Sometimes a name is enough. When the teaser trailer for Neversoft's Gun hit at E3, the simple conjunction of those two words was enough to grab everyone's attention.
It had long been known that Neversoft was going to diversify from its Tony Hawk empire to work on a very different property, but there was little more than pure speculation on what it might be. And then, bang! There was Gun.
The trailer was enough at odds with Tony Hawk's easygoing tone to pique interest - bloody, pounding, and flash-cut with enough subliminal viciousness to unsettle even those hardened by long careers of gaming violence. But that was only the first surprise because, in the flesh, the game is as much at odds with that trailer as the trailer was to most people's perception of Neversoft.
Gun is a Wild West epic, intended to hit every gun-toting, whisky-swilling, brothel-raiding, horse-wrangling, fast-duelling sweet-spot without ever descending to dumb, lazy stereotype. Can you ride into town guns blazing and take out the bandits? Yes. Can you blast people backwards through swinging saloon doors? Yes. Can you herd cattle and befriend local Indian tribes? Take to the rooftops and interrupt an unjust hanging? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
But there's weight to the central character: trained as a hunter, hero Colton is an experienced marksman, used to relying on his guns for his own survival. And there's a strong story for him to follow, with a father's murder to avenge and a mysterious prostitute to find.
The gunplay is elaborate: flicking into first-person for quasi-bullet-time precision, aiming at ankles and wrists to disable and disarm opponents, forcing you to think about reloading patterns, and demanding careful manoeuvring as you fight on horseback.
Gun makes the most of its natural palette, filling the skies with wide, airy blues and cloaking the ground with dusty reds and dewy greens. The animation is also strong, with the sheen of your horse's coat dipping and shifting as the muscles move and weight shifts from leg to leg.
It's been a brave move - taking the game from drawing board to near-completion in secluded secrecy. Now Activision has a few short months to fire gamers' enthusiasm for Gun. On present form, it won't be a difficult task.