what I believe to be the worst of the worst controllers, I will continue with what I believe to be the best of the best controllers: the Sony Dual Shock 3 for the PlayStation 3.
The one thing that just makes the PS3 Dual Shock 3 shine is the design. Just take a good look at the controller. Not only is it beautiful, but it is the natural evolution of the video game controller. Have a look at the Dual Shock 3 and the Super Nintendo controller at the same time. You can clearly see some gold-star breeding happened to arrive at the Dual Shock 3 from the SNES controller.
It is natural evolution. It is the way it was meant to be. Nice, sleek design. All buttons comfortably within reach in terms of hand positioning on the controller as well as the position of buttons in relation to other buttons. A look at this controller in the hands shows that everything from the curvature to the position of which the thumbs and fingers rest on the controller just screams ready to play some video games. There is no looking at this controller and asking yourself, "Why?" The Dual Shock 3 needs no explanation.
As far as response goes, I can only really give a "meets expectations" score. This is because I expect my game controllers to be perfect. I like how the controller responds in much game. Of course, this has much to do with the software programming as well. However, it takes a great set of drivers to make it do what it does. My only wish in this department would be the ability to change the sensitivity on the controller side as opposed to adjusting it on the game software side. This would allow the controller to have the same sensitivity across all games. This is also true of the pressure sensitivity. All of the buttons on the Dual Shock 3 are pressure sensitive. It would be great to have a way to adjust the sensitivity on the hardware side.
The rechargeable batteries in the controller are certainly worth a mention as well. The Dual Shock 3 is the only current-generation controller that comes with rechargeable batteries. To make it better, they are built in. You do not have to mess with them at all. Now, I have heard complaints about the life of these batteries. Because they are built into the controller, if the batteries go bad, the controller is gone. Look, you will not have this issue if you properly care for you controller. There is a correct way and an incorrect way to recharge your batteries. The correct way is as follows: first, always charge the batteries 100% before the first use; second, only charge after the first use if the batteries are dead or near dead, like lights flashing dead; third, do not take the controller/batteries off the charger until the batteries are completely charged. If you follow these three steps, your rechargeable batteries will live for the life of the console.
A nice new feature of the Dual Shock 3 is one of the most underused features: six-axis control. This controller is capable of motion control that is at least as accurate as what you would find on the Wii. It is unfortunate that many developers overlook the six-axis control. In many games, it works very well. There are many missed opportunities that come when talking about six-axis. From driving to taking cover, I can think of at least a dozen uses that nobody bothers with. In this age, especially since Sony has moved on to a peripheral that is all about motion control, yet requires a camera, there is not reason for the six-axis to be as neglected as it has been.
My favorite feature of the Dual Shock 3 almost never came to be: the dual shock itself. I love the fact that my controller vibrates while playing games as a way to show feedback. A controller without dual shock can still be a good controller, but the dual shock has become the signature of a PlayStation controller. I was very disappointed that the dual shock was not in the original PS3 controller. When it was announced, I felt as if I had been reunited with a long-lost son.
I could actually stand the weight of the Dual Shock 3 to be a little heavier. I like my controllers to feel as if they really would break the television if I through it in a rage fit. Definitely, after the first generation of PlayStation 3 controller, the weight increased a little, but I wish they would add at least a few more ounces to the overall weight. It might feel a little too light if the one before it were not lighter, but the Dual Shock 3 will not be forgotten about in your hands.
Ultimately, what makes a good controller is all around good design. Manufacturers should not be so concerned about a unique look to be straying from comfort or functionality. From the looks to the precision to the features, the Dual Shock 3 is the gold-standard in which all other controller manufacturers should seek to achieve.