The Xbox 360 gamepad and the older games

Is there a way to play older games, let's use Freespace 2 as an example (because that's what i'm trying to play), with an Xbox 360 PC gamepad?

The answer doesn't seem so obvious to me. Most modern games detect my gamepad whereas older games don't.

XPadder comes to mind, but I hate paying for software. Could give this a try:

Basically, allows your controller to emulate mouse/keyboard input, the exact same thing XPadder does.