Launching back in November 2020, the PS5 has so far been a runaway sales success for Sony. One of the key differentiators has been the revolutionary DualSense controller that makes each game feel inimitable – you won’t experience anything quite like it anywhere else.
Best shown in first-party exclusive Astro’s Playroom the controller uses a mixture of haptic feedback through the main chassis and what Sony dubs ‘Adaptive Triggers’ that provide variable and programmable tension.
These are then combined with the in-built speaker, touchpad and LEDs to provide a toolset to game developers that, when used in a considered fashion, can be transformative.
While there are many people who have the space, budget and mindset to own a sim rig setup, or at the very least a wheel clamped to a desk, playing a racing game with a gamepad remains a popular route. In this respect, the DualSense can deliver a small portion of the additional feedback wheel-users gain.
With this in mind, here are the racing games that we think benefit from the latest-generation controller the most.
Disclaimer – we aren’t ranking the overall game experience here, just the DualSense features.
1. WRC 9
As we’ve said many times already, WRC 9 marked a significant vehicle handling step forward for the officially licenced series. Using a wheel, you can precisely place your rally car and react to its movements with far greater satisfaction that in any other recent WRC game.
But, the step-change is also present for those using a controller on PS5. The haptic feedback means you feel a greater connection to the action – even eliciting a different response when you go over a jump or change gear. Speaking of which, should you ‘explore’ the outer regions of a stage, you can subtly hear detritus hitting the bottom of your car via the DualSense’s speaker.
The triggers too set the template for other racing games to follow. A throttle (R2) that’s relatively easy to smash, but a brake pedal (L2) that is significantly firmer and gets harder to depress the further your squeeze – just like a brake pedal, but with your index finger.
Developer Kylotonn has already stated that it will include the same features in the upcoming WRC 10 – and we can’t wait.
2. Ride 4
Playing Ride 4, Milestone’s motorcycle collecting-focussed racing game, I finally felt something I had dreamt of as a PS2-playing teenager. What if you could feel the ripples on a kerb?
Now, thanks to the DualSense, you can. When you ride over a white and red race circuit kerb in this game, you don’t just feel a single-note rumble. You can feel, thanks to the haptic systems, the bike riding over the individual corrugations.
Sure, the colours of the controller light up red as you approach your motorbike’s redline and the triggers a firm to press down, but it’s really the way Ride 4 uses the nascent controller technology to bring those kerbstones to life that we’d like to see in every racing game henceforth, please.
3. Destruction AllStars
Okay, okay, there’s a (very plausible) argument that Destruction AllStars shouldn’t be on this list because technically it’s not a racing game. Fair cop, but it most definitely is a driving game first and foremost, with vehicular combat and a bit of running around should you fancy it.
Once we’ve straddled that hurdle, the DualSense comes to the fore here. Like WRC 9, it utilises the triggers with added tension, but it’s the main-body haptics that are the star of the show here.
They don’t constantly rumble, but instead, there’s a satisfying thud when you tap cross to select a hero and when you slam an opponent. Three games in and another unique way of using the options available, which is why the pad is so exciting as we’re less than a year into the development possibilities.
That, or like Destruction AllStars itself, its use is ephemeral. Let’s hope not.
4. MotoGP 21
The second entry from Milestone, and this could have been quite easily MXGP 2020 or Monster Energy Supercross 4 as all four of the Milanese developer’s PS5 releases so far use the DualSense to its full extent.
MotoGP 21 edges the two motocross titles, however, as we feel they could do more to simulator the berms and surface changes. Somehow, though, the effects aren’t as nuanced as Ride 4 – it doesn’t react over kerbs with the same abrasiveness.
At first, the effect is very strong, but you can tweak the effectiveness in the menu, and once set to medium, I found the triggers helped me to modulate the brake pressure – which is all-important in this game!
A recent update also added the ability to use motion controls, using the in-built gyroscope – but we can’t say we recommend this use, even if it’s a neat addition.
5. DIRT 5 – it’s complicated
Launching with two months of WRC 9, DIRT 5 sadly showed how not to use the DualSense.
Instead of the brake being firm, the throttle was, while the brakes were soggy – quite literally the inverse of what they should be. The vibration level was permanently turned up to the maximum. It was like one of those electric-shock Lightning Reaction games.
Thankfully, the Super Size Content Pack update brought with it a much-needed feedback update. What a relief. WRC 9 still shows DIRT 5 how to use the main vibrations on a gravel surface to greater effect, but at least it’s been toned down to a tolerable level and the triggers are more appropriate. I could still do with it being slightly less abrasive, however.
There’s a bold energy throughout this game, and now, mercifully, the controller is now aligned.
Could do better – F1 2021
While most of the DualSense’s featured are used in F1 2021, the vibration is a bit dunderheaded, Jeff doesn’t need to come through the controller speaker and by default, the triggers are too light.
We were expecting Destruction AllStar’s tacticity, Ride 4’s vibrations and WRC 9’s triggers but in the end, we got something that is just – fine.
The dunce’s hat – Monster Truck Championship
The next-gen version of Monster Truck Championship is a separate SKU without a free upgrade path. This is fine, but at least titles structured in the same way such as Wreckfest and MotoGP 21 make the most of the fresh hardware.
Monster Truck Championship holds the unenviable title of being the only PS5-native racing game not to use the DualSense in any way. It feels the same as playing on a PS4. Must try harder.