I love the PlayStation 5 DualSense, Sony has created a brilliant and innovative controller that truly enhances the immersion and realism of the games you play on their new console. However, despite the amazing new features, there are a few advanced functions missing from the default controller, features added via additional hardware last-generation and through third-party controllers both officially and unofficially. Over the last four weeks, I’ve had the privilege of trying out the new HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller, a customised DualSense that takes gaming to the next level…
As of right now, this controller is available in the United States and ‘other countries’ (as per their website), but you can’t officially buy it here in Europe – which is why I was honoured to have one sent to me, as I live in England. As for which countries are covered by the “and other countries” umbrella, I’m afraid the only way to find out at this point is to try and place an order on their website (www.HexGaming.com) and it’ll tell you if they can ship to you or not. I’m hoping they find European distributors soon as a rival brand has recently announced their version of the same controller, claiming they’re the ‘first’ to sell such a device – which simply isn’t true.
So, after testing the controller in every single genre, putting it through easily over 250+ hours of use on both my PS5 and PC, how does it hold up? Do the customised triggers, additional buttons, and adjustable thumbsticks enhance the experience or were there no difference to using the official controller? Let’s find out…
*I’m sorry about the quality of my photos, I don’t have the best camera…*
First of all, let me talk about the company itself, HexGaming. HexGaming is an offshoot company of eXtremeRate, a seller of customised gamepads for over ten years, a well-known company for those interested in eSports and those wanting to hit their peak performance whilst gaming. They’ve released controllers for all of the main consoles, customising official devices by modding and tweaking them rather than simply cloning the design and/or features.
Just like the Xbox Design Lab, the HexGaming website offers a brilliant customisation process, allowing you to choose the colour and finish of pretty much every part of your new controller. In the case of the controller I’m looking at today, the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller for PS5, you can customise everything from the design of the front and back, all the way to the colours of the share button, touchpad, and even the inner thumbstick rings! If you’re looking for a truly unique and one-of-a-kind controller that expresses who you are, whilst providing additional features, then look no further!
In our case, we had no choice over which controller was sent to us, as we were provided with a unit for review purposes. However, we were sent one of their elite models, complete with modifications that focus on improving your performance within first and third-person shooter games. As such, I’ve used the controller on a number of games that it was intended to be used with, such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, as well as ones that I thought would be negatively affected by it, such as racing games.
But first, before I talk about my experience with the games themselves, just what does this controller do which the official DualSense doesn’t?
The HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller is basically a re-purposed DualSense controller, the company takes an official controller and fully customises it rather than creating their own from scratch. This is important as it means that the new controller is feature-complete with everything the DualSense supports, right down to being detected when plugged into a PC as an official DS controller. However, based on which version of the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller you buy, there is one big difference…
I was kindly sent the controller that’s been modified for shooting games, so there is no adaptive trigger support on the one I have. At first I was a little disappointed, as I love this innovative feature of the DS controller, but after playing many hours of first and third-person shooter games, this has become my go-to controller every time. I’ll go into this in more detail below, but you have the choice of either receiving a controller with the adaptive trigger support, just like the official controller, or having it customised like the one I have – which is a little more expensive and targetted at those who love their FPS games.
Another addition is the brilliant four-button fully programmable rear paddles, letting you map any of the fifteen controller buttons to the rear of the controller on-the-fly. I was kindly sent the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro for review a while ago, an Elite PS4 controller which also had four rear buttons which you could customise, so I’ll talk about the differences later in this review.
Finally, the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller comes with interchangeable thumbsticks, offering different heights and textures for you to experiment with. Again, I’ll touch on this later on but I’ve experimented with all of them and found my perfect lob-sided setup which works great in games that require pin-point accuracy. Also, yes – the controller has the full enhanced haptic feedback, something which the rival company doesn’t mention in their recent press release about their version…
No Adaptive Triggers?
