Moving from the PS4 to the PS5 came with a huge loss for anyone who enjoyed the use of back buttons and other esports pro custom controller features. PS5 games don’t support PS4 controllers, so players were left waiting for third parties to make pro controller options for the DualSense. One of the first pioneers in this space is HexGaming, who has now released the Hex Rival custom PS5 controller, designed with esports and pro features in mind. Complete with back buttons, custom looks that players can design themselves, and hairpin triggers, the Hex Rival’s list of features meets many of the demands that players have had. HexGaming sent us a custom Hex Rival controller to see how it stacks up to the standard DualSense, and if it’s worth forking out money for a custom pro build.
Let’s talk that massive price tag first off. Yes, if you opt to go for one of these right now, you’ll be paying anywhere from $250 to $325 depending on the customization options you add. The $70 basic DualSense doesn’t seem so bad when these custom options are going for more than three to four times the price. As one of the only custom PS5 controller options out there, HexGaming seems to think it can get away with demanding this premium, but it appears to be priced on availability and demand, rather than value.
For reference, custom and pro controllers for the PS4, like the Astro C40 and Mega Modz Macro Remap Controller, ran $199.99 and $150 respectively, and I even thought those were tough asking prices for most when I reviewed those. So an average of $300 for the Hex Rival is an astronomical and rather unrealistic price that I have to imagine will come down as more options permeate the market (I know Mega Modz is working on its own custom PS5 controllers right now). So what does that premium get you?
The HexGaming Hex Rival PS5 Controller uses the actual DualSense as a base for the custom build, so if you like the feel of the DualSense itself, you’ll feel right at home here. It’s only slightly bulkier thanks to the back buttons and remapping module, but even these are designed in such a way that they feel exceptionally comfortable and natural to hold. While technically not back “buttons” built into the controller grip itself, these paddles are much more ergonomic than some of the lanky designs you see from SCUF and other pro controller manufacturers.
HexGaming Hex Rival PS5 Controller Review – Add a Feature, Take a Feature
While I worried that the custom build would remove some of the unique features of the DualSense, my fears were only half founded. The haptic feedback remains intact. I did A/B testing using games like Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and I couldn’t note any differences in the haptic feedback between a standard DualSense and the Hex Rival. For the premium asking price, it’s nice that at least one of Sony’s own DualSense features isn’t affected.
The Adaptive Triggers, however, are another story. If you opt to go with the hairpin triggers, which HexGaming calls FastShots, it will come at the cost of the DualSense’s Adaptive Triggers. I’d hoped this option would work like the Astro C40, which has switches that activate trigger stops so you can either use the hairpin triggers or not. But that’s not the case here. The Hex Rival’s FastShots are installed into the controller with no on-the-fly option to enable or disable them. This also means that your Hex Rival becomes a hindrance in games that use the Adaptive Triggers as a feature, like Returnal or Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
For what it’s worth, the tiny trigger activation distance is fantastic in first-person shooters, eliminating the delay you get when the trigger needs to travel its full distance to activate. Along with the back buttons, it’s helped me win encounters in games where milliseconds can mean the difference between getting the kill and watching someone else’s kill cam. The Hex Rival is marketed as an esports controller, but for what it costs, it’d be nice to be able to use the controller on more than just Call of Duty. The option to disable or enable the hairpin triggers would open up the Hex Rival to a lot more games. And I know the Adaptive Trigger motors are still in place. I can hear them activate in the controller when doing various actions in games. I’m not sure what kind of engineering it would take to make this happen, but at almost $300, it stings to have options and features taken away and limited by the controller, rather than added to.
Additionally, the triggers impact potential functionality of using the controllers features in other games. There are games I would prefer to use back buttons on but don’t want hairpin triggers for, such as Knockout City. Unfortunately I am limited by the triggers here. The benefits that the back buttons offer are impeded by the triggers, so I opt for a standard DualSense instead. It’s kind of a weird feeling to set aside a $290 controller in favor of a regular $70 DualSense.
