Coming as a bit of a surprise announcement at the end of 2019, the DualShock 4 Back Button has just hit stores… well, one store in the UK… and it’s being sold on the promise of improving your competitive game. Of course, a fully programmable set of paddles on the back of a controller is a handy addition, but usually there’s a hefty premium when this type of function is on elite, specialist kit. Sony is offering up some of this flexibility through an attachment at less than £30 that plugs into the bottom of any existing DS4. It’s a promise that’s definitely worth investigating, so does it manage to deliver on it?
The DualShock 4 Back Button is relatively unassuming in its small, light box, and comes with the usual War and Peace thick warranty booklet. I mention this because before the packaging is open it feels like there’s a weight to the unit and it’s actually surprising how light it is when holding it. Obviously there’s no way you’d want something that’s going to compromise the balance of the controller in your hand, so it’s reassuring that this adds only a little over 100 grams, and more importantly, feels solidly built. To attach you simply put the 3.5 mm jack into the headphone output and push up so that it slots into place using the other underside jack. The Back Button is firmly held against the contours of the DS4, and the fact the paddles are recessed means that it doesn’t really change the profile of the controller. Putting it down won’t have you accidentally triggering an action or banging the OLED screen on a hard surface. There’s a lot of thought gone into the design for it to be unobtrusive and as functional as it can be.
So what does it actually do? It adds two new paddle-style buttons on the back of the controller that sit just under your fingertips and need very little pressure to activate. The OLED screen in the middle signals which buttons are currently mapped, and it’s all powered by the DS4 battery. The screen also clicks in and that’s used to switch between the three presets and change them if needed. Swapping button mapping is very easy – long press the preset then cycle through the options with each of the triggers, then press again to set. A double tap of the screen cycles through the presets as well, so it’s very easy to use. The only thing it can’t replicate are the analogue stick movements, even through it does cover the R3 and L3 options. The beauty of it is that whilst it’s pitched at competitive play, this actually opens up options in many games where you just want a different button layout, or one easier to hit. It mostly sits comfortably in the palm of your hand, though it takes a bit of getting used to in some games with the new placement and, if you’ve bigger hands, stopping them from cramping up.
Having tried it out on a number of games – Ace Combat: Skies Unknown as the rudder and throttle, GRID for gear shifting, WipEout Omega Collection as fire and absorb, Crash Team Racing for jumping and sliding, Dreams for whatever has been set to L1 and R1, and Zombie Army 4 for melee and sprint – it’s clear that it’s adaptable. Mainly shifting R3 and L3 has the most benefit from the DualShock 4 Back Button as it removes the need to click in the analogue sticks which makes it easier to multitask, but then WipEout ended up being even more enjoyable when not having to rock my thumb around the face buttons to shoot someone down. There’s a satisfaction in using them as paddle gear shifts without cat’s cradling your hands during a lap as well. The biggest issue tends to be stopping your muscle memory from reverting back to the original button locations.
Should you pick one up though, given that there’s a decent enough rumour that this will come built into the PS5 controller? I’d say yes if you’re looking for something to bridge the gap to the pro-controllers currently on the market, but don’t want to drop over £150 on them. It’s a cheap alternative, yet feels premium once it’s all put together. There are a couple of drawbacks like it’s easy to nudge them until you get used to where they are, and if you use a charging dock you’ll have to remove it – but they’re hardly deal breakers. There’s even the audio passthrough for the headphone jack, so you’ll not lose that. The DualShock 4 Back Button won’t make you better at games, but it does bring some much appreciated flexibility to Sony’s standard kit. You might also be getting an early insight into what’s coming with the PS5 controller, but we can’t promise that.
The DualShock 4 Back Button is available now, exclusively at GAME in the UK, for £25.99.