PlayStation Access

Review: PlayStation Access Controller

I want to start these impressions with the meaning of impression. The following are my thoughts and feelings on PlayStation’s Access Controller as they relate to me, so I will let you know who I am and how this controller factors into my gaming habits.

But I am also going to remind you that this is a device that, like other accessible devices or devices that become accessible devices simply by existing, the PlayStation Access Controller is going to be a device that allows disabled gamers to adapt their setups in ways that are unique to them.

Getting to know me, getting to love me

But controllers like this one and Xbox’s Adaptive Controller represent the proliferation of accessibility into the mainstream of gaming, Where it was one homebrew work done by organizations like AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and Can I Play That? — in partnership with several children’s hospitals and rehab centres.

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Now, for me, This is a product that would help make it so that I don’t miss as many inputs, especially during instances where multiple inputs and/or quick inputs are needed. Still, I recognize that I have a reasonably high degree of motion and control compared to other disabled gamers. I can still use a DualSense controller, albeit with greater levels of fatigue than normal gamers, a lot of missed or mistaken inputs and often a few trips around a game’s options menus to tweak things here and there.

I wanted to test this controller with my good friend, who has cerebral palsy, to see how we could make it work for him as we did with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. But he’s away in Africa, so all I’ve got for you is my impressions.

The PlayStation Access Controller’s Accessibility Begins With Its Packaging

I want to commend PlayStation on just how much attention they’ve paid to inclusive packaging.

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The PlayStation Access Controller comes in the iconic blue and white box we’ve come to know and love, but it features sizeable O-ring pull tabs throughout that make separating seals easy!

There is no blister packaging within, and the buttons, joysticks, charging cable and instruction manual are easily accessible without being blocked by extra packaging.

The instruction manual features large writing and larger images, but it also conveniently packs a QR code on the front, leading to web-accessible instructions. This is a lovely touch.

There is one element of the packaging I will point out that appears to be slightly less accessible overall: the button cap labels.

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Because of the highly customizable nature of this controller, PlayStation has opted to outfit each of the various interchangeable buttons with small holes that hold onto small rubber labels; however, these labels come slotted into similar holes on the buttons on an accordion folded piece of cardboard.

These labels will likely require assistance for those with more intense fine motor challenges and those with minimal hand mobility. Personally thinking about ways to improve upon these labels, I ended up with the possibility of using magnetic labels that remove the need to click and unclick these labels from their resting positions. However, this could lead to labels sliding over the device and interference.  I also understand that this could be an element of choosing the greatest option for the most users.

Function Over Form

Let’s talk about the customizable nature of the PlayStation Access Controller.

Like their packaging efforts, PlayStation has paid much attention to how the controller functions.

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The round device features eight interchangeable buttons around the outside, a large domed button in the centre, a clickable button below the joystick similar to the R3 and L3 of a DualSense and four 3.5mm female jacks in the base of the controller that will allow users to plug in switches, buttons and pedals they may already have attached to powerchairs or computers.

The fact that the PlayStation Access Controller only features one joystick and 10 possible inputs means that users will likely require two of these controllers or one paired with a Dualsense. For those requiring even more assistance, two PlayStation Access Controllers can be paired with a DualSense controller with mirrored inputs, similar to what Xbox does with their Copilot feature. This means that a caregiver, family member or personal support worker can assist with inputs in a way that offers personal freedom.

The PlayStation Access Controller also features great mapping software that lets players map out the buttons and make single inputs into a press and a hold.

It also offers a stellar visual representation of the controller and its various inputs on the screen, with diagrams that can be changed based on how an individual has the joystick oriented. And thus, the whole controller is laid out so you can follow along.

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Like Xbox and Nintendo, The PlayStation Access Controller has three loadable and customizable profiles. Also, if you hold the profile button for three seconds, you will pull up the customization menu no matter where you are in the system, which is a considerable quality-of-life feature.

The PlayStation Access controller comes with pretty heavy non-slip pads on its base, as well as a central mounting screw hole that will allow it to be mounted to a table or a powerchair surface, which means players can play around with mounting the device.

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I was slipping and sliding no more

The most significant benefit to me of playing with the PlayStation Access Controller has been the space it offers for buttons. As someone with randomly occurring muscle cramps and tremors, I have found that having larger buttons, especially ones with lips — has made it easier to stay consistent with my inputs.

Playing Madden 24, I spread out my receivers around the field and hit with higher accuracy and better timing, as my hand wasn’t sliding as much.

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While the push-to-hold feature is not one I would typically use, I tried it for the opening section of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, which is QTE and button-hold heavy.

Leading the field regarding accessibility baked right into their games, Insomniac Games already offers a wide variety of input modifications, including an amazing one called “Web Burst,” which toggles webs to fire three times when pressed. You may remember I used it as a hack to complete a Mysterio Challenge during my review cycle.

Well, I felt pretty genius in thinking I could make this so all of my webs fire with one click! And It worked!

I was also able to set up the button hold to make it so that I didn’t have to hold down R2 to swing. I clicked on and then off when I was ready to swing again. I could see this being huge for those who fatigue easily with holds.

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Bobby asked me to try the PlayStation Access Controller with an FPS. So I booted up The Last of Us Part II and dropped into Santa Barbara. In the mansion section, where there are several zombies to tango with, I had better overall control and timing thanks to the larger buttons. If you don’t believe me, there’s video evidence!

Once again, we arrive at another detail that will make it necessary for players with less mobility to have help in switching the buttons themselves. All the button sets [large with a lip over the centre button, medium “stock buttons,” large lip at the end and two-socket multi-input] require the user to push in on the front to release some clips and then pull up to release the magnet. When the front button is not being pushed in, buttons stay securely in place. However, the two steps needed to remove a button even cause me a little fatigue, so I imagine there are going to be several players who will require assistance.

You’re still going to pay “The Disability Tax”

There’s this inside baseball slang term in the disability community called “The Disability Tax.”

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It’s the idea that if something is marketed with accessibility in mind, it often costs more than something comparable for non-disabled people.

Using the PlayStation Access Controller as an example here, it’s retailing for $120, which puts the cost to entry at a significant amount higher than a DualSense controller and not much below the premium DualSense Edge when you consider that you’ll need a second Access Controller or a DualSense to have complete control. There’s no way to replace missing or damaged pieces without buying a new Access Controller.

Like what they did with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Logitech is working on a PlayStation Access Controller third-party kit, but it won’t be out until next month. And we have no idea of the cost as of the time of writing.

This considerably high entry cost is an excellent example of The Disability Tax.

Verdict

Writing a review-like verdict for the PlayStation Access Controller is hard because this is very much a device that is going to be personalized in its use. So I’ll say that my time with this controller has proved to me that it means to make gaming on the PlayStation as easy to come by as possible.

From packaging, anyone should be able to open a robust options menu and, finally, a widely accessible design. The PlayStation Access Controller is a powerful accommodation tool with a steep price.

[Sony provided a pre-launch final retail unit for this review].