25 Oct 2021 4:48 PM +00:00 UTC

Call of Duty's Anti-Cheat Ricochet in Warzone and Vanguard Explained

Ricochet anti-cheat promotional artwork
Credit: Activision

A new anti-cheat solution is coming with Call of Duty: Vanguard and to Call of Duty: Warzone called Ricochet. This is a totally new anti-cheat system designed by Activision developers for Call of Duty. Considering how much of a problem with cheaters Warzone continues to have, many are wondering how this new anti-cheat system works. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Call of Duty’s anti-cheat Ricochet.

Ricochet anti-cheat promotional artwork
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Credit: Activision

First off, Ricochet is a kernel-level PC anti-cheat system. Ricochet won’t be on consoles, but it will impact console players too because the overwhelming majority of cheating is done by way of third-party software on PC. The various wallhacks, aimbots, and radar exploits will all be impacted by this new anti-cheat software because these kinds of hacks are done on PC.

However, controller-based hacks, like the kind possible with Cronus devices, are not going to be impacted by this kind of anti-cheat system. Like with any game available on console, if you use hardware cheats to manipulate inputs before they are registered by your console, it’s incredibly hard to determine what’s cheating and what’s organic gameplaying.

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This means Call of Duty will still have cheaters, but games like Valorant or CS:GO that also have anti-cheat software also have cheaters, too. No matter what anti-cheat solution is in place, 100% of cheaters won’t be eliminated, but the majority of them will be. This is in part because as it becomes significantly harder to cheat, fewer people will cheat.

It’s also important to understand that Ricochet is a kernel-level anti-cheat. This kind of anti-cheat software is pretty common, but it’s not the only type of anti-cheat software out there. Kernel-level anti-cheat software has the lowest-level access to your computer, so it can spot attempts to exploit a game with ease.

Warzone promotional artwork
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Credit: Activision

However, because of how low-level an access kernel-level anti-cheat requires, many have privacy concerns about this type of software. Applications that run in the background monitoring everything you do sounds like 1984 to a lot of PC gamers, and many other PC gamers worry about the possible performance impact of this background process.

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Many anti-cheat solutions are kernel-level, but not all of them are. While Valorant’s Vanguard anti-cheat software is kernel level, Valve’s VAC system that works across all of their games isn’t kernel-level. The VAC kind of anti-cheat software runs on an application level and doesn’t have as much access to your computer as kernel-level anti-cheat does.

Also, kernel-level anti-cheat software isn’t all the same. Kernel-level anti-cheat software generally runs as a separate application alongside your game, but these don’t always work the same as one another. Valorant’s anti-cheat Vanguard starts up with your computer and stays active until you turn it off. Plus, if you quit Vanguard you’ll have to restart your entire PC to play Valorant.

Ricochet won’t work like that. Ricochet only boots up when you launch either Warzone or Vanguard and runs while these games are running. You also won’t need Ricochet to start with your computer, and you won’t need to restart your computer to play either Warzone or Vanguard. Nonetheless, both anti-cheat solutions are examples of kernel-level anti-cheat, though they have big differences.

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Warzone promotional artwork
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Credit: Activision

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A kernel-level anti-cheat software like Ricochet is less invasive than Vanguard and comes with fewer privacy concerns than Vanguard, but Vanguard is a more comprehensive solution that will ultimately result in fewer cheaters in Valorant than Call of Duty. However, you don’t necessarily need a kernel-level anti-cheat like Vanguard to protect yourself from cheaters.

In CS:GO Valve has their application-level anti-cheat VAC implemented, but there’s more to CS:GO’s anti-cheat system than just VAC. For the more competitive side of Counter-Strike, there are third-party clients like ESEA and FACEIT, both of which do have kernel-level anti-cheat. The majority of Counter-Strike play is not done with kernel-level anti-cheat, but cheaters today in Counter-Strike are fairly rare.

Though, it’s important to understand that cheating works differently when competitive gaming is thrown into the mix. The stakes for cheating are much higher on a competitive level where a cheater could ruin a tournament and become an embarrassment for an entire community, but simultaneously, there are far fewer cheaters in competitive play than there are in casual, public matches.

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Cheaters are most common at lower levels of play, particularly casual matches, because most cheaters aren’t interested in genuine competition, they’re out there to troll or pull-down easy wins to brag about their stats. So, in a more casual game like Call of Duty, a really strong anti-cheat solution is very important.

Warzone promotional artwork
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Credit: Activision

Plus, Call of Duty won’t work like Counter-Strike where there are different clients you can use to play the game with different matchmaking systems and anti-cheat solutions. Ricochet is all there’ll be on PC, and Ricochet will become the official anti-cheat system of Call of Duty.

Ricochet isn’t the only change coming to Call of Duty’s anti-cheat system, either. With the announcement of Ricochet came the news that Activision would be investing more heavily into anti-cheat infrastructure. This can include better reporting features, more dedicated members on the security team, etcetera.

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This means you should still report players you suspect of cheating and not simply just accept that they’ve defeated Ricochet and move on. As people get their hands on Ricochet and learn how to exploit it, new cheats will pop up which will need to be identified by developers first in order to deal with them.

The Call of Duty community’s reaction to Ricochet has been somewhat mixed, but this is mostly due to the fact that the anti-cheat has not gone live yet, so cheating is still a major problem, especially for Warzone. The game has been live for years, and cheating has been a thorn in the side of its players the whole way through.

Warzone promotional artwork
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Credit: Activision

Though, admittedly, some are also concerned about an Activision-controlled kernel-level piece of software that watches what you’re doing on your PC. With the Ricochet announcement, the devs were quick to state that they built Ricochet with privacy in mind and that no illicit monitoring will be possible with the software, but we won’t know how Ricochet works for sure until it actually launches.

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