Sony has shied away from making its own pro controllers. Other third-parties have tried to fill that gap and while some are fine, they usually lack the build quality of the default pad. HexGaming decided to find a happy middle ground as its newest PlayStation 5 controller — the Hex Rival — is a DualSense at heart, but a heavily modified one. This amazing base means that this controller has the best of both worlds yet is prohibitively expensive enough to make it a harder sell than it should be.
The Hex Rival has left a lot of the best parts of the DualSense alone and has many of the same impressive features including haptic feedback. The headphone jack, speaker, button placement, charging port, mute button, shoulder buttons, and triggers are all untouched and immediately make it recognizable as a DualSense.
The buttons, D-pad, and analog sticks are also mostly similar, but, depending on what players pick, have been replaced with matte or chrome alternatives. Players can even replace the sticks here as the controller comes with three total sets of sticks that run the gamut of length and shape (domed or concave). Hex has even taken the extra step of adding a more traditional round PS Button; a small but welcome upgrade.
It looks almost identical to a DualSense from the front and that comes with all the same solid abilities of that default PS5 pad. But Hex innovates from there and is where the Rival gets its edge. Both sets of triggers and shoulder buttons have significantly shorter pull time and are all hair triggers. Hex claims that the shoulder buttons activate after only half of a millimeter (as opposed to 1.2 millimeters on the stock DualSense) and the triggers, well, trigger at 2 millimeters instead of 7 millimeters.
Numbers like that are important, but the feel is even more important as these “Fastshots,” as HexGaming calls them, make a huge difference that’s most evident when playing twitch shooters. Semi-automatic weapons benefit the most from this as rapid firing becomes significantly easier. For example, playing as Ashe in Overwatch is more satisfying because of the newly added ability to blast off a bunch of successive rounds without accidentally pulling down halfway. With such sensitive triggers, it’s all but impossible to pull down halfway on the Rival.
Although this leads to one of its noticeable drawbacks as it doesn’t support adaptive triggers. Since the triggers here basically only have two modes — on or off — there’s no room for players to use the highly advertised PS5-exclusive adaptive trigger feature. There’s no pulling down halfway to aim in Returnal or using a soft push to use the Drillhound’s lock-on feature in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Players won’t feel the steadily increasing resistance as they pump up the pneumatic Tihar gun in Metro Exodus either. Lacking adaptive triggers isn’t a deal breaker since many games don’t do much with it and it isn’t a vital component, but it’s still one less feature. A slider — much like the one seen on the Astro C40 — that activates or deactivates the trigger stops would have been ideal.
The back buttons have no such drawbacks. The Rival comes with two paddles firmly nestled on the back of the controller and they can easily be bound to any button on the fly. It takes less than 10 seconds to reassign them and it yields obvious advantages for those who want the ability to reload or jump without taking their thumbs off the sticks. There’s a satisfying click and while it remains to be seen if these paddles can wear down over time since they aren’t actual buttons, they’re a natural fit that yields more utility without sacrificing anything. They’re also pretty sensitive, but unlikely to be accidentally pressed.
But all of this comes at a steep, steep price. The Rival will run users anywhere from around $250 to $329 depending on if users choose a basic mode, a pre-made one from the store, or one they create on their own. There are a decent amount of colors and patterns and a wide variety of customizable parts that users can tweak and that applies to each individual piece. It doesn’t allow for custom designs, but the options are solid enough, especially if you want to plaster your whole DualSense with weed or make the whole thing look like Iron Man (or, as the above picture shows, a mix of the two).
The absurd cost just makes it all hard to swallow. A regular DualSense runs for around $70, which is already expensive enough. So when that number is almost tripled, quadrupled, or potentially almost quintupled, it becomes nearly impossible to justify for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a console’s worth of money on just one part of it. It’s just simply not realistically priced and that even applies to those who spend $250 as that is essentially a naked, default Hex controller with back buttons and no trigger stops.
There’s a lot to love with HexGaming’s Hex Rival Controller since it has almost all of the same great features as the DualSense. HexGaming truly outsmarted a lot of its competition by using the first-party controller as a starting point and worked from there instead of creating something that was bound to be inferior from scratch. The new additions work, too, as the intuitive back buttons add functionality and the triggers, while limiting in some areas, do allow for faster inputs that improve many games. But even with these remarkable strengths, the Hex Rival Controller is likely well outside of an acceptable price range for most people, making it one of the best controllers that’s bound to be held back by sticker shock.
Disclosure: Controller provided by HexGaming.