E3 2018: Gearbox Dips its Toes Into the Arena Shooter Waters with Project 1v1

Everyone wants Borderlands 3, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that game. In the meantime, developer Gearbox Software has been secretly working on a new multiplayer arena shooter. With a focus on one-on-one encounters, Project 1v1 aims to provide something different as it seeks to be a major eSports title. We were able to go hands-on with the title to see how Gearbox’s latest experiment is shaping up.

Project 1v1 is a multiplayer arena shooter that pits one player against another in a small arena. Players log into a king-of-the-hill style lobby where players attempt to grab and hold the top spot. The game will be free-to-play and features a card system.

The big hook behind the game is that all matches feature two players locked in a small arena for five minutes. The player with the most kills once the timeout wins and claims the spot of ‘king’ in the lobby. Once in-game, Project 1v1’s gameplay pulls heavily from other arena shooters like Quake. The game is fast with players needing lightning-fast reflexes if they want to come out on top. However, unlike those games, guns aren’t picked up off the ground but are pre-selected before entering a match.

At this stage in development, the game seems to favor certain types of weapons over others heavily. The small maps and tight corridors are perfect for rocket launchers and shotguns. Long-range weapons like the pulse rifle, however, feel useless. It may have just been the few maps available, but none felt suited to long-range weaponry.

Project 1v1’s customization system features a card system alongside a traditional weapon loadout system. Players can take three cards representing skills into battle. Some are offensive like a firey punch, some are defensive like a flying ability, and the rest provide unique skills like highlighting enemies through walls. We don’t know how Gearbox Software intends to monetize the game, but the card-system is eerily similar to Star Wars Battlefront II’s controversial Star Card system. If these cards can be unlocked only through progression, then they should be fine, but until we get confirmation, the current system is worrying.

Project 1v1 is still very much in development. What we played didn’t provide much variety and the matches tended to blur together. As a proof-of-concept, the game is interesting. Few games focus on pitting one player against another and the game is successful at creating a sufficient amount of tension as the combatants clash to come out on top. Gearbox Software is committed to making changes and isn’t planning on launching the game anytime soon. They’ve already confirmed players will be able to customize their character’s appearance and we’ll likely see more updates to the card system as they continue to tweak and update the system.

Project 1v1 is out sometime in the future on PC. No word yet on if the game will release on PS4 and Xbox One.