This past weekend Activision gave fans of CoD on the PC a chance to try out the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII game in beta form. This was open to anyone with a Steam account as opposed to the console beta tests, which were limited only to folks who had preordered the game. I suspect this was in part because the last few CoD games have had very limited player populations on the PC compared to their console counterparts and the hope was that by allowing anyone to try it out they may convince a few more folks to slap some money down for it. At one point there was over 35,000+ players checking it out mid-day Sunday according to Steam Charts.
Overall I thought the game felt pretty good for being a beta. It ran smoothly on my machine and it looked pretty good doing so. It was a big adjustment to go from the wall-running jetpacks of Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3 to the limited sprint and boots-on-the-ground of WWII, but it only took a few games to get acclimated. There were a number of graphical flourishes I noticed that enhanced the immersion a bit. On one of the maps with a lot of trees if a grenade went off next to a tree the tree would actually shake from the explosion.
Here’s a YouTube video I made of one of the matches I did pretty well in:
One annoyance that I hope gets fixed before the final release was that I couldn’t hear my own character’s callouts. As you run around the map you and your teammates will automatically call out enemies they see such as “Sniper in the upstairs window!” which can be helpful, but there were a couple of times where I thought I had snuck up on someone only to have them whip around and kill me. I couldn’t figure out why until I watched the killcam and realized my character had made a call out about the dude I had just tried to sneak up on alerting them to my presence. Other than that I have no real complaints about how the beta played.
Which isn’t to say I don’t have any additional complaints. One of the drawbacks to playing games like Call of Duty on the PC is that there will always be people who cheat at the game. On consoles this is usually limited to people who exploit glitches to get outside or under the map so they can get kills while being more or less immune. On the PC it goes a step further with third party programs called aimbots and wallhacks that allow the people using them to see where you are through walls and automatically aim and fire at your head with a simple button press.
Because each iteration of CoD is built upon the versions that came before it’s often trivial for the folks who create such hacks to modify them to work with the next game in the series. It took less than a day for an aimbot to show up in the WWII beta and in a 24 hour period I literally got placed into 5 different matches that had an aimbotter in it in spite of there being tens of thousands of people playing at the time.
I made a YouTube video of the first aimbotter I came across. You’ll note that for the first couple of minutes I don’t realize what’s happening and don’t bother to watch the killcams, but if you pay attention to the text chat in the lower left hand corner of the screen you can already see people arguing over whether or not someone is using an aimbot:
It takes until about my fourth or fifth death to watch the killcam and realize what’s going on. What really amazes me about this clip isn’t the guy cheating, it’s the person on his team telling others to shut the fuck up about it and go back to playing Minecraft if we don’t like it. As though he wouldn’t be upset if he were on the opposite team. I didn’t stick around long after realizing there was a cheater which is why the clip is so short.
Remember how I said the PC beta was open to anyone who wanted to check it out? Turns out this was a terrible idea because anyone who wanted to cheat just had to set up a brand new Steam account and install the beta with the hack and have at it without fear of repercussions.
A little later in the same day I was in a group with Giddy Wraith, who I often play CoD with these days, when we came across another aimbotter. I’m not sure if the cheat was using a crappy hack or if he was overseas, but you can see his character stuttering as he moves around the map. Before the end of the round he ends up timing out and being kicked from the match which allowed us to rally and end up winning. I had my mic on for this one so you get to hear me bitch about it:
I didn’t upload that video right away. I ended up having some minor insomnia and got up around 1:30AM Sunday morning and decided to edit the video and upload it to YouTube. Then I thought I’d see if anyone was playing the beta.
Literally the first match I got into after uploading the above video had another aimbotter in it. I decided to play out the whole match so I could record as much of it as I could. Again, I do a fair amount of bitching about it in the video and you can also hear the cheater laughing about it at one point:
As a PC player none of this is unexpected. There’s always gonna be some assholes out there who are willing to ruin a game experience for other people. Activision maintains an enforcement team specifically to deal with cheaters like the ones above. The folks who make the cheats are always working to improve them and there are enough people willing to purchase stolen game keys and the hacks that the ability to eliminate the problem completely is probably nil, however, this wouldn’t be a big deal if Activision did a decent job of policing their games.
On the PC they don’t seem to be doing much of that at all. In Infinite Warfare there’s an asshole who goes by the name “xihucoatl” who has been aimbotting for months without repercussions. He’s never bothered to set up his Steam profile probably because he assumed he’d be banned pretty quickly, but so far that hasn’t happened.
I first reported him in-game back in April and then I contacted Activision’s support folks on Twitter about him a month later. Their response was to report him in-game, which I and a lot of other people have done. I’ve contacted them repeatedly since then and they always give the same response. It’s now October and here he is still aimbotting away:
Anyone who watches the video can clearly see he’s cheating. At one point I use an ability called “phase shift” that puts you into an alternate dimension for three seconds making you impervious and invisible unless someone phase shifts at the same time. You can clearly see him following me and firing in the killcam while I am phase shifted and he gets a headshot as soon as I phase back in.
He’s been doing this for months. He’s managed to reach Master Prestige 11 with this account which suggests he’s got at least a hundred hours into the game. I have 759 hours in the game and I am Master Prestige 21.
To be fair, there are other aimbotters in IW that we have reported who do appear to have gotten a ban, but it took months for it to happen. When the game is only averaging 802 players world-wide a day that becomes a big problem. There are days where it can be difficult to find a match that doesn’t have a cheater in it which results in my not playing the game for long that day. I don’t know if cheating is so rampant on the PC that Activision is overwhelmed trying to deal with it or they don’t bother with the PC as much because we have such low player populations.
It didn’t help that when Infinite Warfare was released it was incomplete. Standard features such as leaderboards and the emblem editor didn’t come out for a couple of months and a number of challenges weren’t registering properly. Add in the rampant cheating that goes undealt with and it’s no wonder the player population dropped off so quickly. At its peak just after launch there were 15,312 players on the PC with a daily average 4,995 for the month of November. Certainly not a record number, but not bad. The daily average for December was only half that with a peak of 5,496. It’s only gotten worse from there.
I stopped playing the WWII Beta mid-day Sunday because by then I had ended up in an additional two matches with an aimbotter in them and it seemed unlikely that I was going to find many matches that didn’t have someone cheating. For a while I considered canceling my preorder of the game which would make it the first CoD I didn’t play. In the end I opted to stick with it as it is my favorite FPS series and I’ve yet to find another that I enjoy as much. At least when I can find a match that doesn’t have someone cheating. I hope Activision does a better job of policing cheaters on the PC, but given the example above, I am worried they won’t.