The Gravis Xterminator (version which includes gameport->USB dongle) which I bought in the year 2000, is currently sitting on the desk just behind me now.
Back in the original years, I was playing a variety from Need For Speed games, to following the latest CPS2 emulation releases of the time through CPS2shock and similar. In recent years, I have used it on a few occasions to revisit games on 98SE and XP. I even used Bret Johnson's USB drivers to specially make it work with a DOS game, and it worked (ultimately I considered such a convoluted chain not worth it, so did not persist).
Let me be clear : I spend very little time using it, these days. The reasons are twofold. Firstly: physical degradation of a well-used unit - this thing is now over 20 years old. And I hammered it, during the first few years. While still functional, there is now age-related play in a couple of the buttons and the stick, which render it not quite what it was (in feel). Secondly: as already mentioned, the Gravis bloatware - "Gravis Xperience" - is annoying. I confirm that you can use the USB-dongle-version's main functions in XP without drivers. Which is something. And even in 9x, the bloatware
generallyoften works fineenough. But there are the usual potential pitfalls related to 9x bloatware, and that alone can be annoying. For example, sometimes it doesn't like NUSB drivers - so, do you want to use your USB mass storage? or your gamepad? Oh, but you need the NUSB in order to copy the drivers on there in the first place! Argh! [ for example 😀 ]
And yet overall, I kinda love(d) the thing. Especially physically. To my mind, it has several unique/useful features:
- Great hand feel
- A good analog stick with a unique feel : generous size; it has shorter throw than a generic/console dual-stick ABXY controller, better for fighting game moves for example;
- 6 primary button layout - again if you like dabbling with fighting games, then this is huge, and none of the ubiquitous ABXY pads of the world have it
- Good wide-range analog triggers on the shoulders - e.g. useful for accel/brake in driving games
- Rear buttons which sit well on the middle fingers (gear changes?)
- A generous amount of buttons and controls available, the majority decent and useful
- A "Gravis quality and design" overall vibe - as in, you can tell it's not generic shitware clonepad #2903875982 - it's been purpose designed to be a quality product for gamers
For balance, a summary of the potential Cons:
- Fairly useless digital d-pad, might as well pretend it doesn't exist (placement and feel aren't great)
- The squeezing-in of analog stick + d-pad means that the analog stick's position could perhaps be slightly better
- Lack of a second analog stick, obviously
- No kind of rumble or feedback
- The 9x bloatware definitely isn't awesome, and in some setups could induce (the usual range of 9x- related) headaches
- The usual gamepad cons: no gamepad beats a stick setup for flight, no gamepad beats arcade controls/hitbox for fighting games, etc etc.
- Be aware of the different versions: gameport-only version, and gameport-plus-USB-dongle version; the latter is probably preferable
- Due to it's tiny niche in the market, you might struggle to find certain spare parts or readily-available donors, were those to ever be required
Other than that, I'd say the Xterminator was/is pretty cool. In some ways, a real standout or even class-leader. Within it's limited remit.