Games

Cheat Sellers Are Ready to Ruin ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’

Activision's new shooter isn't out yet, but people who find ways to subvert the game's code, bypass the game's anti-cheat system, and help players cheat are ready to cash in.
October 30, 2020, 1:04pm
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Image: Activision

As fans of the popular Call of Duty series eagerly await the release of the game's new chapter, Black Ops Cold War, cheat developers and sellers are already selling programs that will allow players to automatically aim and shoot at enemies, and get so-called "extra sensory perception" or ESP—a euphemism for a cheat that highlights enemies through the map or walls.

The game isn't out yet, but several websites that specialize in selling cheats are already advertising aimbots and wallhacks and are boasting their features, Motherboard has learned. 

Ryan Schrum, who goes by Schruminat0r online and is the founder and developer of the Perfect-Aim cheat, said that his Cold War cheat includes aimbot, which helps players automatically aim at enemies; ESP; silent aim, which helps players turn around quickly even if the enemy is outside of their view; and trigger bot, meaning the character in the game automatically shoots at enemies.  

"Which is fun you just walk around and it fires and aims for you. You literally just have to push forward and the trigger bot does the rest," Schrum told me in an online chat. 

Screen Shot 2020-10-31 at 12.59.07 PM.png

A screenshot of Perfect-Aim's cheat for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (Image: VICE Screenshot)

Black Ops Cold War is scheduled to be released on November 13, and Activision, the game's publisher, let players try out a beta of the game during two weekends in October

The beta gave legitimate players a chance to try out the sequel to Modern Warfare. But it also gave cheaters a chance to test their wares, highlighting the constant tug-of-war between game developers and hackers who find ways to subvert the game's code, bypass the game's anti-cheat system, and help players cheat. 

Schrum shared a video that shows his cheat in action, and he said he already has more than 12,000 subscribers—800 of which subscribed at the time of the Black Ops Cold War beta—who are paying to get his Call of Duty cheats. Schrum said that his Black Ops Cold War cheat is based on the ones he's been developing for the currently popular Modern Warfare and Warzone.

"When the game drops I’ll [have] to probably update it," he said, "but that shouldn’t take no more then a few hours unless they surprise us all and update their anti cheat but even then a few days tops." 

Do you develop cheats for games or reverse engineer anti-cheat software? Or do you work on anti-cheat software? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at lorenzofb@jabber.ccc.de, or email lorenzofb@vice.com

Cheat sellers are already posting YouTube videos showing functioning ESP cheats in the Cold War beta and offering them for sale on their websites, though it's difficult to tell who in the industry is posturing and who will actually be able to drop a cheat soon after launch.

Someone who only goes by "RP" and says he is a customer support specialist for the cheat seller Rival Cheats, told VICE that the new game is "basically the same" so his company is already selling cheats for the upcoming Black Ops Cold War. Another cheat provider, x22cheats, is not advertising the cheat on its official site, but forum posts suggest the cheat developers are giving existing customers access to their new cheat for Black Ops Cold War

It's not clear, however, that that's necessarily true: Modern Warfare and Warzone are developed by Infinity Ward, and Black Ops Cold War is developed by Treyarch and Raven Software. Black Ops Cold War runs on a version of the Black Ops III engine, using tools from the engine that powers Modern Warfare.

forum-redacted.jpg

A screenshot of someone identifying themselves as a customer of x22cheats, describing how well the new Black Ops Cold War cheat works. (Image: Motherboard)

Activision declined to comment. 

Activision has been hard at work against cheaters. In the last month, the company's anti-cheat team banned more than 20,000 players who were allegedly using cheats, including a popular one made by EngineOwning. The EngineOwning devs then updated their cheat, thinking they would be able to bypass the anti-cheat system this time. Instead, several more cheaters got banned again

And it looks like the company will be ready this time as well.

"[Cheaters] won’t have anything ready because the launch game is different from the beta and they have to port again or finish porting their cheat," a gaming industry insider, who has knowledge of anti-cheat systems told VICE. 

The insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press, explained that the new game uses a new engine that's based on previous ones, so it's possible for cheat developers to port their cheats "to totally different games with only incremental work."

But that won't change the cheat's eventual fate. 

"It will be detected," he said. "It’s going to be a question of when." 

Cheat developers, he explained, always claim their cheats are undetected, and when their customers get banned "it's because they 'played too obvious,'" meaning they were too easy to spot. 

"Until there’s a big ban wave so they can’t blame their customers anymore," he added. 

UPDATE, Saturday Oct. 31, 1:14 p.m. ET: There are two video game cheat providers with almost identical names. Ryan Schrum is associated with Perfect-Aim.com. After this story was published, someone associated with Perfectaim.io—a provider that recently took down a Destiny 2 cheat—said in an email that they do not plan to develop and sell a cheat for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

Would you like to read more stories about hacking, privacy, and surveillance? Subscribe to our pop-up 'zine The Mail. The next issue is about hacking culture.