I’ve always had a soft spot for Gravis’ controllers. Who knows why it is? Maybe it’s because the first control I bought for my PC was the original Gravis Game Pad. Maybe it was the similarity of their gamepads with the gamepads of video game consoles.
Then again, maybe it is because their controllers are of such a high quality that I cannot see going with anyone else. And from that original game pad to their most recent controller, the Xterminator, it is apparent that Gravis cares about their gamers and knows what they want in a controller.
Xterminator has got to me their most complicated controller, with 19 different controls available. To start off, the Xterminator carries on the tradition started by Nintendo and offering both an analog and digital control pad. Next there are the primary six action buttons laid out in what I consider the Sega Genesis/Saturn configuration (two rows of three buttons each). Two sets of triggers, one analog and one digital, a 8-way hat switch, a throttle lever, a start/select combo button, and a special mode key finish off this impressive package.
But it’s not how a controller looks that makes it good, it’s how it plays, and from what I have tested out, I am very impressed. I will admit at first that I had trouble with an earlier Xterminator release, as the analog pad was not centering correctly, and as I was testing it out on Jedi Knight, I noticed that my control had a slight sense of "drift," and even with setting the controller sensitivity or increasing the "dead zone," the drift was still apparent.
Later I found out that earlier versions of the Xterminator had configuration problems with Windows 98, and a patch for this is available at the official Gravis web site: www.gravis.com. In addition, I was able to test out a later release of the Xterminator which was compatible with Windows 98, and it goes without saying that I was very impressed.
Running Need for Speed 3 on a K6-2 300 with 32MB RAM and a Gravis Xterminator gave me the first true opportunity to experience true control as I hoped I would. Not only did the analog pad handle nicely, but I was able to configure the analog triggers for the gas and brake. The result was breathtaking, as I could not only control how much I wanted to steer my Ferrari, but also decide on how hard I want to slam the brakes when hitting a turn.
Truly, a nice touch.
I next tested the Xterminator on NHL 99, and like NFS3, I could truly experience the analog control, and not since playing the arcade version of NFL Blitz, have I had true control on an athlete, controlling how fast I wanted him to skate and allowing smooth turning. The only catch I noticed was that I was used to my NHL 98 control scheme, which involved the top buttons for shooting and passing, with a third button below used for turbo. Since the top buttons on the Xterminator are spaced apart a little, it took a while to get used to it, but after a few games, I was at home with thr control. The same could be said when testing Madden 99, as I had to alter my control scheme, but these are only minor complaints.
Overall, the Gravis Xterminator is quite a piece of work. At $40, I don’t think anyone can find a finer digital/analog gamepad as this. An impressive 4 1/2 GiN Gems best describe this product, with half a point being deducted because of earlier "dead zone" problems and the layout of the six main buttons.