Call of Duty is getting kernel level anti-cheat

Yesterday, Activision warned that bad news was on the way for Call of Duty cheaters. "Cheaters aren't welcome," it wrote. "There's no tolerance for cheaters, and soon you'll know what we mean." Today it kept that promise with the announcement of Ricochet, a new anti-cheat technology that employs a kernel-level driver to "assist in the identification of cheaters, reinforcing and strengthening the overall server security."

"The Ricochet Anti-Cheat initiative 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," Activision said. "In addition to server enhancements coming with Ricochet Anti-Cheat is the launch of a new PC kernel-level driver, developed internally for the Call of Duty franchise, and launching first for Call of Duty: Warzone. This driver will assist in the identification of cheaters, reinforcing and strengthening the overall server security."

Kernel mode anti-cheats, as we've seen previously in games including Valorant, Doom Eternal, and Genshin Impact, are often controversial because they're always on—essentially, meaning that they're always keeping an eye on what you're doing. Activision specified in a dedicated FAQ that Ricochet will only operate when Call of Duty: Warzone is running, however: The Ricochet kernel will be required to play online but when players shut down the game, the kernel driver will terminate as well. Riot's proprietary anti-cheat program Vanguard, on the other hand, has to run at all times to play Valorant.

Activision emphasized that point on Twitter:

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Ricochet will only be on PC, but "by extension, console players playing via cross-play against players on PC will also stand to benefit," Activision said. Considering the most popular cheating tools around are aimbot and wallhack programs easily obtained on a PC, stamping out these cheating methods would effectively stop most cheaters, in theory.

"There is no single solution or policy to cheating. 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'll be a tough sell, especially coming after the highly visible backlash against Riot received about Vanguard around Valorant's launch, but there does seem to be some early-stage support for the new system on social media. Which may not be surprising: Warzone is swamped with cheaters and conventional efforts to stop them haven't made much ground. An awful lot of players really something effective to be done: As redditor t_hugs3 put it, "Something about giving Activision kernel-level access to my computer doesn't sit right with me... but at the same time I've been killed by so many cheaters I could honestly give a shit at this point."

Call of Duty's new backend anti-cheat features will go live with the launch of Call of Duty: Vanguard on November 5. The kernel level driver will roll out later this year with the Pacific update for Call of Duty: Warzone.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.