Since I picked up my PlayStation 3 back in January, the bulk of my playtime has been spent with “LittleBigPlanet” and “MLB 09: The Show.” Recently, I’ve made my first foray into the first-person shooter genre with “Killzone 2” (rated M, $60 on PS3), and I’m realizing I really dislike the PS3’s controller, the DualShock 3, for first-person shooters.
For one thing, the DualShock 3 lacks the trigger-style buttons for firing weapons that you’ll find on the Xbox 360’s controller. Heck, even the Wii remote’s B button takes the shape of a trigger for shooters on that console. Clearly someone missed a memo somewhere. Having the tactile sensation of pulling a trigger as your in-game character is finding a weapon adds a cheap sense of realism to the proceedings.
My bigger beef with the controller, however, comes with the thumbsticks you use to control movement. The Dualshock’s sticks are too slippy. They feel loose when you push them, as if someone squirted motor oil into the controller; there just isn’t enough resistance. The fact that the tops of the sticks are hard, slightly textured rubber, rather than the softer rubberized, indented grip you find on the 360, adds to the feeling of imprecision, a feeling you never want in a first-person shooter. It’s OK for the controls to feel a little off in games like “LittleBigPlanet” or “The Show,” but in a first-person shooter, it can be the difference between a headshot and, well, a shoulder shot. And it’s driving me crazy.
Worst of all, though, the 360’s sticks feel better placed. I don’t have massive hands, but they’re large enough that I feel like I have to contort them into gnarled claws every time I play PS3 because the placement of the two sticks at the bottom of the controller, right next to each other, doesn’t fit the size or preferred position of my hands. Again, this issue comes into play mostly when playing first-person shooters because the thumbsticks are used for pretty much all movement, as opposed to control schemes in other games where you’re often using chiefly the left thumbstick, with your other thumb resting on the face buttons.
Playing shooters on the PS3 is an uncomfortable, unnatural feeling, and I hope one of these days someone, either at Sony or a third-party controller manufacturer, realizes there are more ergonomic ways to design a game controller. The games people play on Sony consoles have evolved considerably since the launch of the original DualShock in the late ’90s. It’s time the controllers caught up with this fact.