Xbox vs. PlayStation: A Tale of Two Controllers

Xbox vs. PlayStation: A Tale of Two Controllers

Moving cross-platform is possible, but a bit painful

After many video game enthusiasts cried foul over Microsoft's plans for the Xbox One this year, I began wondering how many would really take this opportunity to leave Xbox behind and move to the PlayStation 4. There are a number of hurdles to overcome in such a move. But the biggest, for any game player, is of course the controller. So I've spent this week using the PS4 exclusively to see how well that could go.

And in this case, I had a good test case: I have "Call of Duty: Ghosts" on both the Xbox 360 and PS4, and so I can move back and forth between the two and quickly understand the differences. And while there are a number of minor differences, there is a single more important major difference to overcome: The positions of the d-pad and the left stick are reversed on the PS4's Dual Shock 4 controller. This photo demonstrates the difference:

Sony Dual Shock 4 (top), Xbox 360 wireless controller (bottom)

This difference requires you to hold the controllers quite differently. Here's the position with the 360:

And with the PS4:

Because of this reversal, it takes a while to make the switch, and I've come up dead-handed—meaning, my left thumb kind of freezes in air, unsure of where to go next—a few times. Oddly, however, it didn't take long to make the transition. I'm now a little nervous about switching back to the Xbox One's controller, which retains the same layout as the Xbox 360 controller.

And go figure, but I prefer the PS4's trackpad for toggling the player list display. It's got a nice, solid click feel to it.

I will say this: If you really are plotting a switch from Xbox to PS4—and, honestly, I don't think that's as big an audience as the online uproar suggests, but whatever—the Dual Shock 4 controller will help make that transition. It's a bit bigger than the Dual Shock 2 and 3, which is important. That means it's closer in size, and grip, to the Xbox controllers.

But it also corrects some mistakes of past Dual Shock controller: The sticks have a nice, grippy top and work more like the Xbox controller sticks, and the back triggers (R1 and R2) are now in fact real triggers, as on the Xbox 360/One: With previous controllers, they were just a second set of bumpers.

Sony also replaced the Select and Start buttons with Share and Options buttons, respectively. I didn't use the PS3 all that much, but I'd guess that Options works much like Start did before. (Share is new to the PS4 and triggers a system-wide sharing mechanism that currently supports videos and screenshots, and both Facebook and Twitter.)

Anyway, the PlayStation controllers were always an issue for me before the PS4: They were too small and lacked the proper button layout. But with the Dual Shock 4, Sony has made a better controller, both for previous PlayStation owners for any of you Xbox expats out there. Either way, the controller is no longer a negative for the platform.

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