When Sony's PlayStation 3 came out in late 2006, much was made over the fact that the new Sixaxis wireless controller that shipped with the system didn't offer any force feedback--or rumble, as the vibration feature in Sony's earlier DualShock 2 controller (for the PlayStation 2) is often called. Sure, the whole poor-man's Wii motion-sensing thing (Sixaxis) was somewhat cool, but PlayStation aficionados and gaming purists were disappointed that Sony was forced to leave out the rumble because it was involved in a patent dispute with Immersion, the company that developed force-feedback technology.
Well, the legal issues have been resolved and Sony is now selling the DualShock 3, which should have come with the PS3 when it launched. The good news is the rumble works just fine with the limited number of PS3 titles that currently support the feature. (The full list of DualShock 3-compatible games is available at Sony's PlayStation Web site. The feature can be retroactively added to many older games thanks to downloadable patches available through Sony's free PlayStation Network online service.)
We tried the DualShock 3 with Heavenly Sword and Resistance: Fall of Man. While the rumble really didn't add much to Heavenly Sword, it was more effective with a first-person shooter such as Resistance, as it enhanced the feeling of firing your gun and taking hits. We also liked that the DualShock 3 (7 ounces) is somewhat heavier than the original Sixaxis controller (5 ounces). It isn't a huge deal, but it just feels more substantial in your hand. Some people complained that the Sixaxis controller was just too much of a featherweight, and if you're one of those people, you'll appreciate the extra 2 ounces this controller adds.
The Sixaxis motion-sensing feature is still present and accounted for along with the familiar Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Unfortunately, the DualShock 3 retains the annoyances of its predecessor. Chief among them: the built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery isn't removable, so when it eventually dies (admittedly, probably several years down the road), you'll have to buy a completely new controller. (By contrast, the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii have user-replaceable battery packs.)
The other major gripe with the DualShock 3 is the $55 price tag. That's anywhere from a $5 to $15 premium over the street price of Xbox 360 and Wii controllers, as well as the existing Sixaxis PS3 controller (which will be discontinued now that the DualShock 3 is available). To add insult to injury, Sony doesn't even throw in a USB cable for recharging.
If you haven't yet taken the PlayStation plunge, you might want to wait until June, when Sony will be releasing a new PS3 bundle for $499. It will include an 80GB console, the DualShock 3 controller, and the long-awaited Metal Gear Solid 4 game. By our math, that means you'll be saving a few bucks over buying those items separately. (Presumably, other PS3 bundles will eventually begin packing the DualShock 3 in place of the rumbleless Sixaxis controller later this year.)
Comparison shoppers should also note that Nyko makes the Zero, a wireless PS3 controller with rumble that costs about $50. While you might save a few bucks on that model--and, notably, it does include a USB cable and detachable battery--it's tough to recommend it over the familiar design of the Sony DualShock 3. We just hope the price of the Sony model drops closer to $40 with time.