We all know the mantra for buying console controllers: always buy first-party. While this has rung true for me in regards to my first and second controllers, I usually take the liberty of experimenting with third-party brands for the controllers I get for company that comes over. Despite years of experimental purchases, I’ve never before gotten my hands on a modified controller, so this purchase, by the UK-based Controller People, was something entirely different. Using an original PlayStation 4 controller as a base, The Controller People take a near-perfect piece of hardware and somehow make it even better.

Doesn’t it look downright awesome?

This controller seems to be a regular Dualshock 4, and with good reason: the company believes that first-party is the way to go, and has worked a deal with Sony to provide the highest quality product in their modifications. While I could tell you about how similar the product from The Controller People is, allow me to show you in this glorious unboxing video!

Did you like that Fallout/Michigan color scheme? Go Blue! The build shop on The Controller People’s website is very versatile, and you can request everything from parts included to color scheme of individual parts of the controller. It’s a lovely system, and a very user friendly one at that. (You can access the build shop over at https://thecontrollerpeople.com/build-shop.)

A screen of the build shop with a sample controller.

Since the base features are identical to the first-party Sony Dualshock 4, I’m going to talk about the added components that The Controller People have provided. The main feature that The Controller People tout are the clicksticks located on the back of the controller itself. Both of these knobs correspond to a button press (in this case, X and O for the left and right, respectively), and are strategically placed behind the analog sticks. While playing, they’re not too noticeable, and you won’t have a problem accidentally triggering them while playing (and coming from a 6-foot-tall guy with big hands, that’s saying something). However, these are a monumental help with games that require a tap here and there (The Controller People default these buttons X and O because those buttons default to jump and slide in the Call of Duty games).

What the clicksticks look like (Plus a subliminal Flinthook post in the background!)

While these controllers are well-suited for shooters like CoD or Overwatch, they also helped out immensely in twitch-based music games and fighters. I’m by no means an expert at Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone, but I can clear Hard and less difficult Extreme songs pretty well. As the game encourages hold notes, I was surprised with how versatile the clicksticks were in adapting to my presses. Songs that had extensive holds were now easier to grab the max hold bonus, and I felt like I could get much better at the game with this controller. It’s the little things that make all the difference. Basically, if a game requires holds of some sort, you can guarantee that the clicksticks will make the task much easier. My controller had these hardwired, but you can ask to change what buttons are assigned to the clicksticks when you order from The Controller People’s website (or add a few more pounds for a remappable option).

Other than the clicksticks, my controller was fitted with detachable analog sticks, as well as a plastic bag full of sticks from which I could select. At first, I thought this move was unnecessary, but considering the analog sticks come with different textures and heights, it was simple to adjust and replace them in order to fit the game I was playing. It’s also great to include multiple analog stick parts, since my experience with previous PlayStation family controllers have left those sticks in a… less desirable state. Replacing them when they get worn out is a good call, and I can get more mileage out of my controller that way.

A sideways view of the triggers and lightbar.

One minor concern had was with the modified L2 and R2 triggers. It’s something that I don’t necessarily enjoy with the standard PlayStation 4 controller, so the custom ones are modified to act a little more sensitive to lighter touches. It feels a tad unnatural getting used to the pressure sensitivity, but it’s a minor issue than anything else, and for games that require very light but fast presses (like shooters), this is a godsend.

If there was one quibble I had with the controllers, it’s the price for them. PS4 controllers are expensive as is, and while The Controller People are doing as much as they can to lower the price, it’s around £70 for a base controller with clicksticks and £10 for international shipping. This isn’t including other customizations you’d want to add, so you’re looking at upwards of $105 for a controller. A pricey piece of equipment? Yes. Worth it? Yes.