Project 1v1 may look like a Quake III/Unreal Tournament-style FPS at first glance, but there’s more to it than just the opponent-gibbing action. As the title suggests, Project 1v1’s matches are limited to just two players, and play out on small and twisting maps full of ramps, jump pads, and the occasional insta-kill hazard. Whoever racks up the most frags in the allotted time wins. So far, so ‘90s.
However, Gearbox is adding a few interesting twists to the formula. The first is a queue of spectators, who can watch and comment on the match as it happens. Those onlookers aren’t just watching to boost your ego – whoever is at the top of the queue will be the next competitor to challenge the winner, and hopefully send them packing. This king-of-the-hill format is accentuated by Project 1v1’s HUD, which mirrors what you might find in an arcade fighting game, with the players’ health running in big bright bars across the top, along with their score (frags) and the remaining timer.
The other big twist is how weapons and abilities are handled. The characters you select in Project 1v1 (which sport exaggerated sci-fi art styles) are completely cosmetic and highly customizable, allowing you to tweak various pieces of clothing and ornaments you're wearing, as well as all of the color schemes. How your character actually functions in combat is instead dictated by your “deck,” which is comprised of a handful of cards. These cards cover both weapons (including the usual assortment of rocket launchers, shotguns, railguns, etc.), and abilities, which run the gamut from deployable turrets to speed boosts to a Pharah-style rocket barrage. Gearbox hasn’t worked out all the logistics behind the card packs, but players will be able to earn them through play, and they’ll contain a mix of the aforementioned weapons, abilities, and cosmetic items. Once you unlock a card, you’ll be able to use it in as many loadouts as you wish.
My hands-on demo of the game featured quick and tense matches that hearkened back to the early days of competitive shooters, and the three “decks” I tried featured considerably different abilities. Winning felt particularly good, in part because it meant I could keep on playing without waiting in line for another turn. Whether fans will want to queue up for a 1v1 shooter remains to be seen, but as you can probably surmise from the title and lack of screenshots, Project 1v1 is early in development and Gearbox is clearly still experimenting with the nascent shooter's formula.