I have heard it’s easy to cheat in Warzone, but I didn’t realize just how easy until I set off on a journey to find where all these cheats are coming from.
“If you aren’t using hacks in COD Warzone, you’re at a major disadvantage!” argues one site, who provides a forum for players to buy cheats on. “That’s because most players today are actually using hacks. If you’ve been wondering why your kill-to-death ratio is tanking, you now have your answer. We want to put you back into the fight! That’s why we’re offering the best Warzone cheats available today.”
This sales pitch is, on its face, disgusting, crass, and unethical. Those that wrote it are not concerned about players improving or protecting the integrity of the games we all love, instead they are looking to accelerate Warzone toward its own destruction by increasing the cheating problem. This site is one of many sites and Discord servers where thousands of players pay a wide range of monthly subscription fees to purchase cheats for Call of Duty: Warzone.
While it’s definitely not true that “most players” are cheating in Warzone, it sure does feel like it lately.
At this point, half the final circles for PC lobbies feature two hackers staring at each other through walls. The Warzone Reddit and Twitter spaces pretty much consist of people complaining about hacking, streamers quitting the game because of hacking, and people taking up hacking because of hacking. Even console players aren’t safe if the rumors of new “undetectable” console cheats hold any water.
Game developers don’t necessarily have the tools to outpace the shameless “community” of cheaters.
There is an undeniable cheating crisis in Warzone, with Raven Software banning an ever-increasing number of cheaters with each ban wave. From a player experience perspective, those who play Warzone on a daily basis can tell you, the frequency of hackers is as bad as it has ever been before, despite Raven Software having more than a year to address the crisis. It’s even at a point where many big influencers like Dr. Disrespect are moving away from the game.
The biggest driving force behind cheating is just how easy it is to do. With the accessibility of cheats exploding and cheating services improving, developers don’t necessarily have the tools to outpace the shameless “community” of cheaters.
How cheaters get their Warzone hacks
When I set out to find the fountain of Warzone cheats as part of research for this article, I figured it might be difficult. It wasn’t. I will not offer a guide or even tips on how the reader can do that — and Inven Global and our entire newsroom condemn the people who do — but suffice it to say, the barriers between fair play and cheating are scarce.
There are almost too many resources for cheaters: Discord servers, forums, and plenty of sites that sell and support working cheats on an ongoing basis. Some of them even have Paypal buyer protection. In many cases, the “working cheats” are also malware, but it is still disturbing to see how prolific cheat download sites really are.
Most of the examples I found even had a subscription component, with the cheats being updated over time to remain relevant and working — just what you’d expect from a legal tech product. The developers of these cheats are pretty serious too, often posting weekly or even daily updates for their cheats to ensure that their customers remain happy and their cheating service continues to outpace anti-cheat in real-time.
The variety of cheats is, as you might guess, vast. It ranges from intel-based mods like classic wall-hacks, “ESP hacks” highlighting good loot, and radar minimap hacks to target-snapping or heat-seeking aimbots. Cheats are offered beyond the casual audience too, with certain mods marketed specifically for streamers and tournament players and being harder to detect. For example, there is a type of aim-bot referred to as “silent aim”. This won’t fix your crosshairs completely, but the bullets themselves will seek the target anyway, making it look less suspicious for viewers.
These hacker forums also often provide access to tools that help circumnavigate punishment. Some developers have tried using hardware bans, for example, to prevent repeat cheaters but through a spoofer, cheaters are able to pose as another hardware device, thus getting around any ban.
The developers are losing the war on cheaters
Given the state of things, it is pretty clear that developers are losing the war on cheaters.
The constantly evolving market of software applications and hacking tools is moving fast enough to outpace the developers trying to put a stop to it. Since cheating is so profitable for the cheat developers, they can afford to dedicate all of their time to circumnavigating detection.
The developers are losing, and it might not even be their fault anymore. It's easy to say “Devs should do more”, but no one can point to a developer who is doing it right, at least not for first-person shooters.
In response, the developers of major online shooter titles have stepped up the defenses over the past couple of years.
EA and Riot are now requiring kernel-level access to your drivers to play games like Apex Legends and VALORANT. However, in the case of both Apex Legends and VALORANT, there is still a high population of cheaters, even in high-level ranked matches. So even with more invasive measures, the cheating persists.
CS:GO went back to pay-to-play for competitive in the hopes it would slow down the cheating. However, a $15 price tag won’t stop most cheaters, who in many cases are already paying hefty monthly fees to access their cheats in the first place. Many cheat subscriptions cost upwards of $50 or even $100 a month. So those paying those prices aren’t going to be dissuaded by a $15, $30, or even full $60 expense. So adding price barriers is not the silver bullet that some wish it was.
Warzone has relied on repeated ban waves and going after the creators of cheats. However, there are just too many cheat developers for even a company as large as Activision to take down every single one. And their legal action against CxCheats hasn’t seemed to deter cheaters at all, as both supply and demand of cheats remain at an all-time high.
The developers are losing, and it might not even be their fault anymore. It's easy to say “Devs should do more”, but no one can point to a developer who is doing it right, at least not for first-person shooters. The developers don’t have much recourse beyond continuing to try to detect and ban new cheats, which clearly is no longer enough.
FPS titles face existential threat over rampant cheating
Cheating has been an ongoing issue in FPS titles for a long time, but it's never been this bad before.
No doubt a portion of the recent surge of cheating can be attributed to the ever-improving technology for executing and concealing in-game hacking. Hacks work better than they ever have and they are also harder to detect for both computers and the human eye than ever before.
But the largest driving force behind the uptick in cheating has to be how easy it is to hack these days. Pay your subscription, and you have a working hack menu that will get updated over time so long as you keep paying (and probably use your computer to mine bitcoin without telling you)!
Compare that to the early days of MW2 hacking, when it went through hacked consoles in private lobbies. It was kind of hard to figure out how to cheat, even if you were interested in it. There were no Discord servers or cheater forums on the front page of Google that would sell it to you. So cheaters were less common.
Today, no matter how many ads for hacks Activision takes down, no matter how many companies they sue, no matter how many ban waves they push through, the cheating community will just keep trucking. Based on what I have seen on their forums, they aren’t even ashamed of what they do anymore. Hacking in FPS titles will continue to grow because there are enough players who want an unfair advantage, creating the very profitable need for a cheaters’ marketplace.
It’s a harsh reality to face, but online FPS gaming is facing an existential threat. Honest players won’t put up with rampant cheating forever, and will eventually either quit or become cheaters themselves. And as much as we can brainstorm solutions and pretend there is a simple and easy way to fix the problem, there just isn’t.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.