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PlayStation Access Controller: ImpressionsAs A Gamer Without Sight

Disclaimer

The unit used for this review was provided by PlayStation UK at no cost to the reviewer.

Introduction

I'm aware I'm not the intended demographic for the Xbox Adaptive Controller that I previously reviewed or the PlayStation Access Controller released at the end of 2023, which are intended primarily for people with physical disabilities or who can't use conventional controllers for any reason. However, there's no denying the impact such devices have on the industry's awareness of the need for overall accessibility, thanks to not only advertising campaigns, but also the positive stories such devices make possible.

With all the new hardware and software elements the Access Controller introduces, let's take a look at this as a gamer without sight and see what it can do.

Unboxing

As a part of my research before diving into this unit's capabilities, I looked on the Sony site both at the starters guide and the support page, neither of which provided the unboxing information I would hope to see. However, it did provide elements of understanding of what parts were present on the unit, even if the use of graphical overlays, much like the PlayStation Portal, isn't as helpful as standardised descriptions as seen on the Xbox Wireless Headset documentation for example.

I'd seen reports on how the packaging had been considered as a part of the design process for this unit, meaning that it could be easily unboxed with minimal effort. I'm always interested to see how these elements are brought to life in practice.

Looking around the box, you'll find an almost serrated edge on one of the long sides. This should be at the bottom, with the edge containing it away from you.

Now, looking at the top of the box, you should see two large circles as a part of an oblong flat strip. These circles are actually handles, so put a finger through each one and pull together (you may be able to pull just from one side) and the entire strip should tear itself free.

Now, via the circular tab that should be right in front of you, behind a thick oblong that was previously held in place by the strip we just removed, lift the top of the box up and away from you. Doing this reveals a printed sheet on your right-hand side with a box underneath it and the controller to its left wrapped in material.

In the box to your right (again opened via another circular hole in the front vertical portion of its own separate lid, you'll find a material cover over a multitude of organised caps and other components for the controller. Note that this box can be removed from the external packaging should you wish to store it somewhere safe for later.

The controller itself is just covered by the same material, though in my testing I think you'd need 2 hands to remove it from that part of the packaging. As a side note, the controller is on a "platform" of sorts that can be pulled out of the box separately as well, with said structure covering some more printed documentation in a leaflet format.

Initial Thoughts On The Controller

The first thing I noticed about the controller was the very unusual design. It's almost like a flower, with a central dome and then elements radiating out from it. Those elements can be pressed, though as to what button relates to what function by default is something that can't easily be worked out. An analogue stick is off to one corner namely to the left-hand side of the unit when I extracted it from its box, with buttons around its own base (though note that it is still a part of the same "flower" shape, just off to one side).

Setup

Getting sighted assistance to read through the printed material and verify what I was doing, we plugged the USB-C to USB-C cable supplied (at the front of the "component box" into the PS5) and pressed the PS button, located near the analogue stick.

The system promptly recognised it as an access controller. and, by default, the X button was the dome and allowed me to select my account. At this point, a guided setup process begins and, though I won't detail specifics as it's all narrated, it was straightforward in what it was advising me I could do (namely hooking up a second Access Controller or a DualSense).

It is rather strange that the first thing mentioned is hooking it up with a second unit, as you'd hope that it would be an all-in-one solution much like a standard DualSense is.

You're taken through stick and button caps to try them out, though the processes to attach and detach them aren't detailed. Moreover, some of the caps were hard to remove without accidentally tapping the centre button.

After that, we learn about profiles and how that works in practice with the profile library, again, all of which is narrated. You're taken through the orientation of the controller, then asked to assign buttons. The unfortunate thing is that, given there are no separate options and create/share buttons, you'd have to assign these on your actual controller, rather than having them on the stick base, meaning you have less buttons to work with overall.

The only other thing that you might not notice when using the narrated UI with this is that the buttons to save your profile are to the top right of the screen. Move right from where the top item of the assignment screen is and you should find "copy from other profile" and "done" as options.

Having set up a profile (without being told where the profile library was during the initial screens from what I could remember at least), I decided to go looking as if I wanted to create another set of assignments. Settings>Accessories>Access Controller is where you'd find it, though you'd think it would be under accessibility, potentially as that's where other remapping controls can be found.

Testing.

Having attempted to create a profile for God of War Ragnarok, to allow me to at least achieve the basics of combat (noting that there is no way to switch stick on the fly without maybe having two consecutive profiles where the sticks are swapped), I dove in.

The end result was to be honest, slightly frustrating. With a default Access Controller, I realised the error of not only my button assignments, but the number of buttons on the controller itself. God Of War Ragnarok requires the use of the DPad for important actions that are not tied to a menu (therefore not using the left stick). A standard PS5 controller has at least 12 buttons including the DPad's individual up, down, left and right controls.

With the Access Controller only having 8 on its main surface (not counting the expansion ports) plus the stick, I fear it will only work with certain styles of game out of the box.

Moreover, once I tested this and wanted to close the game, the fact that there was no separate options button outside of the controller's "flower" design and I hadn't assigned one (due to all other buttons being taken up and not wanting to conflict via simultaneous presses) meant that I had to use a second controller anyway just to complete this relatively simple task.

Tactility

One thing I will say is that the Access Controller by default does have some tactile markings on, with more included in the box. These have small nodules on the bottom so that they can be pushed into accompanying holes in the controller's keycaps, meaning you don't have to necessarily worry about adhesion of elements that you've stuck on yourself, for example.

Once you're familiar with a setup, this means that you could tell which button is assigned to which function just via these tactile additions, a very interesting take on accessibility, including for gamers without sight.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Conclusions

The PlayStation Access Controller, whilst it is well-meant, intentioned and designed, does fall short in key areas that I feel would hinder not just those from the intended demographic who'd want to use it, but anyone who wanted to have a look at one of these. However, with the engineering prowess on display here as well as their research into packaging, I'm interested to see where future efforts take PlayStation in this field, especially if they can make an all-in-1 unit that is usable in the same way as a standard DualSense without needing to hook it up to other devices.

I'm also glad this device exists as, much like when a game builds in features that allow me to play it without sighted assistance, this device can and has already been seen to allow gamers who were out of the loop for various reasons to more fully be able to participate in discussions of games that they like, dislike or anywhere in between. Inclusion is crucial to the betterment of society in terms of people with disabilities. The Access Controller is another in a long line of additions and first-party efforts that can help more people get into gaming, or return to it. Let's see where this and other progressions take us in the near and far future.

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