When the PlayStation 5 launched last November, one of its most notable features was the brand-new DualSense controller. Set to be a tech demo of sorts for the DualSense, Astro's Playroom was a well-received pack-in game that ignited the imaginations of PlayStation fans across the globe over the potential of the new controller.
Astro's Playroom featured all sorts of interesting ways for the controller to be used from the trigger's haptic feedback to the 3D audio. It seemed like every element of the game was incorporating the DualSense in some way or another. When people got their hands on other PS5 launch titles, however, it seemed as if many of the exclusive DualSense features had been forgotten about by game makers. Nothing had come anywhere near Astro's Playroom in terms of controller functionality until Returnal.
Based on the early reception of Returnal, it looks like it is the first game since Astro's Playroom to really utilize the PS5's DualSense controller in a meaningful way. Described by Game Rant as, "the most immersive uses of haptics ever in a video game, bar none," Returnal might just be the final proof of concept needed for other studios to see just how incredible the DualSense can be. In a similar vein, it's quite hype-inducing for one of many upcoming Insomniac Games titles.
Ever since the release of Sunset Overdrive back in 2014, Insomniac has become a household gaming name. With last year's Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the upcoming Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, the studio has acquired some real momentum. Plenty of eyes are looking at what it's planning next after Rift Apart releases. Despite the lack of official announcements, it's pretty clear that one of the studio's next projects is the direct sequel to 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man.
While Miles Morales was a worthy sequel/spinoff in its own right, the lack of any real DualSense integration felt like something of a missed opportunity. With the general lack of PS5 availability and the prevalence of Miles Morales PS5 bundles, plenty of PS5 owners went directly from the pack-in Astro's Playroom into Miles Morales. The difference in DualSense incorporation between Astro and Spider-Man is pretty vast. While Miles Morales definitely had some use of the adaptive triggers and 3D audio, playing the two games side by side, unfortunately, highlighted the lack of meaningful controller features in Miles Morales.
Now that Returnal has set the bar so high with its use of the DualSense, the proverbial ball is in the courts of all other Sony published studios. It has been made clear that Returnal's use of the controller is more than just a gimmick and adds to the overall immersion and ambiance. What's more, it's made the game literally feel unique and memorable.
The Spider-Man sequel would do well to use the lessons being taught by Returnal with its controller use. Luckily, it seems like Insomniac Games is already on board with using the DualSense for meaningful gameplay features in Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Hopefully, with Spider-Man 2, the studio will use the combination of DualSense features that Rift Apart director Mike Daly highlighted when discussing the upcoming release.
At this point, only time will tell if other studios will continue to take full advantage of the new hardware in ways other than what's in the PlayStation 5 itself. If Returnal is setting the stage for what's to come, however, then it seems like a new age of video game immersion might be just around the corner.
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