Sony made a surprising announcement before the end of 2019 — an official $29 add-on for the DualShock 4, the Back Button Attachment. A somewhat cumbersome addition to the controller that adds backtouch paddles, making the DualShock more akin to the Xbox Elite Controller or various other third-party gamepads.I’ve been using it for a little over a week, and while it took some getting used to after 20-something years of the familiar DualShock form, I’ve actually grown to love using the extra buttons, and hope that it indicates what we might expect with the PS5’s controller.
What Is the PS4 Back-Button Attachment?
Sony’s newest peripheral is an attachment that plugs into the DualShock 4’s EXT port and headphone jack (it includes a passthrough if you still want to plug in a mic and/or headphones). It includes two additional buttons, which fan out from the center of the controller and rest against the handles of the DualShock, meeting in the middle at a circular OLED screen, which can be pressed in to program or view which buttons these two new ones represent.
And those two buttons can be programmed to pretty much replicate every button on the DualShock 4, whether they be face buttons, triggers, or directional pad…directions.
A Cumbersome, But Comfortable, Attachment
I didn’t have the best first impression of the attachment — it’s meant to snugly fit onto the DualShock as if it were originally part of the controller (more on that in a bit), which means a bit of finesse is required when plugging it in. I found myself worried I’d even break it as I tried to piece it together the first handful of times, but once I got the hang of it, I admired how durable the attachment feels when plugged in. It adds only a little weight to the controller and quickly and naturally felt right in my grip of the DualShock.
Programming it is a breeze once it’s properly synced to your controller, as the OLED screen showcases the programmed inputs and can quickly cycle through the possible inputs when in its programming state.
The buttons themselves have a welcome click, and have never felt mushy at all. Being so used to the DualShock as originally designed, I gripped the attachment loosely at first, worried I’d be accidentally clicking those buttons all the time. But the new buttons are smartly balanced — they have a good click to them, but they also don’t depress at the slightest touch. You won’t be able to grip your controller in tight frustration at a Bloodborne boss battle, per se, but the attachment allows for a much more comfortable grip than I initially expected to have.
Despite my initial concerns about snapping off its connector, I’ve really appreciated the build quality of the attachment. Obviously built to mesh with PlayStation’s
original design for the DualShock 4, the Back Button Attachment is sturdy and perfectly lined up to fit with the DualShock.
Playing With the Back Button Attachment
I’ve primarily chosen to use the back buttons as analogs for L1 and R1, so my trigger fingers never have to leave L2 and R2, while my naturally resting middle fingers can tap these new inputs. And so far it’s worked great, letting me swap weapons on the fly in Fortnite, or for quick taps of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s light R1 attacks. The other best solution, in my personal experience, has been to assign two of the directional buttons to the new inputs to minimize having to move my hand off the left thumbstick.
There are some buttons I’d personally never change them to, but allowing the back button to take on any of those inputs is a great accessibility move, and one I’m glad Sony is finally considering more. It did take a minute to get used to, though. I’ve been playing games on a DualShock largely the same way for decades, and so having to retrain my brain suddenly to ignore buttons I’ve used day after day for years was not an overnight switch. I’m still occasionally pressing the original L1 or R1 instead of these new buttons, but have enjoyed their convenience as, over time, I use them more and more.
Battery is a major consideration with this attachment. The DualShock 4 already has notoriously low battery life, especially compared to other consoles’ controllers, and this new attachment doesn’t help, obviously. It is definitely more of a drain, maybe an hour or so less on average, but I’ve learned to always have a spare DualShock 4 charged lying around after six years, so it hasn’t been much of a hurdle to overcome.
Preparation for the PS5?
And I’m definitely taking the time to get used to the buttons. Not only because I have enjoyed their convenience, but because of my sneaking suspicion about the attachment itself. Sony has not officially said anything about the attachment’s implications for the PS5’s new, still unnamed controller, but it feels like a safe bet that at least some version of the controller will feature these same back buttons.
Consider the mounting evidence — PS5 controller patents have revealed a version that includes very similar buttons. The same year as a new console’s launch is also a very peculiar time to introduce an official, first-party peripheral — an extremely rare thing this generation — that introduces something Xbox Elite controllers have had for years now.
Maybe it’s just PlayStation wanting to offer some parity with competitors and third-party controller makers. Maybe I’m just Charlie Kelly trying to uncover Pepe Silvia. But introducing this peripheral now feels like a great way to ensure players can not only become familiar with the layout but possibly even use their DualShock 4’s with the PS5. After all, it’s a move Xbox is planning with Xbox One controllers on Series X, and to allow the 106 million PS4 owners to use their DualShocks in a full capacity next-gen is not a bad reason to introduce the peripheral.
Whether the Back Button Attachment is a sign of a PS5 future to come, or just a neat, additional offering from Sony, I’m very glad to have it. Its arrival may be as odd as first trying to plug in the attachment, but after a few days playing with it, it already feels like an integral part of my PlayStation playtime. And if it’s here to stay, I’d welcome a world where it’s built into the controller.