AF-4 Cyclone is a New Conglomerate SMG, available to all classes. It features highest damage per shot, and lowest rate of fire among SMGs.
It was one of the first three released SMGs, and remained relatively unchanged for a long time. During that time it had enjoyed booming popularity and hype of being the best SMG in the game.
Only recently Cyclone faced an adjustment in recoil statistics, and perhaps now it’s a good time to look into this phenomenon. Was Cyclone really that good, and is it still? What’s the reason for so much hype? Let’s dig in!
Headshot Damage Multiplier: 2
SPA is a no-brainer attachment for all SMGs, so before talking about damage, let’s adjust for SPA:
Maximum Damage Range: 6m -> 11m
Projectile Velocity: 360 m/s -> 324 m/s
|6 (8)||8 (9)||9 (11)||10 (13)|
|Time-to-Kill||0.47 (0.65)||0.65 (0.74)||0.74 (0.93)||0.83 (1.11)|
|Damage per Mag
Note: in this table, I’ve skipped the 112 damage tier at 36-37m.
As expected from an SMG, Cyclone can deliver superb performance at close range, and capable of a scary 3 headshot kill, which takes only 0.184 seconds.
However, due to 4 tiers of damage degradation, Cyclone rapidly loses effectiveness as range increases. Cyclone remains usable at 30-40m, depending on attachments, but cannot compete with traditional automatic weapons further than that.
Higher damage per shot does give Cyclone an advantage over other SMGs in ranged combat, where high damage per shot is generally desirable.
It’s worth noting that Cyclone has largest damage per magazine out of all 1st generation SMGs, and the biggest benefit from Extended Mags, as well as nice Short Reload.
Cyclone has relatively low rate of fire for an SMG. That can be a disadvantage in close quarters, reducing the consistency of damage output, as explained in greater detail here.
However, lower RoF has an interesting interaction with Cyclone’s weird horizontal recoil, making it more stable on average. More on that below.
Hip Accuracy w/ ALS: 0.6 / 0.75 / 0.6 / 0.9
As with all SMGs, Cyclone has the same ADS accuracy in all stances. In other words, staying stationary or crouching does not provide an accuracy boost, and this limits Cyclone’s effective range. All SMGs have the same CoF Bloom for both ADSing and Hip Firing.
This goes with the theme of a mobile weapon: you’re given an incentive to move as much as possible and utilize the 75% ADS movement speed or full movement speed while hip firing.
All SMGs enjoy the best hip fire accuracy among all primary weapons, and access to Advanced Laser Sight allows you to improve it even further.
It’s worth noting that 125 damage SMGs have the bloom of 143 damage weapons, so they bloom more per point of damage done. Unlike them, Cyclone has the same bloom as other 167 damage weapons, so it can sustain fire more effectively. More details here.
This contributes to Cyclone being better at range than some other SMGs, and combined with other mentioned factors makes Cyclone one of the best hip fire weapons in the game.
Why good hip fire is important?
There is a detailed explanation of this in my Gunplay Guide, but let’s quickly go over it.
Hip firing is underrated in PlanetSide 2. On paper, it seems simple: ADSing gives more accuracy, and more accuracy is better, right? Well, not always.
In close quarters, ADSing can give you too much accuracy. It provides you with a tight stream of bullets, and an enemy can take just half a sidestep to dodge the entire stream.
ADSing also has a lot of disadvantages: it takes time, slows you down and reduces your field of vision.
Hip firing gives you a spray of bullets, and if at least part of Cone of Fire overlaps with enemy hitbox, you’re likely to deal at least some damage.
It’s easier to avoid a laser pointer than a flashlight. Take a look at this comparison:
A slight crosshair movement leads to all shots completely missing in ADS mode, and only slight coverage reduction with hip fire.
While obviously you want to maximize your damage, sometimes it means giving up a portion of damage output to prevent giving up all of it.
Most players will have much easier time spraying enemies from the hip and doing consistent damage, while being able to move fast and dodge enemy fire.
The higher the Rate of Fire, the more consistent will be the damage distribution over Cone of Fire area, and this is where Cyclone is a bit lacking compared to other SMGs.
However, an SMG with ALS may face the same issue of being too accurate even when firing from the hip, and that makes SMGs harder to use than other CQC automatic weapons.
For most weapons, ADSing for headshots provides the fastest theoretical time to kill.
