Sticky situation resolved.

The DualShock 4 is widely regarded as one of the best controllers Sony has ever made, but until recently, I had no idea why.

Let’s be clear: improving the design of the DualShock 3 wasn’t exactly a difficult task. The analog sticks were generally disliked due to their convex design, and Sony’s engineering team were almost certainly trolling the entire world when they decided to make the R2 and L2 buttons curve inwards, not outwards – the only triggers in existence to do so. Great job, guys!

But the problems didn’t end there. People with freakishly large hands said their thumbs would collide during heated games of Call of Duty, about three developers decided to use the motion-control functionality that definitely wasn’t shoehorned in, and you couldn’t charge your precious controllers unless the PS3 was on. It did have good battery life, though.

The rumble-free Sixaxis controller was as durable as a wet paper towel.

When you look back at the DualShock 3 and all its… merits… Sony really couldn’t do much worse. And let’s not forget that the DualShock 3 was actually Sony’s second effort: we all had to suffer the rumble-free Sixaxis controller that was as durable as a wet paper towel and squeaked louder than a mouse being tortured by a gang of cats. It was lighter than any product Apple has made to date, so I suppose that’s some sort of unintentional victory for Sony.

Shock Therapy

Surely, then, with all the DualShock 3’s misgivings, the DualShock 4 would be close to perfection? Or at the very least a monumental improvement over the DualShock 3? Well, that depends on who you ask…

If we address the positive points first — the bonafide triggers, ergonomic design and concave analog sticks — then yes, the DualShock 4 is undoubtedly superior. But if we address the negative points — the awful battery life, the superfluous lightbar and the never to be fully-utilised touchpad — then maybe the DualShock 4 isn’t as great as people initially thought.

However, there’s one particular unacceptable issue that Sony has been getting away with; one straw that has repeatedly broken this camel’s back so many times that the camel has died several times over. I honestly don’t know how they’ve managed to do it…

The DualShock 4’s analog sticks, specifically the rubber coating, are absolutely atrocious.

DualShock 4 analog stick

It begins…

Here Today, Worn Tomorrow

If you’re one of the millions of gamers who picked up a PlayStation 4 at launch, or even during the first few months the PS4 went on sale, you’ll have no doubt encountered the soul destroying revelation that your analog sticks are slowly wearing away. Go on, have a look. That’s right – dissolving, disintegrating, disappearing into nothingness with each tentative play session. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

I’m overjoyed to discover my thumbs covered in specks of black rubber. And of course by overjoyed I mean seething with rage.

Now, let’s clarify one thing: I do not — in any way, shape or form — use the controller in a rough manner. Nor do I have fingers made out of sandpaper or any other ridiculous suggestions you may throw at me. The simple fact of the matter is this: the material on the DualShock 4’s analog sticks is defective. And that means whenever I play a slightly rigorous game, and by rigorous I mean a quick game of FIFA, I’m overjoyed to discover my thumbs covered in specks of black rubber. And of course by overjoyed I mean seething with rage.

Take a glance at any demo booth containing a PS4 at your local store and I guarantee the sticks, or what’s left of them, will be nought but a plastic, uninviting shell. A quick Google search will also reveal a seemingly never ending list of complaints about the fault Sony wants you to forget – there’s even a dedicated group on NeoGaf.

Some people have resorted to sending the controller back to Sony directly, which they had to pay for shipping, and others have tried to get a replacement from their local store (and failed) like me. “Come back when they’re even more battered” was the gist of what the manager told me. The jerk.

DualShock 4 rip

Rub the sticks for massive damage.

Both my DualShock 4s, one which was replaced by a nice manager due to annoyingly sticky L1 and R1 buttons (yeah, I forgot to mention those buggers), suffer from worn out sticks. And believe me, that’s not because I’ve been playing the PS4 regularly, as much as I’d like to say otherwise. I’ve actually avoided playing games on it as I can’t take the distress of breaking a £40 controller through no fault of my own. And what’s to say if I picked up another one it wouldn’t be faulty, too?

Comeback Coating

After almost giving up on ever really enjoying the PS4s so-called wonderful controller, I made a life-changing discovery while visiting a friend in Japan. To my utter amazement, his sticks looked immaculate – untouched even. After exclaiming my surprise, I was rocked by the revelation that the analog sticks felt completely different to the rubbery rubbish I had at home. The material felt more akin to the DualShock 3’s sticks, which have never ever worn down despite hundreds of hours of play.

That very same evening we played FIFA 14 until 4am, and not one speck of rubber was shed.

That very same evening we played FIFA 14 until 4am, and not one speck of rubber was shed. Then I remembered… The PlayStation 4 launched a few months later in Japan, and furthermore, my friend had only recently picked up the console. Could it be that Sony had made a stealth revision to the DualShock 4? They must have!

Buoyed by newfound optimism, I decided to bite the bullet and picked up a white DualShock 4 the very next day. As I write this, I’m holding back tears of happiness. The DualShock 4 that I bought in Japan turned out to be exactly like my friends, the analog sticks are just the way the were when I carefully removed the controller from its packaging, and they’re a pleasure to touch every time I play. Thank you, Sony.

The battery’s still crap, though.

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