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How Metro Exodus aims to stand out in a surprisingly busy February 2019

"Three other companies had the same idea!"

In May, publisher Deep Silver announced a significant delay for Metro Exodus: from autumn 2018 to February 2019.

Metro Exodus comes out on the same day as Anthem, Days Gone and Crackdown 3.

The delay means developer 4AGames has another half a year to work on the first-person survival horror shooter sequel.

Executive producer Jon Bloch told Eurogamer there were a number of reasons for the delay: chief among them to polish the game and to avoid some of the big hitters coming out later this year.

But while Metro Exodus has avoided the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, it finds itself in a pretty tough launch window in February 2019.

Metro Exodus launches on 22nd February 2019, the same day as BioWare's Anthem, Sony's Days Gone and Microsoft's Crackdown 3.

"Three other companies had the same idea!" Bloch said.

Metro Exodus is up against some stiff competition, then. But, as Bloch points out, it's nigh-on impossible for a video game to launch competition-free these days, with more and more games pushed to the first quarter of the year in a bid to avoid going up against annual autumn regulars - and in the case of 2018, Rockstar's sure to be all-encompassing Red Dead Redemption 2 - while still contributing to publisher's bottom line for the financial year ending March.

"If we were coming out right before Christmas we'd be having the same conversation, right?" Bloch continued.

"It seems like there are a lot of games coming out in the next year or so. We have to pick the date that makes the most sense for us and the most sense for the game. There's going to be competition no matter when we come out, right? We're not going to get our own perfect window of nobody else releasing a game, unless it's maybe like 1st January!

"A lot of people tend to avoid the holidays unless they're already just a part of that process. Other companies try to get stuff out before their fiscal ends, so March tends to get busy."

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What Metro Exodus has going for it is it's pretty unique, and unlike the other big games that launch in February. It's a story-driven single-player horror first-person shooter that combines open world gameplay with linear levels. Oh, and it's set in Russia. Anthem and Crackdown 3 are multiplayer-focused action games, and Days Gone is all about hordes of zombies. If nothing else, Metro Exodus is doing its own thing.

For better and for worse, Metro Exodus has its release date, which means the developers are faced with another half a year of work to prepare the game for launch. Much of this work revolves around polish, which is a rather vague term that most consider to mean "make the game better".

4AGames has set up a "strike team" that is focused on ironing out the game's niggly problems. Metro Exodus is content and feature complete, which means all of the intended assets are in the game and all placeholder content is out. Now, it's a case of buffing the experience.

"Some of the previous games were a little rough around the edges at times," Bloch said.

"It brought some charm to the games, but we want to do better this time. More than just doing more stuff for our fans or more scope, we want to push the level of quality."

4AGames' strike team, which is formed of a couple of designers, a couple of artists and quality assurance testers, is running through the game and "hammering on the environments".

This involves, for example, making sure collisions work and objects such as ladders and doors and switches work consistently throughout the game. It's the fiddly stuff that won't hit the headlines, but contribute to an overall feeling of quality.

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4AGames is also using the delay to make sure the player can leap over objects properly.

"We've introduced legs and you can now vault over things," Bloch explained, "so it's not just a simple jump.

"Now when you hop over something that's at a certain height, you'll see his legs come up and go over, the arms come out, so it feels a lot more interactive. Going through and making sure that stuff works everywhere it's supposed to, so that it feels tight and intuitive and consistent everywhere. A lot of that is going in now."

And, as you'd expect, 4AGames staff are play-testing the hell out of Metro Exodus, gathering feedback and using it to "plug holes" and "buff everything out", according to Bloch.

All of this is about giving Metro Exodus as good a chance as possible of being successful. Everything from the new release date to the work that's going on to improve the game has to do with helping Metro Exodus stand out when it finally comes out on 22nd February 2019 - against all that stiff competition.