More and more people are making the move from console to PC for gaming, simply because a powerful gaming PC can provide better graphics and frame rates than can be achieved by either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One - high-end gaming PCs can even outperform the PS4 Pro.
However, console converts can struggle with using a keyboard and mouse for gaming, especially those of us that have been using controllers for years. Could we use the DualShock 4 controller to play games on PC? Technically yes, but it’s not as straight forward as we’d hope. Also see: How to use PS4 Remote Play on PC.
If you don't own a DualShock 4 yet, or want to grab a second pad specifically for your PC, you can grab one from Amazon for £42.95 at the time of writing, in a range of colours including black, blue, red, and white.
Is my DualShock 4 controller compatible with PC?
Let’s turn back time to the announcement of the DualShock 4 controller in February 2013. The successor to the PlayStation 3’s DualShock 3 controller was announced during a Sony press conference to excited fans watching around the world.
The new DualShock 4 added features like a 3.5mm jack for headphone/mic support, redesigned trigger buttons, a lightbar, and of course, the touchpad. It was also a lot better looking than its predecessor, and was a lot more comfortable to use over long periods of time – what wasn’t to like?
As well as all the above features, Sony also announced – much to the delight of gamers around the world – that the DualShock 4 controller would be compatible with Windows. It meant that gamers wouldn’t have to fork out for extra accessories, and gave them the freedom to switch between the two platforms, or so they thought.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite the plug-and-play solution that we thought it’d be, and using a DualShock 4 controller on a PC takes a bit of work if the game doesn’t specifically have DualShock 4 support.
What about Mac?
But what about Mac gamers? Could they use the DualShock 4 controller for Mac gaming? Technically yes, it is possible to connect your DualShock 4 controller to your Mac, both via USB and Bluetooth, and your Mac will recognise it as a gamepad, however it gets a bit more complex from that point on.
You see, Windows has the advantage of having the XInput API built into its OS, which is what makes Xbox controllers compatible with Windows, and is what programmers use to make PS4 controllers work on Windows (we’ll come to that in detail below), but the same can’t be said for Mac.
So yes, while the DualShock 4 will be recognised as a gamepad, it’ll be a lot harder to find games that have controller support, and they may require some time tweaking settings before it works properly.
See also: Best gaming PCs
While occasional games have enjoyed DualShock 4 support over the last few years, 2016 marked the first time that major developers began consistently adding full support for the controller, making it much easier to play games on the PC using the PS4 pad.
The likes of No Man's Sky, Watch Dogs 2, NBA 2K17, and Dark Souls III all offered plug-and-play support for the DualShock 4, connected either wirelessly or using the controller's in-built Bluetooth. These games even included DualShock 4 button overlays, so that in-game prompts would instruct you to hit 'X' rather than 'A', as on an Xbox pad.
Not every game offers support, but more and more major titles will going forward. If you're not sure which games support the DualShock 4, check out this fan-maintained list on the PC Gaming Wiki.
Use a PS4 controller with Steam games
2016 also saw Steam add support for the DualShock 4, so that you can now use it to navigate the Steam menu in Big Picture Mode - including on a Steam Link. Be warned though: just because you can use the PS4 controller with Steam, that doesn't mean you can use it in all your Steam games. Most still won't work without a little bit of extra work, but luckily there is a way to use your DualShock 4 with almost any PC game.
How to install InputMapper
As mentioned above, although the DualShock 4 has Windows compatibility, game developers have to specifically add support for it, or it won’t work – at all. Alas, there is light at the end of the tunnel as there’s now an application available that will map the DualShock 4 controls directly to Microsoft’s XInput API.
The end result is that games are ‘tricked’ into thinking you’re using an Xbox 360 controller, and you’ll be free to play as many games with your DualShock 4 controller as your heart desires.
So, what is this application and how do you use it? Well…
1) Download and install InputMapper. The first step is to head over to the InputMapper website, download the latest version of the tool and install it on your PC.
2) Connect your DualShock 4 controller. Once you’ve installed InputMapper, the next step is to connect your controller to your PC. You can do this via a USB connection or via Bluetooth, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a Bluetooth connection isn’t as stable as a wired one. However, if you’re adamant on connecting via Bluetooth, just hold the Share button and PlayStation button on the controller until the light flashes to enter pairing mode, then pair with it on your PC.
3) Open InputMapper and get ready to game. Now that you’ve installed InputMapper and connected your DualShock 4 controller, it’s finally time to open the application. Upon opening InputMapper, your DualShock 4 controller should be recognised, and should function identically to an Xbox 360/One controller (in most cases anyway).
It’s worth noting that you may encounter the odd game here and there that has compatibility issues. If this issue arises, head into the Settings menu of InputMapper and toggle the checkbox labelled “Use Exclusive Mode”. If you want to customise your gaming experience and remap your buttons (and create macros), this can be done via the Profiles menu within the application.
While InputMapper is a lifesaver for those of us that have DualShock 4 controllers and a PC, it’s still a work in progress. For one thing, InputMapper has to be open every time you want to play a game. While it may seem like a hassle, there’s an option within the application to allow it to start up minimised whenever Windows boots up. Also, as its designed to mimic Xbox controls, you’ll most likely see A and B button graphics in game, opposed to X and O.
See also: Most anticipated games
What are the alternatives?
So, are there any alternatives to using InputMapper and a DualShock 4 controller? The only simple alternative that we can suggest is to, sadly, buy an Xbox 360/One controller to use for PC gaming. Microsoft’s XInput API makes gaming with an Xbox 360/One controller such a simplistic experience, you sometimes forget you’re playing on a PC and not an Xbox.
Although even with Microsoft’s own controllers, there is a downside – unless you have one of the newer Xbox One S controllers with Bluetooth, if you just use the controller that came with your console, it will only work plugged into a USB work - you won't be able to connect it straight away to your PC wirelessly.
You can however buy an Xbox One controller with a wireless adapter for PC, or you can simply buy the wireless adapter on its own if you already own a controller. If you still have an Xbox 360 controller, you can still grab a 360 wireless adapter too.
See also: Best budget gaming PCs
There's also Valve's Steam Controller, which is designed to support any Steam game - even those without built-in controller support. The best price for it we've found is £39.99 from Game - though be warned, it's a bit different from your average controller, with dual trackpads instead of the second analogue stick and D-pad, for more precise input.