There is no direct selection tool but you can press the G key to bring up the pen tool and then use the Ctrl/Cmnd and Alt/Option keys to change the functionality. You can marquee multiple vertices, select the path between vertices, manage bezier handles or RotoSpline tension easily with the pen tool and modifiers. You just have to pay attention to what happens to the cursor when you hold down the modifiers. One of the cursors you see will be an open arrow which is the equivalent of the direct selection key in Illustrator (a).
I don't have a specific tutorial on the most efficient way to edit vector paths but this roto demo shows how it works. Once you get used to working with the Pen tool and the modifier keys it will become second nature to you.
"One of the cursors you see will be an open arrow which is the equivalent of the direct selection key in Illustrator (a)."
No, that's an equivalent of the [V] key, with sub-selection requiring the context of selection to have already been set by extraneous and cumbersome means. And this is entirely the problem I'm trying to avoid, to find a faster way to sub-selection editing, that's far more accurate and less error prone.
I've been editing paths in AI and AE for as many years as the programs have been around and have had paths. Using the pen tool (g) in AE with the modifier keys I never miss selecting the points or the lines I want to select. It did take me a little while to get used to it, but it always works with masks and shape layer paths. Before Rotobrush I did a bunch of roto work as demonstrated in the example video so muscle memory combined with the changing cursor lets me know exactly what I'm doing. I use basically the same technique in AI. I press the A key then the P key to select the pen tool and do all of my path editing with the modifier keys. I find this much faster than constantly selecting the A key and then trying to edit, then going to the pen tool for the convert vertex tool. The A key gives me 1/4 of the options compared with using the pen tool after selecting the A or direct selection tool first.
BTW, did you notice the click and drag selection in the video? You can select multiple points then transform them or move them simultaneously.
I hate to bring up other apps, because there's no point to it. Adobe users don't seem to know what's available elsewhere, and the Adobe programmers don't care to learn from other apps.
Try the new app "Affinity Designer". It's literally the best use of Modifier keys I've seen for drawing vectors. Lightyears ahead of Adobe products.
You have to try it to see. It's a little like Ninja Fingers, to begin with, but in about 10 minutes you'll get it. And, if you don't, the reminders are in the status bar. Genius!
Just like Rhino used to do.
Speaking of 3D software, the way that 3ds Max handles Splines should be the benchmark for Adobe's path editing. Unfortunately I don't think anyone at Adobe has ever used it. Well, not anyone that makes decisions about what to do to progress their software. That idea you're talking about, with regards multiple handles or points being simultaneously editable is a staple of Spline editing in just about all apps. But it really takes on a whole new level of power in Patch Editing in 3ds Max - far beyond anything in any 2D app in terms of vertices control in sets and groups and with alignment and snapping options that are to die for.
And then there's CorelDraw, wherein the idea of context awareness in the mouse's activity is good as any drawing app. In CorelDraw you don't need those combination/modifier keys, or to switch tool. Just double tap in and out of two unique modes, each with their own balance of contextual awareness that makes modifier keys entirely redundant.
Adobe has found the worst way to do it. And stuck to it.