Activision is tormenting Call of Duty cheaters in order to study them, stealing their weapons and turning their enemies invisible

Call of Duty's Ricochet Anti-Cheat system doesn't always ban suspected Warzone and Modern Warfare 2 cheaters on sight. Sometimes, it keeps them around, but makes their efforts to cheat futile by applying "mitigations." For example, a mitigation called Damage Shield "disables the cheater's ability to inflict critical damage on other players" so that, no matter how hard they try, they will never score a kill.

When we first heard about mitigations last year, the Ricochet team mentioned that there were others aside from Damage Shield, and today the developers shared three videos demonstrating Call of Duty cheating mitigations currently in use. Along with Damage Shield, suspected cheaters may be subjected to Disarm, which causes weapons to vanish, and Cloak, which turns enemies invisible.

Disarm, which you can see in the video embedded at the top of this article, is the funniest to me. In the demo, the player tries to switch from a sniper rifle to their sidearm, but instead they just put the rifle away and face their enemy with empty hands. It might look like a bug the first time, but after a few times I imagine it dawns on victims that they've been got.

As the subtlest of them, I think Damage Shield is the most diabolical. The video demonstration makes it obvious, but in a real match, you could go minutes wondering why you can't seem to land a killing shot. Cloak, which players reported experiencing last year, would be deeply irritating, but I imagine you'd catch on fairly quickly.

Here are the Damage Shield and Cloak demonstration videos:

The point of all this isn't just to mess with Call of Duty cheaters, the developers say. Keeping cheaters playing while mitigating their ability to ruin the game for other players allows the Ricochet team to collect "valuable information to help combat their behavior in the future," according to today's blog post. It also, helpfully, leaves the cheater in the match, giving legitimate players one more target to shoot at. Mitigations are being used in both Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.

For a while, Warzone cheating was so rampant that it came up in just about every conversation about the game.

"No one hates the cheaters more than we do," Raven Software associate creative director Amos Hodge said in 2021. "We make this content for the players and while you're upset that it ruined your game, I'm upset that it's ruining some of the best work that I've done in my life." 

Things have improved since the introduction of Ricochet, though no anti-cheat system is perfect. In some cases, it now may be catching too much: We can't confirm any individual case, but we saw a lot of complaints about false positives in Modern Warfare 2 late last year. Let's hope the innocent aren't being punished with invisible players, missing guns, and Nerf bullets.

The Ricochet team also said today that it has started using a new replay tool for cheating investigations, and that its software can now detect third-party hardware used to modify controller input before it reaches a console or PC.

"Users across PC or console who are detected to be using third-party hardware devices to impact the Modern Warfare 2 or Warzone 2.0 gameplay experience will first see a warning about the improper use of these devices," reads the blog post. "Continued improper use of these devices may lead to additional warnings, the deployment of mitigations, account or feature suspensions, or the banning of the offending account across Call of Duty titles, per our Security and Enforcement Policy."

You can read today's full Call of Duty anti-cheat update here.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.