It all comes standard
I'll be the first to admit that when I first got my PS4, I didn't know what to make of the little alien contraption that came with it, otherwise known as the DualShock 4. I tilted my head at the always-on lightbar with a penchant for reflecting off TV screens, used the built-in gyroscope with all the grace of a shark on stilts, flailed and gawped like one of the apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey when the first bits of sound tumbled out of its speaker. It was new, it was weird, and to my mind it seemed fraught with gimmicks that would never be put to use.
And oh, dear readers, how very wrong I was. Now that I've spent hours upon hours upon hours upon hours with the DS4, I've come to realize that not only is it a great controller, but those features I thought of as needless frills are pretty sweet when used to their full effect. In particular, I've honed in on seven standout games that do really cool stuff with the DS4's extra features. Read on and see for yourself, because pretty colors are just the beginning.
The sword uses the DS4 speaker to talk to you in Transistor
Forget diamonds, a sword is a girl's best friend. I mean that literally in the case of Red, the newly mute protagonist of Transistor, whose only companion is a sentient sword. Thankfully he's able to speak despite his lack of mouth, and his frequent quips and observations help build up their relationship. The DS4, meanwhile, adds another level to this tale of a girl and her beloved blade by having the sword's voice only come through the controller's speaker, making it feel like you're holding the Transistor in your hands.
While that might seem to just be a fun idea at first, it actually adds a lot to the experience of being Miss Red. The fact that the rest of the game's audio comes through the TV makes it feel as though the sword is physically closer, which helps bolster your emotional connection to the voice inside it. The rest of the world may feel far away, but you and the Transistor are in this together. It's a neat little mind trick, and its use makes the game that much more engaging.
The lightbar mimics the motion tracker in Alien Isolation
Apparently some developer thought that Alien Isolation isn't scary enough on its own, so they decided to torture PlayStation players with a little extra terror. Specifically, Isolation uses the light bar and speaker to mimic the machine that tells you SOMETHING IS COMING TO GET YOU, RUN! Interacting with the in-game motion tracker, the DS4 light bar grows brighter the closer an enemy gets to you, making it seem like the terrifying creature on screen is going to climb through the TV and ruin your night.
Given that many players cling to the motion tracker like a big electronic pacifier from the moment they pick it up, it makes sense that the always-on-hand DS4 would act as its physical stand-in. Not that it brings much comfort in the long run, with the light pulsing faster and beeping from the speaker becoming increasingly frantic as enemies draw closer. Plus, the tinniness of the speaker actually benefits the game in this case, since it accurately reflects the retro-tech that's so popular in Sevastopol. Those little details communicate that you really are running for your life and hiding from man, machine, and horrific alien beast that all want you dead. And hey, what's that looming black shape behind your couch? Haha, just kidding! OR AM I?
The lightbar and speaker make you a better criminal in Grand Theft Auto 5
GTA and police pursuits go together like online multiplayer and colorful vulgarities, so it's not a surprise that Rockstar would want to work that feeling of glorious criminality into every part of GTA V. Even the littlest things add to the experience, including the lightbar, which flashes red and blue whenever you find yourself in the midst of a drag race with Los Santos' finest, or simply on the wrong end of a call for backup.
The DS4 speaker also plays a part in your criminal escapades, letting you listen in on police radio chatter and, even worse, use your cellphone while driving. For shame! Having these sounds come through the controller makes them seem much closer, like you're actually using a radio or yelling at a business partner while barreling down the freeway. It's all the realism with a fraction of the lethality!
Infamous: Second Son uses the gyroscope, speaker, AND lightbar to make stencil art
Most of the entries on this list are all about immersion, changing the way you feel while playing a game, as opposed to directly affecting the mechanics. Infamous: Second Son gets a little more adventurous in that regard, using the DS4's gryoscope to control spraypainting mini-games along with the lightbar and speaker to give it that extra hint of authenticity. Every time Delsin shows his rebellious side by creating a new graffiti masterpiece for the world to see, the DS4's configuration adjusts so you use it like an actual aerosol can. Specifically, you turn the controller on its side, shake it and pull R2 like a real spraypaint trigger, while the lightbar shows what color you're using all the associated sounds come out of the speaker.