As stated above, the controller I was sent included the optional modification designed to improve gameplay during shooting-based games. This is possible by sacrificing the innovative Adaptive Triggers, sadly. So, what is this modification? Both the R2 and L2 triggers have been changed from analogue triggers to digital ones, requiring you to only pull down on them by 1.5-2mm in order to activate the corresponding action. Originally, on the DS controller, you have to pull the trigger at least 7-9mm to initiate this same response.
You may think that such a small amount won’t make much of a difference, but it does. You’re able to repeatedly ‘pull the trigger’ much faster on the modified controller, giving you an advantage when playing in competitive online and solo games without technically cheating. The less your finger has to travel, the faster your reflexed response can be transitioned to an action within the game. Personally, I would have preferred to have the Adaptive Triggers, as I’m not a big competitive online gamer, but I have felt the benefit with this controller when playing through Battlefield 2042, Call of Duty, Far Cry 6, and Quake, over the last few weeks.
Similarly, the L1 and R1 triggers have also made the transition to a more responsive digital input. The original controller has around 1.2mm of travel, with a slightly spongey feeling as you push them down, whereas the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller has been adjusted to a clicky 0.5mm. As above, the shorter the distance, the faster and quicker you can be, but I personally didn’t find these as big of a benefit as the actual triggers – although the clicky feeling is much better than the original DS controller.
However, there was one thing I did notice, which was a little upsetting. I understand that the adaptive trigger feature had been technically removed to allow the modification to go through, but this also meant there was no longer any feedback under the triggers themselves. For example, on the original DS controller, if you pull the trigger right down in a supported game where you’re shooting, you’ll feel a rumble under your finger. With this new controller, there’s nothing other than the haptics and rumble of the controller itself.
But, this modification is made for those into their eSports, so they probably won’t care about the immersive rumble and feedback, so I understand why it’s not there. However, if you are into it (like me), then if you pick up one of these controllers you may want to opt for the Adaptive Trigger version.
The main reason I asked to review the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller was because of the inclusion of four rear paddles. I had become accustomed to using them with my NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller on the PS4, remapping them so I never have to take my thumbs off the control sticks in order to perform actions such as jumping or interacting with objects. However, I’d not seen them present on a PS5 controller until I was told about this controller (I understand there are others out there, but this was the first time I’d seen them pre-installed).
In terms of comfort and placement, they are brilliant. You have two paddles perfectly placed behind your middle fingers, these are super clicky, big, and hard to accidentally push in as they require a little force. The other two are, again, operated by your middle fingers but these are placed towards the middle of the controller – these are a nice size, also clicky with a little force required, and very easy to use mid-game. Also, they’ve been designed so that if your controller is on a flat surface, they don’t touch it or accidentally push in. However, if you place it on an uneven surface then the middle buttons can easily be pressed as the weight of the controller provides enough force (as I found out).
Programming the paddles is super easy. There’s a small button right in the middle of the controller, on the back – hold that in for a few seconds until a red light appears. Once it does, simply hold down the paddle and the button you wish to assign to it – the light will flash after three seconds, indicating it’s complete, allowing you to map the others or hold the middle button to return to normal with the paddles mapped. There’s even a handy way to quickly unmap all the paddles without going through this process – simply hold L1, R1, Left, Up, Triangle, and Circle for three seconds – the light will flash and all paddles will be unmapped.
I love these, I’ll talk later about how the addition of these extra inputs have changed the games I’ve played, but it’s not all positives. There are two things the paddle hardware is missing, the ability to temporarily turn them off and multiple profiles. My NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller, and the new rival one, have three profiles, allowing you to swap between them based on the game you’re playing – the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller only has one. Also, there’s no way to simply disable the paddles without wiping them then having to set them back up again next time you play the game.
Again, these are issues/observations based on my usage, but if you’re primarily playing one game (or multiple games that use the same or similar controller configurations) then this wouldn’t be an issue for you.
The HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller comes with six interchangeable thumbsticks. There are three heights (5mm, 7mm, 10mm shafts) as well as two grip designs – domed or concaved with a bumpy grip. I personally prefer the concave design as it provides a better grip for my thumbs, but it’s great that there are a few styles to choose from. Changing between these is nice and easy, you just need to gently pull on the ones on your controller and then push the new one firmly in place – once they’re on, they won’t accidentally fall off as they slot in very tightly.
