Getting a game for free isn’t always better than paying for it. Call of Duty: Warzone has proven its popularity on both consoles and PC, but as a free-to-play title, Activision’s battle royale has suffered from countless cheaters pretty much since launch. Following an official post back in April which detailed the steps being taken to stop cheaters, the publisher has enabled two-stage authentication for PC players and unleashed several ban waves to Warzone servers.
The latest drop of the ban hammer occurred last week, and if complaints across social media are to be believed, it appears many innocent players may have been caught in the crossfire. Though it’s no oddity for legitimately banned users to complain about being locked out – my account was hacked, I lent it to a friend, my sibling did this etc. – the number of baffled complaints across social media and forums like Reddit indicate that at least some bystanders have been caught in the ban crossfire.
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It’s especially frustrating news when many players feel that the current report system is having little impact on actual, blatant cheaters. Thankfully, many of those picked up accidentally have since had their accounts unlocked, but it’s still an unpleasant experience for anyone unlucky enough to be lumped in with the actual cheaters.
Part of the problem may come from the detection of third-party mods. When playing games with stringent anti-cheat systems on PC, it’s advised to run as little as possible outside of the game itself to avoid accidentally getting flagged by the anti-cheat software. But it’s here that we run into a murkier area. Typically, macros and mods are the realm of PC players, and many console players have even opted to switch off Warzone’s crossplay to avoid coming across the more common PC cheats. Recently though, the unrest has been aimed in the other direction.
While it’s much harder to install cheats directly onto a PS4 or Xbox One, controller mods such as the Cronus Zen or Strike Pack are proving to be worryingly effective and popular for titles like Call of Duty: Warzone. Ostensibly to allow support for a variety of controllers as well as assisting players with motor disabilities, these controller mods can be clipped to the back of a PS4 or Xbox joypad and programmed with a variety of automatic inputs for the controller. That might be fine for offline titles, but in a competitive game like Call of Duty: Warzone, it can cause some problems.
Guns in Warzone feature fairly consistent recoil patterns as a skill-based balance method. By lifting up the longer you fire, it forces players to “control” the weapon if they want to stay on target. However, for years now, controller mods like the Cronus Zen and Strike Pack have come packaged with recoil-countering scripts which keep weapons from moving off target. In addition, users can create their own mod packs to fine-tune the systems for weapons of choice. You can take a look at how they work in the video by Wisspa Silently below. The recoil of heavy weaponry such as LMGs is intended as a balance factor to counter their high damage and large magazines. Without it, they become deadly laser beams capable of wiping squads at a distance.
While not as flagrant as auto-aim or wallhacks, recoil-dampening evidently gives players an enormous advantage, especially over the long sight ranges of Warzone’s map. These controller mods have become a point of huge contention over the last month, with plenty of lengthy complaints arriving on the Warzone subreddit. The challenge here is that many players use controller mods without exploiting these systems. Rear paddles can be used to make actions like jumping more accessible, and they can also allow users with motor disabilities to enjoy the solo campaigns of FPS titles like COD. Banning players permanently for simply having them equipped is a dangerous option to take, but perhaps Warzone could at the very least detect the use of a controller mod and disallow players from searching for matches until it’s removed. Activision reserves the right to ban players for using “unsupported external hardware” but what’s considered fair game is a little less clear-cut.
It’s a tricky situation for Activision to be in, and another problem Warzone faces alongside the seemingly endless fight against more serious cheats. However, with attention and displeasure growing, it’s an area that will likely need to be addressed before long if Activision’s commitment to fair play is to be believed.
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Henry Stenhouse was formerly a Ph.D. physicist before being born anew in the fires of game journalism. An unashamed Super Smash Bros. fanatic, he’s still waiting for the rest of the editorial team to accept his daily challenges for an Ultimate showdown. Other genres of interest include FPS, RTS and western RPGs. You can follow him on Twitter at @Fernoface