Fortunately, the FastShots are an optional feature that you can customize on the controller, however, be warned that if you buy one of the variety of prebuilt Hex Rival controllers through Amazon, these all have the FastShot hairpin triggers installed. So if you just want a sweet looking custom controller with back buttons, but still want the regular DualSense Adaptive Triggers, you’ll have to order custom through HexGaming directly. (Note: As I didn’t test a Hex Rival controller without FastShots, I am only able to assume that the Adaptive Trigger functionality would remain intact without them.)
I am highly impressed with the back buttons and remap module that HexGaming used for the Hex Rival however. The remapping process is exceptionally simple and easy to do on the fly, so it isn’t a pain to map the paddles to new buttons as you switch games. And as mentioned before, the buttons feel natural enough that the learning curve to using them is gentle (it will obviously be higher if you’ve never used a controller with back buttons before). They are perfectly placed so that I never accidentally gripped and pressed them when I didn’t mean to, but I was still able to hold the controller comfortably. Perhaps the only downside is that the remap module doesn’t allow the Hex Rival to sit on Sony’s own DualSense charging stand, adding a bit of bulk to the back. It’s a small annoyance that may not impact everyone, but when my current gaming setup employs a cable-free aesthetic, I wasn’t thrilled by having to find another way to charge this controller.
Finally, the Hex Rival controller comes with replaceable thumbsticks of varying heights as well as either convex or concave surfaces. It’s really easy to pop them off and put new ones one depending on what game you are playing. What’s unknown is if the Hex Rival will eventually run into the same stick drift issues that the regular DualSense controller has, though due to the nature of control sticks and how the issue arises, it seems like its possible. Replacing the sticks is only changing out the top portion, which would not change out the inner workings that start to exhibit these issues. I’m not sure if the stick modules are all new, or if Hex Gaming simply modifies the existing Sony DualSense modules to accommodate their swappable thumbsticks.
HexGaming Hex Rival PS5 Controller Review – Lookin’ Good
Besides the pro gaming features, the other big selling point of the Hex Rival PS5 Controller is the ability to customize the look. Right now Sony itself only offers the standard white DualSense, along with the recently introduced Cosmic Red and Midnight Black. So the ability to have a uniquely colored DualSense that stands out is a big deal. I was sent the Chameleon Purple Blue, which colors the outer shell, triggers, and back-button module in this stunning glittery chameleon paint scheme. The coloring is quality and looks and feels pristine. Being a non-official PlayStation product, HexGaming opted to remove the face button shapes and swap out the PS Logo button with their own logo on a circular button.
If you want to go for something a bit more wild, you have the option to customize the color of everything from the shells to the face buttons, and even the touchpad. Virtually every visible component of the Hex Rival can be customized from a limited range of color options, which also include some patterns as well. But that comes at a cost. Even opting out of the FastShots hairpin triggers, full color customization of the Hex Rival controller is going to run you $295 if you visually customize everything. That’s more than 4x the cost of a standard DualSense. As a comparison, ColorWare’s comparable visual customizations would only run you $150 max (albeit without the back button module).
For the price alone, I simply can’t recommend the Hex Rival controller. It’s just far too expensive and prices out a vast majority of people who might otherwise show some interest. But price aside, HexGaming has made an impressive piece of tech that retains most of what’s great about the DualSense, being the shape and the haptic feedback, while adding the long-demanded back buttons and the option to get hairpin triggers and customize the color. It’s a gorgeous looking controller too, however, at this price, I wish that there was an option to enable and disable the hairpin triggers to get more broad use out of the Hex Rival than just when I decide to go a few rounds in Call of Duty. If HexGaming can address the absurd pricing and the limitations on the triggers, the Hex Rival could be not only a great controller for esports and pro players, but an awesome expanded DualSense controller all around.
HexGaming Hex Rival Controller provided be manufacturer for review. Reviewed using a variety of games on a PS5 console. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
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