Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War has been out for, oooh, three days now, and already there's more video evidence of cheaters running riot than you can shake an AK at. A particular beauty can be seen in the clip below.
Above: Gif via Sjoerd734's Reddit post. (opens in new tab)
Insert obligatory reference to console aim-assist here. Jokes aside, the above example is as obvious as it gets: the wild camera swings, the way the aim 'snaps' instantly towards new players on the screen, the psychic ability to predict where heads will next appear. The smoking gun if you will occurs around nine seconds in, when there's a camera flick that's so quick and unnatural it looks like a glitch.
I'm no expert on COD cheaters, but I've been an overwatch participant in Counter-Strike: GO for years, so I'm used to watching for the behaviours we see here. The judgement call one always has to make is whether a clip simply shows a good player getting lucky, or whether the combination of prediction and ice-cool reflexes is simply implausible. This Black Ops_Cold War video just looks like an excellent player for the first minute or so then, for me, from around the 1:30 mark it moves into clear haxorz territory. In this example, the camera flicks and clear knowledge of player locations give away the villain.
With a quick google I was able to find a panoply of cheat sellers, and it's kind of breathtaking what an industry this is. One option had seven-day, 30-day and one-year subscriptions, running from $15 to $80. The game's community is pretty dismissive of Activision's anti-cheat efforts, but this is an endemic problem: it's not something that can be fixed by simply throwing money at it.
Riot's recent Valorant annoyed some players with its intrusive Vanguard anti-cheat software (here's everything you need to know about how it works), but that stance does appear to have been vindicated. Riot's anti-cheat lead Paul Chamberlain writes: "Yes, cheats are still possible in VALORANT—there are already some examples out in the wild. But this strategy makes those cheats much more difficult to develop and maintain. This in turn makes them more expensive to buy, which limits how many cheaters there are in the game. The smaller community of capable cheat developers also makes their cheats easier to keep track of and enables us to take other approaches—such as legal avenues—to keeping them out of our ecosystem."
I'm not advocating for something like Vanguard in Call of Duty, although more draconian anti-cheat options do seem popular among the community. What is clear is that in its current form Black Ops - Cold War seems doomed to be as plagued by cheaters, hackers, and generally villainous scumbags as any of its predecessors. This is one battle Call of Duty can't seem to win.