Returnal, a PS5 game based entirely on Vaas’ iconic refrain from Far Cry 3, is an impressive game. But few things are more impressive than its rain, which feels unnervingly real in your hands, a result of the PS5 controller’s advanced haptic feedback. Today, in a post on the PlayStation Blog, Housemarque’s Gregory Louden and Harvey Scott detailed how the studio pulled off such a trick.
According to Scott, the game’s rain benefited from the attention to haptic feedback enabled by the PS5 controller. “The rain in Returnal is complemented by subtle raindrop haptic pulses that are procedurally synthesised at runtime, which allowed us to refine and tweak the feel of them on the fly,” Scott wrote.
It feels funny to talk about rain—rain!—as a hallmark of transcendent next-gen bona fides. But how rainfall translates realistically into your hands was an immediate standout for me, as I wrote in my preview of the game: “The rain picks up, and your controller vibrates less like a motorcycle and more like a Brookstone massage chair. It’s like a full-body massage for your palms. It’s subtle enough that you might not consciously register it’s even happening, but it feels amazing.” Forget the stunning visuals and blistering load speeds. The rain’s the one thing you couldn’t imagine in, say, a PlayStation 4 version of Returnal.
The blog also details how much thought went into some of Returnal’s haptic feedback. For instance, when you dash, the controller weights vibrations in the direction you’re moving. When you pick up obolites (Returnal-speak for “gold”), you feel an individual vibration for every single one you grab, reinforcing the idea that you’re making bank.
Even the game’s parasites—double-edged accessories that grant you a bonus at the expense of restricting one of your abilities—are apparently encoded with their own controller vibration. It’s one of those things you barely take note of while playing, but the punctuated staccato triplet of grabbing a new parasite is markedly different than what you feel when firing an automatic weapon, or falling from 100 feet, or getting punched in the face by an enormous extraterrestrial tentacle monster. These subtle differences in vibration reinforce what you’re doing in the game beyond what you simply see on the screen.
All together, the vibrations in Returnal are a far cry from the “get hit, take damage, controller go brrr” feedback we’ve grown accustomed to since the days of N64 rumble packs. Progress!