What you need to know
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is out now, available on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
- For those running the game on handhelds like the Steam Deck or the ASUS ROG Ally, there's an unfortunately easy way to get your innocent self shadowbanned for anywhere up to several days, or even permanently.
- Call of Duty: MW3 uses a proprietary anti-cheat system called Ricochet. It tries to detect if third-party tools are running while playing games like MW3 to block and shadowban players using auto-aim hacks and other similar cheats.
- Unfortunately, players using the ASUS ROG Ally overlays, TDP toggles, and other PC handheld features are finding themselves shadowbanned.
Ricochet REALLY hates cheaters. It hates cheaters so much that it'll catch innocent users in the dragnet too.
Ricochet is Call of Duty's proprietary anti-cheat toolkit. The initiative has been fairly successful in general, making life hard for those using aimbots or wall hacks on Windows PCs. Cheating on PC is a constant cat-and-mouse problem for competitive multiplayer game makers, as unscrupulous and mischievous scallywags constantly develop new hacks to sell, so people with a lack of validation in their lives can cheat at video games. Alas, as Ricochet gets more aggressive in its analysis, innocent users can and do get caught in the trap.
Handheld gaming PCs like the ASUS ROG Ally and the Steam Deck have a number of onboard tools to make life easier for handheld gaming. Both platforms have overlays similar to PS5 or Xbox Series X|S consoles in place of full mouse cursor navigation you'd find on a typical PC (although the Steam Deck has nifty trackpads for this as well). In any case, Call of Duty's Richochet, found in games like Modern Warfare 2, and this year's Modern Warfare 3, does not like the Steam Deck or the ASUS ROG Ally. It probably won't like the Lenovo Legion Go, either.
Features that allow you to control the TDP limits manually on the ASUS ROG Ally and the Steam Deck seem to upset the Ricochet software, which can result in a shadow ban. There have also been reports that suggest simply interacting with the ASUS ROG Ally's Armoury Crate software can get you shadowbanned, too.
Shadowbanned players can still play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and 3, as well as Warzone. But, they're put into a separate pool with all the other toxic players and cheaters that have received temp bans. This is obviously not a great experience for those in the pool.
Shadowbans can last anywhere from 3 days up to being fully permanent, depending on the perceived offense. Appealing bans is also incredibly difficult. Activision is one of the few publishers out there with heavy investment in customer service, believe it or not, but the sheer overwhelming amount of tickets that pour in make it difficult to get your case reviewed promptly.
So, how do you avoid getting shadow banned on Call of Duty?
In the case of Steam Deck or ASUS ROG Ally players, adjusting your TDP limits or other settings before you go into a match, rebooting your system, and then going into a game can help you avoid shadow bans to some degree. Avoid interacting with the Armoury Crate overlay too to be absolutely sure, but it seems bans there pertain specifically to overlays, like the FPS meter and so on.
I suspect certain anti-virus software or other tools on a regular Windows PC or gaming laptop can probably also trigger the Ricochet system and create false positives, although it's hard to prove without access to all of the data within Activision's Ricochet team. Defaulting back to Windows Defender, avoiding VPN use, and skipping on any sort of third-party gaming software running on top of Call of Duty should also help limit risk. You can get shadowbanned for "toxic" behavior, too, if people report you.
The full enforcement document for Call of Duty and other Activision games can be found here. It details things like hardware spoofing, hardware mods, injectors, bots, and pretty much any unauthorized tool or modification as carrying a shadow ban risk. On PS5 or Xbox Series X|S, you will most likely get banned for behavior rather than hacks, owing to the onboard security these consoles have.
You can appeal shadow bans as I mentioned, over here, but it's not always easy to do so.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!