Another major improvement comes in the form of larger L2 and R2 buttons. These buttons also have far more travel, making them feel more like analogue triggers – again this is clearly to keep up with the X360, or even the original Xbox controller. The only problem with these new triggers is that I often found myself having to hold the SixAxis uncomfortably if I wanted to accelerate with the right trigger and steer with the left analogue stick. After a bit of practice I got used to it, but it definitely doesn’t feel as natural as it could.
The analogue sticks feel more sensitive than the old PS2 controller, making first person shooter games far more enjoyable. Trying to take out a German soldier with a sniper rifle from 300 yards in Call of Duty 3 is far easier than I would have expected it to be – the analogue sticks manage to register even the slightest movement, so it’s easy to zero in on your targets. Conspicuous by its absence is any form of rumble in the SixAxis – this omission is compounded by the fact that both the X360 and Wii offer integrated rumble in their wireless controllers.
But of course the smartest trick that the SixAxis has up its sleeve is its built-in motion sensors. The controller can register movement in six planes – up, down, left, right, forwards and backwards – hence the name, SixAxis. When I’m feeling cynical I’ll describe this feature as a desperate attempt to compete with the Wii’s revolutionary control method, but I do have to admit that the SixAxis works surprisingly well at times. Fire up a game like MotorStorm – a ridiculously over the top, but very addictive off road racer – and you’ll soon forget about the analogue stick and start controlling your truck, car or bike by tilting the SixAxis from side to side. There are other instances where the motion sensor feature is shoe horned into games with little benefit, but I imagine that developers will learn to use this feature to its best ability over time.
Despite the fact that I really did want Sony to come up with an all new controller for its latest PlayStation, it is amazing how natural the SixAxis feels in the hand. I’m sure that Sony did a lot of research and threw together hundreds of focus groups when designing the PS3 and I’ll bet that most die hard PlayStation fans wanted a familiar controller – the SixAxis is just that.