While Microsoft frequently updates its controllers with small improvements and offers alternatives like the Elite Controller for more demanding players, Sony has largely refrained from such things, even if DualShock 4 recently got a small update. That doesn't mean there aren't any alternatives for those who really want to have that little extra theoretical advantage in deathmatches online, however.
Razer is a company that has manufactured several quality peripherals over the years, not least the Razer Wildcat, a contender to the Elite Controller for Xbox One with a lot of good qualities. This serves as a great comparison because Razer Raiju essentially feels like its counterpart on PlayStation 4. Where the Wildcat was lime green in a way that almost burnt your eyes, this feels a little more conservative, although it's obvious that Sony hasn't designed this.
Like similar products, nothing has been held back with Razer Raiju. The controller is delivered in a well padded travel bag, convenient for both transport and storage, and also includes a screwdriver. The controller weighs slightly more than DualShock 4 and its rubber surfaces offers a really good grip that makes it feel as if it almost sticks to your hand. It's also worth noting that these surfaces are already glued onto the controller, unlike the above mentioned Wildcat where you had to apply these yourself, often with mixed results.
The design, ergonomics, and the quality are very similar to the Xbox One controller (the textured plastic has the same almost rough feel to it) and there are extra buttons both on top and the back. The moment you click on one of the four main buttons on the front, you notice that something is different. Like the Xbox One Wildcat, the switches are unbelievably fast. The pressure required is just enough so you don't accidentally click them when you run your fingers over the buttons, but clicking with the slightest hint of intent registers the button press.
There's nothing subjective about it, it's just a simple fact; you will get better reaction times with this controller. The best example of this comes when playing first-person shooters where you usually shoot with one of the trigger buttons. Here you can alter the analog functions and make them just as sensitive as the face buttons. You will shave off roughly a hundredth of a second doing so and thereby shoot faster, increasing your odds of surviving a head-to-head shootout. Also, the buttons are customisable without the need of separate software, which is useful.
We've mainly played Doom and Final Fantasy XV to test what Raiju is capable of, and in both cases we think it compares favourably to DualShock 4, however, we can't claim that our Final Fantasy XV skills improved, but it does minimise the risk for errors when choosing weapons and it makes it easier to time the counters. In Doom, however, it makes all the difference. Id Software's lightning-fast game puts all the features to the test, and after a few hours it almost feels painful to go back to the DualShock 4 for the sake of comparison. We'd come to rely on the shortcuts on the back to avoid taking our fingers off the triggers, and the faster switches save lives.
We even tried to play Street Fighter V with the controller, knowing we would be frustrated, just as we were with the Wildcat. This is normally a genre where nothing beats Sony's controllers, as Razer's stuff is optimised for other genres. A prime example of this is the fact that the D-pad is in fact four buttons rather than a pad, therefore you can push both up and down at the same time if you want. This is completely useless for fighting games, and while we love the extreme speed of the buttons, it does throw us off our timing here.
The analog joysticks are also admirably well made and the blue rubber coating that sits on top provides a perfect grip, however, they are also good on the DualShock as they are currently, and it is mostly a matter of taste which one you prefer. Neither one has the upper hand here.
One area where there will be split opinions is the touch pad. This is a controller optimised for action, and to minimise the risk of pressing it by mistake, it requires a bit more pressure - it's not quite as sensitive as the original. Surprisingly, we like it, but playing a game that relies on this feature would probably change our opinion.
In terms of negatives, there is the fabric-covered cable supplied with the controller, which is so rough and inflexible that it can be a little annoying every now and then. We understand that Razer wants to offer quality throughout, but a smoother, more flexible cable would have been preferable. Furthermore, the LB/RB buttons have a slightly murky feel to them and are the weakest part to the controller, as they feel cheap and don't have the extreme speed and control as the other buttons. We would also have liked to get a couple of spare tops for the analog sticks too, because these will be worn out over time. To send an extra pair would cost very little, but would be a consumer-friendly move we'd appreciate, especially since they wear out more easily than the rest of the controller.
Razer Raiju is ultimately a fantastic controller for action games, and in our opinion it far exceeds the DualShock 4 for this genre, and the same goes for arcade experiences. However, if you mainly play party games, fighting, or platform titles, there is no reason to invest in this, and if you don't play often, or have small children, it may even be a worse alternative than the original with all the extra features complicating things. If, however, you want the best when playing games like Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, or Overwatch, you'll want to pick up a Razer Raiju. There is no better alternative available for PlayStation 4.