I initially played all my games with the two shorter bumpy thumbsticks as these are very reminiscent of the original DS controller design only with more grip. However, after reading a few articles online, I read that taller thumbsticks are better for aiming due to granting you better accuracy, and shorter ones are best used for movement purposes. So, I now have a short gripped stick on the left and a tall gripped stick on the right – This seems like the best setup as I’ve had no trouble playing FPS games with auto-aim disabled (something I usually don’t do).
So you don’t lose the spare thumbsticks, you also get a small case which they sit in.
Where are the PlayStation buttons?
In case you weren’t aware, PlayStation holds the trademark over the PS symbol and the four shapes upon the controller – that’s why third-party controllers usually have patterns or colours instead of the iconic Square, Circle, Triangle and Cross. In the case of the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller, they’ve simply left the four face buttons blank and replaced the PS button with a circular one that shows their own logo. Whereas this is fine for those who have been gaming on a PlayStation for a while, it’s not great for those yet to know what each button is on the controller.
I know they can’t use the official shapes, but maybe they should have designed their own symbols but used the same colours as the ones on the official controller? I have a third-party PS4 controller and they got around it by depicting the shapes as similar designs but created out of dots. The NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller I used for my PS4 was an officially licensed product, so they had permission to use the official shapes on their controllers – I’m actually tempted to maybe open up the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller and pop in the buttons from my official controller, but I don’t know if the fitting will be the same or not.
In terms of the buttons, the D-Pad feels like the DS4, but with a matte finish instead of a shiny one. It has less travel than the D-Pad on the DualSense and the rougher design makes it a little easier to use should your hands get clammy or sweaty. The four face buttons are similar with a rougher feeling than the shiny plastic on the official controller. However, they are perfect – when pushed down, they are flush with the face of the controller, allowing you to easily slide your finger from one button to another without any chafing or getting caught on the side of one. I couldn’t have asked for better buttons – aside from being blank.
The only buttons I’m not a big fan of are the Share and Option buttons. They both work perfectly, as you’d expect, but they require quite a bit more force than the ones on the official controller. Now, this could be because it’s fairly new and I’ve not used them as much as my original controller, so they’ll wear in over time, but I love taking pictures and I found it hard to quickly push ‘Share’ when I needed to. You see, I don’t push the Share button with my thumb, I use my index finger whilst my thumb is on the Thumbstick, so the extra force required meant I missed taking a picture on a few occasions.
Again, that won’t be an issue to most people and may fix itself over time, but it was the only input that I didn’t like
The Design Process
There are two ways to buy a HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller, or any of their controllers for either the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, or even PC. You can browse the company’s website and pick from one of the many designs on offer or you can opt to ‘Make Your Own’, with the price of the final design based on what additional features or designs you choose. For example, the base Black DualSence controller with integrated rear paddles and interchangeable thumbsticks is $199.99, yet this increases as you get more creative.
You can play around with the designs here: https://www.hexgaming.com/collections/make-your-own-ultimate-controller/products/bulid-your-own-ultimate-controller
There are a lot of colours to choose from, with some offered in both a chrome design or standard – there is even the option to have a woodgrain design, which I imagine LGR would pick! The front faceplates also have a range of designs that can be printed upon them, there are a few interesting designs such as a killer clown or the Umbrella Corporation, but sadly no option to upload your own images. Alternatively, if you want something rather unique (and you’re a gamer from the N64 era), you can opt for a clear plastic style, allowing you to see the inside of the controller and the touchpad through tinted plastic.
Going back to the one which was sent to us, as well as the modified triggers, it also came with the Rubberised Grip on the rear. This does cost a little extra but it provides a lot of grip and support when playing long gaming sessions and things get intense. It’s a very nice rubber design that is showing no signs of wear after hundreds of hours of use, feeling very comfortable to hold and never letting your hands slip under pressure.