It's only a small piece of the overall game, but using the DS4's side features to mimic the feeling of a spray can makes those little moments palpable and way more compelling as a result. Sure, completing those missions helps you loosen DUP's grip on Seattle and gives you karma points, but you know you're really going back to them for the sweet clack clack ssssssssh sound of an aerosol can in action. Aaaah, so satisfying.
Shadow of Mordor sends you ghostly messages and gameplay cues through the speaker
While playing Shadow of Mordor, you alternate seeing the world from two different perspectives: the world of the living as Talion, and the ghostly Wraith realm as Celebrimbor. While you're probably not going to mistake one for the other on sight, the PS4 adds a bit more flavor to both, using the DS4 speaker to highlight different sounds depending on how you currently see reality. You'll get hints of ghostly whispers when you're controlling Celebrimbor, and hear the clang of steel when Talion jumps into a fight. Plus, you get the satisfying swish of your sword as you lop an enemys head right off. It shouldn't feel good but it does.
While this feature is largely just for funsies (and hey, there's nothing wrong with that), it does make itself useful through subtle and helpful gameplay cues. Hearing leaves rustle when you successfully take cover in a bush makes lets you know you're properly hidden, and the signal that Talion's special ability is locked and loaded gets your attention a lot faster when it emanates from up close. And hey, if all else fails, the sound of Talion's memories coming through the speaker will keep you interested during load times, and anything that can pull that off deserves props.
You'll never miss a raid in Final Fantasy XIV, because quest queues come from the DS4 speaker
We've all been there: you jump into the queue for a raid or quest and wait a thousand years to get matched up. Then the second you get up to make a sandwich, the mission starts and you get booted for being AFK, at which point you set the house on fire in a rage and run shrieking into the night. Like I said, we've all been there. Thankfully Square-Enix has figured out how to circumvent this issue in Final Fantasy XIV through clever use of the DS4, saving you a ton of missed matches and some awkward conversations with the fire marshal.
When you jump into the quest queue and your turn comes around, FFXIV does something brilliant in its simplicity: it pings you through the DS4 to let you know the mission's about to start. That may not seem like much at first, but because you have the ability to control the DS4 volume independent of the game audio, you can make the quest signal as loud as you need to without it getting lost in the game's ambient noise. Go ahead and start your math homework, do your taxes, call a conspiracy theory hotline and describe the plot of Half-Life 2 as if it were your real life. Whatever you do while hovering in quest limbo, go for it - the DS4 will make sure you know when it's go-time.
The lightbar makes you terrified of your own home in Outlast
At first glance this seems like the standard for gimmicky cosmetic additions: in game X, the DS4 lightbar will usually be white, but will turn green when you switch over to night vision. That's it. Not super interesting, right? At least, not until I tell you that 'game X' is Outlast, where you're trapped in a blackened asylum being chased by psychopathic killers, and I believe you're legally obligated to play in the dark. Now imagine that green light reflecting around the room. Imagine the space you're in right now has that same glow that the asylum does when seen through night vision. Imagine the lightbar flickering as you run out of batteries, and that flickering reflecting off someone previously unseen in the roOM WITH YOU OH DEAR GOD!
Terrifying, right? While the different-pretty-lights feature is something that a lot of games use to negligible effect, the fact that Outlast very carefully manipulates it to increase the terror you're already feeling makes it much more interesting. Tricking you into being scared of your own in-game shadow is the aim of any horror title, but finding out a way to make you afraid of your real life shadow? That's genius. Oh, and did I mention the lightbar turns bright red when you die? Sounds fun!
I've seen the lightbar!
There you have it: the best of the best games that know how to use that beautiful contraption called the DS4 to its fullest. Which of these is your favorite, thoughtful use of frills? What other games do you want to see put the DS4 to use, and how? Tell us in the comments below, and spread the DSLove.
Want more PS4? Check out The 25 best PS4 games (that you can play with your DS4!) and 14 things I wish I'd known before starting Bloodborne.