But SMGs with ALS can hip fire for headshots within 10m, shaving off the time it takes to aim down sights, and that is what makes them so powerful in CQC.
This is also one of Cyclone’s strong points, as it has that mentioned quick 3 headshot kill, though it takes a skilled user to perform that consistently.
Recoil and how it was changed
This is the part of Cyclone’s statistics that was adjusted in recent patch.
|Recoil Angle||0 / 0||0 / 0||0 / 0||20 / 20|
|Horizontal Recoil||0.212 / 0.304||0.212 / 0.4||0.35 / 0.39||0.3 / 0.39|
|Horizontal Recoil Tolerance||0.7 (2 kicks)||0.9 (2-3 kicks)||0.9 (2 kicks)||0.9 (2 kicks)|
|Avg. Horizontal Deviation||0.215||0.260||0.3||0.285|
|Max. Horizontal Deviation||0.650||0.850||0.770||0.840|
|First Shot Recoil Multiplier||2.25x||2.5x||2x||2x|
|Vertical Recoil per Second||2.6||3.26||2.24||2.5|
The maximum horizontal recoil and horizontal recoil tolerance were raised. But Cyclone’s minimum horizontal recoil remains low.
This means that Cyclone will have a bit higher average horizontal recoil per shot, and potentially has a chance to snap out of control with 3 kicks in the same direction, but it is statistically unlikely, especially considering Cyclone’s low RoF.
On average, Cyclone will still remain more stable than Armistice or Eridani.
The nerfs have considerably raised Cyclone’s vertical recoil per second, but it still remains controllable when compared to bigger guns.
Of course, NS-7 PDW will still be more capable at range, but it won’t perform as well in close quarters.
Cyclone is deadly within 11m and effective within 23m. And with Advanced Laser Sight, it can effectively hip fire over a large portion of that range bracket.
It’s still usable within 30-40m, depending on attachments, target type and player skill.
Just keep in mind that Cyclone is an SMG, and will suffer obvious disadvantages when going against bigger guns at medium+ range, though 75% ADS movement speed can help reduce the gap.
1x Reflex makes for an easy scope choice, since Cyclone is not effective at ranges that would warrant higher magnification.
SPA is also a no-brainer attachment for all SMGs.
Rail and Barrel attachments are not so straightforward, and all of them can be viable for certain playstyles.
The “MLG” players with excellent aiming skill might prefer Forward Grip + Compensator combo, and ADS for headshots at all times.
The main purpose of this setup is to increase headshot accuracy in 10-20m range bracket, and overall effective range will be improved a little.
This combination will seem completely bewildering to most people and for a good reason. Personally, I’d never use this combination as well. But I see this working for select few exceptional players.
Flash Suppressor makes an okay Barrel slot filler, especially at night.
Suppressor will reduce the effective range, and it’s not so useful on infiltrators, since cloaking sounds will direct enemies to your position anyway. But it could work on a cocky Light Assault build.
Extended Mags vs. ALS comes down to playstyle.
If you’re careful about your engagements and mind the Long Reload, ALS will give you excellent dueling potential. You’ll have to always engage enemies one by one, though.
Extended Mags will make Cyclone a bit more general-purpose than strict 1v1 CQC fights.
You will have to ADS more often, but have the ability to engage more than one enemy at a time, won’t go through Long Reload as often, and be able to take out beefier targets outside optimal range.
You can find some guidelines on how to use an SMG here.
Truth Behind the Myth
Cyclone is often called “the best”. Be it “the best SMG for NC infiltrators” or “best SMG overall” and even “best weapon in the game, period”.
Why does it receive such praise and is it deserved? To find the answer, we have to look at the bigger picture.
If you don’t mind reading a wall of text, /u/Quinnocent gives an excellent explanation here.
Compared to other 1st generation SMGs, Cyclone is indeed too good. You may even say “overpowered”.
Cyclone has a great combination of all the important stats:
- better hip fire than Armistice
- better DPS than Eridani
- noticeably longer effective range
- higher damage per magazine
- potentially fastest time to kill with headshots
Basically, Cyclone can perform nearly as well in close quarters as other 1st gen SMGs while being better at range, and it performs even better in skilled hands.
Lack of clear disadvantages
Cyclone’s disadvantages are statistical and not easily perceivable by players.
1) Low Rate of Fire means that statistically Cyclone is less consistent when spraying in close quarters, and loses more TTK as range increases.