What does the controller support?
The HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller is essentially a modified DualSense controller, so it does everything the official controller does. It has the speaker, microphone, motion controls, touchpad, haptic feedback, a working mute button, a working light bar, and the adaptive triggers if you’ve not chosen the modified ones. As I said earlier, the rival company hasn’t clarified if their controller supports haptics but I can 100% confirm this controller does – Temtem feels amazing as you experience every footstep and impact within battles. Additionally, if Sony puts out any updates for their DS controllers (as they have done with the last few updates), this controller also gets updated once plugged into the PS5.
What do you get in the box?
You get the controller, six thumbsticks and the storage case, a six-month warranty, and a small instruction leaflet telling you how to program the rear paddles. What you don’t get is a USB-C cable. So, you’ll have to either use the one which you got with your PS5 or purchase a new one if you’re connecting it to a PC or don’t own a cable. Personally, I’ve been using the 3m Gioteck USB-C cable which I was sent a few months back – it came in a pack with a 2m HDMI 2.1 8K compatible cable (which I’m also using on my PS5 to connect to the TV). If you need a new set of cables, I highly recommend these (HERE).
The packaging itself is a simple box with the controller well wrapped within, so it doesn’t move about or get damaged in transit. However, unlike the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller, there’s no carry case included, which is a little disappointing considering the price of the device. Everything about the controller feels premium and well-made, you’ll just have to provide your own protection if you’re moving it from one place to another – you don’t want to damage your $199.99+ controller in transit post-purchase.
How it felt in various genres
As I’ve said a few times, the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller sent to me was intended to be used for shooting games, titles that require a fast response when repeatedly pressing the triggers as you shoot a gun. However, I don’t primarily play those games so I had to purposely download a few to test it out, whilst also using it for every other game I’ve played over the last four weeks. As you’d expect, FPS games felt great, I could aim with more precision thanks to the adjustable thumbsticks, shooting was faster and produced less strain over time, and I mapped the rear paddles to actions such as jump, interact and reload – so I never had to take my thumb off look and move.
The next genre I tried was racing, as you have no analogue triggers (with the one I have), so you’re technically constantly pushing the trigger all the way down. I played a few games, such as DiRT 5 and WRC10, and I honestly didn’t have any issues. Sure, the adaptive trigger effect is gone, but I felt like I had full control of the vehicle despite having to rely on braking and releasing the trigger more often than usual. Personally, If I’m going to play a racing game then I’m just going to use the official controller – you don’t need rear paddles for those types of games and the added immersion of the Adaptive Triggers is a feature I’d rather keep.
I thought I’d try out some third-person action games such as Watchdogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Both of these worked great with the controller as they use the triggers as their main input for combat, be it via a gun, bow, or melee. The additional rear paddles also allowed me to, once again, map the various face buttons to them so I never had to remove my thumbs to interact with objects whilst in the middle of combat – I seriously love having the additional paddles on the controller. Watch Dogs also has you driving cars, which meant you’re restricted to having your foot down on the pedal as soon as you pull the trigger. But, just like I noticed above, you get used to it and adapt to letting go or applying the brake when you have to slow down.
A few weeks ago I posted my review for the incredible Chorus (check it out HERE). For me, that game was perfected with the use of the HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller due to the, say it with me, rear paddles! That game required a lot of accurate aiming whilst moving, utilising both sticks, whilst also pushing the various face buttons to pull off the very satisfying combat. So, being able to perform all of this without having to sacrifice control or the ability to look totally justified choosing this controller over the original one.
Finally, I’ve been playing a few point-and-click adventure games this week, games which you’d think wouldn’t benefit from the game at all. And, you’d be right – these games worked exactly the same as if you’re playing with the official controller… with the exception of one – The Darkside Detective. In this game, you move your cursor with one of the thumbsticks, pushing both in the same direction to move faster. But, to use objects you have to hold them with Cross then move with the thumbstick. So, mapping Cross to a rear paddle meant that I could use items whilst quickly moving the cursor! It’s not essential, but it was a nice bonus.
