Amidst numerous lawsuits claiming the company fostered an abuse-filled working environment, Activision Blizzard is getting serious about Call of Duty: Warzone cheaters with the introduction of its new, proprietary Ricochet Anti-Cheat system.
“[Ricochet] is a multi-faceted approach to combat cheating, featuring new server-side tools which monitor analytics to identify cheating, enhanced investigation processes to stamp out cheaters, updates to strengthen account security, and more,” the announcement reads, adding that these PC improvements will be coupled with a kernel-level driver. “This driver will assist in the identification of cheaters, reinforcing and strengthening the overall server security.”
The term “kernel-level” probably sent shivers down your spine if you know anything about PC security. Applications with kernel-level permissions can access just about every nook and cranny of your computer, which means it’s typically reserved for programs you absolutely trust. The fact that Activision Blizzard is claiming this is the only way to curb modern cheating software shows just how big and sophisticated of a problem cheats have become for Call of Duty: Warzone players.
Likely aware of the stigma against these kinds of intrusive measures, the Ricochet announcement goes on to make several promises about how Ricochet’s kernel-level anti-cheat will operate. The driver is apparently enabled only while Call of Duty: Warzone is running, and it’s supposedly restricted to monitoring only software and applications that interact with the game. Turning off Warzone also means turning off the Ricochet driver; there are no “always on” shenanigans here, at least according to the developers.
“There is no single solution or policy to cheating,” the Ricochet FAQ reads. “The Ricochet Anti-Cheat team’s commitment is the relentless pursuit of fair play, which is fought against the sophisticated issue of cheating. We are dedicated and determined to evolve the Ricochet Anti-Cheat System, fighting for the community against those that aim to spoil their gaming experience.”
It makes sense that Activision Blizzard would want to get out ahead of this rather than letting players discover the extent of Ricochet’s reach on their own. Last year, Riot Games came under fire for deploying a similar kernel-level anti-cheat with the release of its competitive first-person shooter Valorant. And while the company initially shrugged off widespread concerns that Valorant’s anti-cheat was always monitoring users’ PCs, it caved before the game’s official launch and gave players the ability to manually turn it off when the game wasn’t running.
The official Call of Duty account on Twitter teased the Ricochet announcement yesterday with an ominous letter addressed to cheaters. But as for the cheat-makers themselves? They don’t seem too bothered.
“Hello Ricochet anti-cheat,” taunted a private cheat developer known as Phantom Overlay, according to Telegram messages seen by Waypoint. “Goodbye Warzone only competitors who copy and paste from UnknownCheats. Goodbye rage cheaters filling every lobby. Goodbye hacker vs. hacker. Hello Phantom Overlay. Hello kernel-mode. Hello legitimate-looking cheating. Hello fun.”
Activision Blizzard plans to add Ricochet in its entirety to Call of Duty: Warzone as part of the game’s Pacific update later this year, but players can also expect the anti-cheat’s server-side protections to launch alongside Call of Duty: Vanguard on November 5. Vanguard will receive Richocet’s kernel-level driver sometime later.