An excerpt from the Weapon Mechanics Guide:
…let’s compare two SMGs:
AF-4 Cyclone: 167 @ 6m – 100 @ 46m / 652 RoF
SMG-46 Armistice: 125 @ 6m – 84 @ 42m / 896 RoF
They both have similar DPS and effective engagement ranges. At 6m, they have the same TTK of 0.47. However, when crossing the bullet damage threshold from 6m to 7m, Armistice’s TTK will increase to 0.54, and Cyclone’s TTK will increase to 0.56.
They both will need one additional bullet to kill, but Armistice fires those bullets at a much faster rate, so it’s a less of a problem for that weapon.
This determines how much of a penalty is inflicted by using Suppressor, and generally for engaging the target outside the maximum damage range.
2) Less consistent horizontal recoil. Sometimes Cyclone can get out of hand and kick more than others. But on average it will perform better.
3) Higher vertical recoil per second than for other SMGs, but still very controllable.
While Cyclone has ~35% more vertical recoil per second than other SMGs, this disadvantage can be safely ignored, because Cyclone’s vertical recoil is still very mild when compared to larger primary weapons.
Specifics of TTK Calculations
Cyclone is often praised for the best headshot time to kill. But where does it come from?
Let’s compare 1st gen SMGs:
|DPS||Headshot BTK||Headshot TTK|
As we can see, the difference between their Damage Per Second is minimal. The big disparity in headshot TTK has to do with how Time to Kill is calculated:
TTK = (BTK - 1) / ( RoF / 60)
TTK = (BTK - 1) * Refire Rate
The Bullets-to-Kill is reduced by one, because there is always one fewer Refire Times between shots.
Spread fingers of one hand before you. You’ll see five fingers (hopefully), and four gaps between them. Fingers are bullets, and gaps are Refire Times.
The reason why Cyclone’s TTK is so short is because there are only two gaps between the three shots.
However, the longest Refire Time means Cyclone receives bigger penalty for missing.
Let’s take a look at how number change if the user misses 50% of shots:
|DPS||Headshot BTK||Headshot TTK|
Now they are only 0.01 or 0.02 seconds apart. The difference will continue to diminish as amount of shots increases.
To summarize, Cyclone can offer better performance in ideal circumstances, but will face greater punishment outside them.
“Most PlanetSide 2 battles are CQC”
This is another popular statement, which creates the logic of “Cyclone is strong in CQC, so it’s the best weapon overall”.
The problem with the statement “most PS2 battles are CQC” – it’s not specific enough.
Some PS2 players enjoy playing for the objective, they are competitive, and will try to capture as much territory as possible. Often they’re organized and even use voice comms.
A lot of objectives, such as capture points and generators, are located indoors.
And from that point of view, majority of their battles is indeed fought in close quarters. Especially if they often use Galaxy drops to bypass enemy defenses and the medium-long range part of battle, and drop straight on point.
Often these players are most vocal in community. So naturally they will put greater value into a weapon like Cyclone.
Just keep in mind that’s not the only way to PlanetSide 2, as long as there is no incentive to play for the objective, any playstyle is valid.
Most other New Conglomerate classes already had powerful automatic weapons for CQC, but this wasn’t the case for Heavy Assaults.
Cyclone became the first automatic CQC weapon, available to NC HA. Suddenly they had a high DPS weapon with excellent hip fire.
In contrast with slow-firing, average DPS unwieldy LMGs, Cyclone does feel like a godsend.
“Cyclone Heavies” became a thing. They are able to dominate close quarters fights against LMGs of enemies, while remaining competitive at 20-30m, which can’t be said about other factions’ SMGs.
This is the biggest contributor to Cyclone hype.
Say something often enough and it becomes the truth. A lot of people praised Cyclone for reasons above, and other people started repeating it. At some point Cyclone’s hype became a self-sustaining effect: people praise it because people praise it.
This issue is only made worse by certain vocal community members that make a point to repeat just how overpowered the Cyclone is whenever it is mentioned.
Cyclone was and still is overpowered when compared to other SMGs.
The recoil nerfs were not enough to tone down its effective range, they merely made it less consistent.
Other SMGs do certain things better: Armistice is better for CQC spraying and NS-7 is better at range.
But only Cyclone does it all sufficiently well, and gives opportunity for skill to shine, which arguably makes it the best SMG overall.
That said, I would rather see other SMGs buffed to Cyclone’s level than Cyclone nerfed further. SMGs overall are a fairly weak class, and could use some buffs across the board.