Also, don’t forget – this controller can be used to play any PS4 or PS5 game on a PlayStation 5 console, as well as practically any PC game that supports a controller (unless it’s coded to only allow Xbox Controllers). Technically, you can also use it on the Nintendo Switch if you have the correct adapter – I have a Mayflash Magic-NS dongle for mine which lets me sync up any PS4 or PS5 controller and use it as if it’s a Switch Pro controller. It even lets you map the buttons as you would on the PS5.
There is one rather large elephant in the room which we have to address – the price. Ranging between $199.99 and approx $350 if you fully customise everything, this isn’t a cheap controller. But, looking at similar and upcoming controllers on the market which do the same thing (or less), they’re all priced very similar, increasing as you add the rubberised grips and/or the digital triggers. If you’re really into your eSports and want to get a competitive edge over your opponents, this is a small price to pay for what could be the difference between winning and losing (providing, if you’re in an official tournament, that these controllers are allowed).
If you’re a casual gamer, these will seem expensive, retailing at around the same price as four or five regular PS5 controllers, but you’re paying for a truly unique and fully customised controller which nobody else owns, as well as the incredibly useful pre-installed rear paddles and adjustable thumbsticks. Sure, Sony released a rear-paddle adapter for the DS4, but it took them six years to officially launch them, so who knows if, or when, they’ll do it again on the PS5?
My only official complaint is more of a wish, something I have on my NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller which isn’t on any of the current modified PS5 controllers – the ability to fully adjust everything. This isn’t the controller’s fault, so I won’t hold this against it, but I wish we could plug it into the PC, load up a piece of software, and then adjust things like the dead zone levels, maybe keep the adaptive triggers but adjust the tension via software and most importantly, invert the y-axis on the Right thumbstick for games that don’t have the option to do so – as that’s the biggest flex the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller has which still isn’t replicated by any other controller on the market which I know of.
Maybe as the years go on, third-party controller creators will find a way to make the DualSense completely customisable, both inside and out via software as well as modified hardware.
To say I love my HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller on the PS5 is a massive understatement. I’ve been anticipating the return of the rear paddles ever since we found out the DualSense was shipping without them – despite the additional PS4 peripheral literally selling out everywhere upon release. Although not something I would have chosen, personally, the modified digital triggers enhance games that focus on shooting, allowing you to be more responsive and able to rapidly fire more efficiently. However, the main flex has to be the four programmable rear paddles which means you never have to take your thumbs off the two sticks when in the heat of battle.
Regarding the controller itself, the build quality is just as perfect as the official DualSense, it’s a heavy, robust, solid device with no missing features (unless you swap the Adaptive Triggers for the FPS ones). Sure, the price is quite high if you’re more of a casual gamer, but if this is your job, or a hobby you’re really into, then getting the upper hand in competitive matches or being able to creatively map out the controls around your fingers is well worth the price. Plus, the price only increases based upon how much customisation you wish to make to the base design of the controller over on the company’s website.
If you are looking at picking one of these up, you can check out their website HERE, where you can fully customise the controller and create your unique design, or over on Amazon in the United States HERE. As I said previously, it appears the controller only ships to certain countries at the moment (their website will inform if they can ship to you or not), but hopefully they’ll get a European distributor soon.
HexGaming ULTIMATE Controller for PS5$199.99+
- - It's basically an advanced DualSense, bringing rear paddles and optional digital triggers to the brilliant DS controller
- - The additional features allows you to gain the advantage in various genres
- - The adjustable sticks let you customise the accuracy and control to your liking
- - As it's a modified official controller, you still get updates with each FW upgrade as you would the original controller
- - If customising your own design, there's a lot of colours and patterns to choose from
- - I know they can't use the trademarked PlayStation symbols, but their own designs would have been better than the nothing we got
- - Not a negative, but I wish there was a way to turn off the paddles temporarially and/or create multiple profiles
- - Despite being a very premium product, you don't get a case or a USB-C cable. Most people won't care about this, but I feel the addition of those would have complimented the rather high asking price