Team RICOCHET releases progress update in the fight against cheaters in Call of Duty on Xbox and PC

Team RICOCHET added new Hallucination and Quicksand mitigations to Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone.
(Image credit: Activision)

What you need to know

  • Team RICOCHET is the segment of developers at Activision responsible for maintaining Call of Duty's proprietary anti-cheat system known as RICOCHET.
  • RICOCHET uses mitigation tactics to allow cheaters to remain in game for data collection without allowing the cheaters to affect other players' experience.
  • Hallucination has been added as a mitigation in Season 4, while Quicksand has been removed as a mitigation tactic.
  • New detection measures for third party hardware, such as the Cronus Zen, has been deployed for Season 4.
  • Anti-Toxicity teams have adjusted the Security & Enforcement Policy to be clearer and to penalize malicious reporting. Automated penalties have been removed until they can be adjusted.

Wherever you have a competitive multiplayer game, chances are good you have cheaters. Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare 2 are no exception, but the surprise success of Call of Duty: Warzone in 2020 led to an influx of cheating and in-game exploits so severe it resulted Activision putting together a dedicated team of developers just to mitigate it.  Since then, Team RICOCHET has developed the RICOCHET anti-cheat system used for premium Call of Duty titles as well as Warzone Classic/Pacific/Caldera-whatever-they're-calling-it-now before they shut it down and the sequel. 

Now that players have had a little bit of time with Modern Warfare 2's Season 4, Team RICOCHET has popped up to let us know exactly what they've been doing to mitigate cheat behaviors this season. RICOCHET anti-cheat utilizes a mitigation method to affect game play for players who are verified as cheating at Call of Duty while not affecting the other players who encounter those cheaters. Early mitigation tactics included Disarm, where players who were verified to be cheating had their weapons disappear while in match, and Cloaking which gave invincibility and invisibility to players who encountered verified cheaters. 

RICOCHET anti-cheat mitigation tactics

An Operator lurks to the right wearing a wolf suit as another operator moves in the background.

(Image credit: Activision)

According to Team RICOCHET these mitigation tactics had multiple benefits. In more than one scenario, live streamers and even professional esports players of Call of Duty were exposed as cheaters when anti-cheat measures afforded protections to users the streamers encountered in game while they were live. Players affected by these mitigations would also take to Twitter to express frustration at Call of Duty being "broken", only to unknowingly reveal that they were being affected by anti-cheat mitigations.

In addition to allowing cheaters to out themselves, mitigation tactics further benefit the community by allowing Team RICOCHET to keep cheating players in matches where they can collect useful data that allows for better detection of cheat software without causing a loss of experience for players who are enjoying the game fairly. Often times players who encounter others that are using cheat software and experiencing anti-cheat mitigation effects are unaware of any differences in the encounter. In fact, Team RICOCHET states, their detection efforts have found 3 additional verified cheaters for every 1 verified cheater identified by other players.

Quicksand and Hallucinations

The downside to mitigation tactics, however, is that those who create cheat software find ways to work around the effects and invalidate them. This leads to the team needing to decommission and re-evaluate mitigation tactics. For Season 4, Team RICOCHET has shared that the Quicksand mitigation previously deployed has been decommissioned. Quicksand would result in players who were verified to be cheating having their movement slowed or even frozen by adjusting their connection delay to the game server, leaving the cheater as sitting ducks for other players. However fun this tactic seemed in testing, it proved to be problematic once deployed and caused other players to be tripped up when they would see a slow-moving character in the middle of battle. 

Team RICOCHET added new Hallucination and Quicksand mitigations to Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone.

(Image credit: Activision)

While Quicksand has been shelved for now, a new mitigation tactic has been deployed in its place. Players who are actively and verifiably cheating in Warzone and Modern Warfare 2 can now be hit with Hallucinations. Hallucinations results in decoy characters being placed within the game, but only for players flagged as cheating by the anti-cheat system. Legitimate players cannot detect false characters, nor will they impact player's aim, progression or end of match stats. They will, however, disorient verified cheaters and otherwise suspicious players who will be chasing after combatants that only they can see.

Mitigations are designed to be a roadblock for cheaters so our community can participate in a protected and interruption-free gameplay experience.

Team RICOCHET, Activision

According to Team RICOCHET, mitigation tactics are only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to halting cheaters and ensuring that legitimate players enjoy a fair gaming experience across Call of Duty's multiplayer forays. It is a cat and mouse effort, however, as each new step taken to deter cheaters and fix exploits encourages the creators of cheating software to work harder to update cheats. 

Software cheats are not the only concern for Call of Duty as Team RICOCHET also frowns upon malicious use of third-party hardware and there has recently been a new detection method for these devices deployed in the game. In the first two weeks following the implementation of these new detective measures Team RICOCHET saw a decrease of 59% in players using third-party cheat accessories. Of the players who were issued a warning for their use of a cheat accessory, 57% did not use the accessory again. Of the 43% who did continue using the accessory, they were subsequently warned and banned.

In-Game Reporting and Fair Play Commitment

Call of Duty Blackcell upgrade operator Io

(Image credit: Activision)

As to be expected, releasing information about how anti-cheat works puts those systems at risk of being evaded by cheaters in the future. Team RICOCHET has acknowledged that sometimes the mitigations done in game can have an unintended impact on players. This is evidenced by misuse of the Reporting system to maliciously report players as cheaters when they have not otherwise flagged the system. To counter this, Malicious Reporting has been added to the Security & Enforcement Policy and can result in account suspensions for players who knowingly submit false reports. Players who do file false reports can expect to receive warnings and, eventually, permanent account suspensions for their misdeeds.

This is the cat-and-mouse nature of anti-cheat development. We make a move, they counter; we fix a problem, they create new issues.

Team RICOCHET, Activision

Legitimate reports are a vital tool to Call of Duty's anti-toxicity team, and Team RICOCHET ahs committed to continuing to work on these systems to improve them for users. To further these improvements, automated penalties that limited user access to voice and text functions have been removed while the team re-evaluates their usage among a rash of malicious reports. In-Game warnings have also been reworked to be clearer when informing you of a report against your account.

Team RICOCHET has stated in the blog post on the Call of Duty website that the mission to fight unfair play remains a priority and that they will continue using all means necessary. This includes developing unique mitigation tactics for Call of Duty and changing those tactics as needed along with continuing to send Cease and Desist notices to those who create the cheat systems used in the game. 

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Cole Martin

Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.