Call of Duty: Warzone is nerfing cheaters’ guns so they can’t kill anybody

Call of Duty: Warzone’s anti-cheat efforts are most often seen in the form of banwaves, when developers clean house—briefly, at least—by dropping the hammer on thousands of cheaters at a time. But that system is dependent on data: You can’t roll out a banwave until you know who to ban, right? The latest Ricochet anti-cheat update reveals how developers go about getting that information without letting cheaters benefit in the process. 

Warzone developers use a number of different “in-game mitigations” to keep cheaters from making a mess of things for legit players while they’re figuring out how to deal with them. The newest one is called Damage Shield, an interesting in-game trap that doesn’t kick players when they’re caught cheating, but prevents them from doing “critical damage” to anyone else in the game. An Activision rep clarified that means their overall damage output is dramatically reduced.

“This mitigation leaves the cheater vulnerable to real players and allows #TeamRICOCHET to collect information about a cheater’s system,” the anti-cheat team explained. “We track these encounters to ensure there is no possibility for the game to apply a Damage Shield randomly or by accident, no matter the skill level. To be clear, we will never interfere in gunfights between law-abiding community members. Damage Shield is now out of testing and deployed across the globe.”

The system can be seen in action in this TimTheTatman video:

It’s an interesting (and, let’s be honest, fun) way for Warzone developers to study cheaters in the wild, but I can see where it might be an effective anti-cheat measure in its own right, too. Getting booted from a server sucks, but it’s also immediate and unmistakable—you’re out, and can move on to other things. But having your damage severely nerfed on the fly, with no notice, isn’t something you can see coming, and that makes it hugely frustrating and time-wasting. It reminds me a bit of Serious Sam 3’s anti-piracy scorpion: It doesn’t just keep you from cheating, it messes with you. It makes you mad. Call me a bad person if you will, but I think that’s pretty funny.

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Now that Ricochet’s Damage Shield is public knowledge, I’ll be curious to see if the cheaters of the world will find a way around it. Despite Ricochet’s fancy new defenses, some cheaters are still squeaking through the floodgates thanks to the efforts of dedicated cheat makers constantly working to thwart the latest anti-cheat measures. Hopefully this is one hurdle they can’t leap.

There are other mitigation systems already in place, and more on the way. The anti-cheat team said it’s seen a decline in cheating reports since these systems were activated a few weeks ago, “but we know the work is never done.”

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