DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment Review
It works, but is it worth it?
In spite of continued and widespread availability issues, I managed to find a DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment. Sony rolls out a new shipment of the $30 accessory every so often on their official web site without notice, and retail partners like Best Buy have also finally received one or two replenishments, though it’s still not the easiest thing to get. This awkwardly-named small device adds two buttons to the back of your DualShock 4, and you can assign them to nearly any function using the built-in OLED screen.
I say nearly any function because the touch pad button and the Share button are both off-limits. That bummed me out right away, as I love to take copious screenshots while playing games, and tapping a back paddle to capture a quick image is one of the things I love the most about the Xbox Elite Controller. It’s much easier to get a cool screenshot in the heat of battle if I don’t have to move my thumbs off the important controls to tap a different button. It seems like it’d be frightfully easy for Sony to add Share button mapping to the device in a future update, but given the fact that they announced it then dumped it on the market and never spoke about it again…I’m not letting myself be hopeful.
The other instant bummer was the installation process. The device comes with a fold-out sheet that implores you to read it thoroughly before trying to attach the thing to a controller, and it’s vital that you not toss it aside. The Back Button Attachment plugs into the extension jack and headphone jack on the bottom of the DualShock 4. Its plug is on a spring-loaded arm, and you’ll have to bend it in a specific way to work it into position, then lock it onto the controller. I felt like I was going to break something doing this, but I managed to get it on there after a couple of awkward tries.
Visually, the Attachment meshes well with the back of the controller, and its light weight means it doesn’t suddenly make the svelte DualShock into a hefty device. Unfortunately, it’s just thick enough that all of my muscle memory for holding the controller was rendered useless. I have smaller than average hands, and the added girth of the Attachment meant that on first use, clicking down the analogue sticks and even just holding the controller felt unnatural.
In fact, I hated the way the thing felt on first trying it. I couldn’t figure out if I was meant to use my middle or ring fingers to click its large buttons. I could no longer rest my fingers where I was used to because of the extra plastic in the way. The DualShock 4 went from being perhaps the most-comfortable controller I own to the least, but rather than throw it out the window I decided to try and adjust and see how it went.
I played through healthy amounts of Borderlands 3, The Last of Us Part II, and Torchlight II with the attachment installed. It was undeniably helpful in all three games. Putting common functions like reload, item pick up, or melee attack on the back buttons means I can leave my thumbs on the sticks during critical moments. The OLED screen, though complete overkill that also probably makes the device much more expensive to produce, is indeed a fun way to change the mappings, and its single clicky button is responsive.
But I still wish that Sony had gone with something more like the paddle design from the Xbox Elite controller, or that they had cut the OLED screen in favor of a basic button remapping toggle in order to slim out the profile of the device. It feels like the top design priority here was that the device look cool on the back of the controller, something it more than accomplishes.
With the upcoming PS5’s haptic-filled DualSense confirmed to not have the required extension port on the bottom, the Back Button Attachment stays confined to the current generation. This is a misstep in my opinion, and although it means that Sony might be cooking up an Elite Controller competitor, the $30 attachment idea is more consumer friendly. It would have been great to see compatibility continue forward to the new generation. Microsoft’s “All Xbox One accessories will work on Series X” initiative seems all the more impressive as a result.
The DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment does what it says on the box, but with more of an eye towards form rather than function. It took me about a week to feel comfy using it, and even then I still vastly prefer the feel of the controller without the buttons attached. It’s prettier than the basic paddle and button designs of other controllers thanks to its smooth lines and OLED screen, but it doesn’t feel as nice to use as a simpler solution. Back buttons are useful for pro and casual players alike, and having more options to map functions is always a good thing for accessibility too. I’m glad that Sony tried something new with this attachment, but sad that it’ll probably be a footnote in their design history instead of starting a new paradigm they follow from here on out.