Microsoft’s Elite Series 2 controller has been divisive. To its fans, the Elite is responsive, powerful and premium, the ultimate first-party controller, but its detractors can point to its high price and quality control issues to paint a different picture. That makes Sony’s approach, almost diametrically opposite that of its rival, so refreshing. Rather than making an £160/$180 controller that only its most wealthy players can justify purchasing, Sony has created the £26/$30 Back Button Attachment, a snap-on device that adds the single most important feature of premium controllers – programmable rear buttons – to any standard DualShock 4 controller at an affordable price. We’ve been testing it for the past week ahead of its launch on February 14th, and we think Sony’s approach has considerable merit.
Before we get into how this add-on performs, let’s tackle the central thesis of the Back Button Attachment: that these buttons are genuinely useful and worth the extra cost and weight. The idea here is to keep the most important controls under your fingers at all times, even the ones that are normally bound to inconvenient buttons like the d-pad, share/options or L3/R3. For example, changing items in Dark Souls 3 requires you to press down on the d-pad, so if you’re being chased by an enemy and get poisoned, you’d normally have to swap to your poison-clearing item and take your thumb off the left stick that controls movement, leaving you in an awkward position. Similarly, in Call of Duty, pressing down on the left stick all the time to sprint can be damaging to both the stick and your thumb, so mapping this to a rear paddle feels much more comfortable. And finally, what better way to change gears in Gran Turismo than with rear paddles? The more games you play with paddles, the more uses you’ll find for them – and knowing that you can always rebind the two most awkward controls is a great comfort, especially when so few games offer complete control customisation.
Of course, just having rear paddles isn’t enough to make a great controller. We’ve tested plenty of third-party controllers that have these rear buttons, but they can be inconveniently positioned, making them too hard to press or too easy to trigger accidentally. Another common pitfall is programming the buttons in the first place; often the setup process is so involved that it’s only worth doing for the games that you play often, and you lose all interest in experimentation. A truly great rear paddle implementation should therefore satisfy two conditions: proper positioning and easy reprogramming. Happily, the Back Button Attachment absolutely drills these requirements.