To get the verdict on DVS and gaming we recruited, mobile, gaming, and all-round tech guru Tom Wiggins to put the feature through its paces.
Tom, over to you…
Mobile phones have been vibrating since the mid-nineties, but until Sony’s Xperia XZ2 came along, they did little more than discreetly let you know when you had a text or a call coming in.
But Sony’s latest smartphone comes with one particular feature that sets it apart from the crowd: Dynamic Vibration System.
A bit like the rumble function found in your PlayStation 4’s DUALSHOCK controller, DVS is designed to add an extra dimension of tactile feedback to videos and games by vibrating in sync with what’s happening on-screen. It uses a vibration module that’s nearly three times larger than the one you’d find in most phones – but it’s not just the hardware that’s different.
Sony’s engineers have designed an algorithm that reacts to the sound in real time, so games don’t need to be specially designed to work with it and boost that sense of immersion.
Activating DVS is simple. It should already be turned on by default, but if you want to check, head to the “Sound” menu in “Settings” and make sure Dynamic Vibration is switched on.
Then, once you fire up a compatible app, when you press either of the volume buttons an extra slider bar will appear underneath the volume one. This allows you to adjust the strength of the Dynamic Vibration from Mild to Normal to Powerful.
Given its destructive nature, Angry Birds Friends seemed like a good place to start, and sure enough, you can feel a little twinge as you take the strain on the catapult before launching the first of your avian arsenal into the arena. It’s subtle, particularly on anything but the strongest setting, but gives a real sense of the potential energy stored underneath your finger.
Of course, the real fun begins when your shots land and those dastardly pigs’ fortress starts to collapse. Your phone will shake with every piece that’s destroyed, so as if knocking them down with a perfectly placed projectile wasn’t enough, now you’ll get to feel the aftermath as well.
Firing up Angry Birds Go – the game’s karting offshoot – and ramping up the DVS to maximum, the effect is obvious from the very start. The phone buzzes and pulses in time with the jaunty menu music, and as soon as you launch your kart from the start line it’ll fidget underneath your fingers as your tear around the undulating course, picking up coins, smashing fruit and boosting round corners.
Take to the skies on one of the airbourne circuits and it’ll gently rumble with turbulence as you navigate your way through the thermal back to terra firma, with little hints of movement when you change terrain. For a game in which everything is so much larger than life, Angry Birds and DVS is a match made in heaven.
Play Boom Beach, the command and conquer-esque strategy game, and its more considered, time-controlled gameplay means a different experience in terms of how DVS is used.
Expanding your operations and training troops takes time, so your phone will pulse rhythmically in the background as your troops go to work and the tension builds.
Once you’ve settled on your next target and scouted it out, it’s time to unleash your attack. As soon as the rat-tat-tat of gunfire starts, the staccato shakes of the XZ2 match up perfectly with what’s happening on screen, making it pretty obvious when your army is being annihilated. Retreat! Retreat!
If you do manage to emerge victorious from a battle, you’ll receive a volley of triumphant rumbles through your fingertips in acknowledgment.
Clash Royale’s isolated battles offer a similar experience to Boom Beach’s island-based conflicts. The idea is to destroy your opponent’s towers before they can demolish yours. In order to do so you must send wave after wave of attackers across no man’s land, each with a different weapon and skill set. If the time runs out before either side has triumphed, the winner is the side that has managed to cause the most damage.
Choose to send a giant into the theatre of conflict and the phone will shake like the ground with every step he takes towards the enemy towers. As you instruct more of your troops to enter the battlefield and the fighting intensifies, so does the vibration, with every arrow, blade and bomb adding to the rumbling cacophony of each bout.
As your progress through the game, unlocking and upgrading more resources, the DVS also kicks in to let you know each time you level up. It’s the kind of thing that just makes you want to keep on playing.
Out on the open road in Traffic Rider the aim of the game is to jump aboard a motorbike and weave your way through traffic towards each checkpoint, scoring points for near misses and general death-defying behaviour. Each time you pass a car with mere millimetres to spare, the DVS will let out a mini shockwave to let you know just how close you were to eating Tarmac. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Graduate to bigger bikes and the rumble will be more consistent, as the more powerful engine sends vibrations through your rider’s behind. Take to the road in bad weather and it’ll be more insistent as you ride through the rain and droplets splatter the visor.
Collide with a car or the roadside barrier and you might expect the phone to jump clean out of your hands but fortunately it’s a little more restrained than that.
Having played all five games with the Xperia XZ2’s DVS system turned on and then off, there’s a very noticeable difference in how each one feels to play – quite literally!
It’s probably most effective in the racing games, where the algorithm is able to pick out more distinct elements to convert into feelings, but the extreme rumbling you get at the height of a firefight certainly leaves you with the sense that a serious ruck has kicked off.
Before too long, if you play a game with DVS turned off, you’ll wonder how you ever coped without it.
Follow Tom Wiggins @WiggoWiggo.