Pro Players Don’t Need Glitches to Destroy You in Battlefield 4
Next-generation military shooter Battlefield 4 is pretty busted. The game often crashes, there’s tons of lag, certain modes are inaccessible half the time and players have been complaining about getting unfairly fragged thanks to a one-hit-kill bug.
But before you cry “glitch,” know that some of the coolest tricks used by the guys constantly slaughtering you aren’t exploits — just skillfully deployed maneuvers that are part of the game’s design.
Battlefield 4, which shipped October 29 (and was then available at the respective November launches of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), is in the process of being patched by Electronic Arts. Even after it’s fixed, there’s a good chance that guys like Taylor Sollazo, 23, will keep owning you.
When I first encountered Sollazo, who goes by the handle of ScumbagWally, I was playing a multi-round set in Domination, an infantry-only mode focused on controlling territory around the game map. Thankfully, Sollazo was on my team. The dude was an absolute machine — every match we played, he’d come out with 25 or more kills and only a few deaths. We won every single game, and it was almost entirely because of him.
Impressed by his apparent skill, I opened up his profile to check out what weapon loadout he was using. What I found made no sense.
Sollazo was rocking one of the most basic assault rifle weapons, the SCAR-H, and he didn’t have any fancy attachments or perks on it. Although Battlefield gives you access to more powerful weapons as you level up, he was exclusively using equipment that was easily available to me, a low-rank player.
Some basic stats on Sollazo: His rank is 110, compared to me at level 9. He’s put 180 hours intoBattlefield since it launched.
But this is the crazy part: His average kill-death ratio is 4.7. That means that for every 10 times Sollazo dies, he takes 47 people down with him.
This guy isn’t just good — he’s a death machine. In all my years of playing Battlefield games, I may have gone 30-and-1 only once or twice. Sollazo was doing it in every other game we played together.
The next time I died, I decided to wait a minute before spawning back in. Instead, I stayed on the menu and watched Sollazo play through his own viewpoint — a nifty feature new to Battlefield 4. From what I could tell, he just ran around the map at top speed at all times, throwing a few health-regenerating packs at his feet whenever he found a good cover spot and then taking out three or more enemies at a time from his carefully chosen location before moving on to the next one.
There was one other thing I noticed, although I didn’t understand the significance of it at the time. Every few seconds while moving around, Sollazo would suddenly hop. There didn’t seem to be any particular rhythm or logic to it — he’d just jump in the air every once in a while, although he did it more often when he was engaging enemies head-on.
Above: Taylor “ScumbagWally” Sollazo dominates a few enemy teams
I added Sollazo as a friend on Xbox Live, and sent him a message: “Hey, how the hell are you so good? Seriously, teach me your ways.”
A few minutes later, a reply appeared. “I eat my Wheaties,” it read.
“Dude. You have a 4.7. You’re on something a lot stronger than Wheaties.”
“Mountain Dew,” came the reply.
Obviously he wasn’t going to open up a dojo and teach me how to be a Battlefield master for nothing. So I asked if he would like to do an interview for WIRED, and he agreed. Sollazo explained via email some of the techniques he uses to dominate in Battlefield 4, and set me straight on the difference between “exploits” and legitimate tricks used by high-level players.
“Battlefield isn’t about raw talent or skill,” he says. “It’s about your awareness to events as they occur around you.”
Sollazo explains that his seemingly erratic jumping, called “bunny hopping,” is simply a habit built up over years of playing first person shooters ever since the first Halo. The reason is simple: It makes him harder to hit. (Bunny hopping is a contentious element of Battlefield 4, to say the least.)
A look at Sollazo’s Battlelog page shows that he favors using favors hip-firing accuracy. Almost every time he engages an enemy at close or long range, he begins by hip-firing while still sprinting, then pulls up his scope. The boosts to his hip-firing accuracy kick in the game’s auto-aim, pulling his iron sights towards the enemy automatically.
Sollazo also points out that what seems like a glitch is just baked into the game: You can revive your teammates with the defibrillator without actually touching them. As long as you’re standing on top of them, you can shock the air and your teammate will rise from the dead.
When I approached Sollazo to ask about the defibrillator trick, I referred to it as an “exploit,” and he was quick to correct me.
“Exploits are something that gives someone an unfair advantage over another player and was not meant to be implemented in the final release of the game,” Sollazo wrote. “The defib has a wide arc of [effect] that does not require you to aim directly at a teammate to get the revive animation. This has been a mechanic in place since the release of Battlefield 2 on the PC.”
A true exploit, he said, would be something more along the lines of “flare glitching,” a bug in Battlefield 4 that gave players an invulnerability to anti-air weapons while flying attack and scout helicopters.
Sollazo points out that the defibrillator should probably be patched, but not because it magically works in mid-air. Sometimes it doesn’t work even when you’re hovering directly over a teammate and pointing it right at them, he said, calling it “a faulty system and poorly tested mechanic.”
This is what happens when seriously smart players tear apart a game. They don’t play it “realistically,” because it’s better to examine it as a system, discover its flaws, and utilize them to maximum advantage.
Still, the question remains: Should Battlefield 4‘s developers address some of the tricks currently being used by top players? Or are they a legitimate part of the game that should be left in, for the sake of savvy players who like to take advantage of them?
On second thought, these hair-splitting questions can probably wait until Electronic Arts gets the game to run properly.