The End Of XIM? How Activision, Ubisoft And Others Are Cracking Down On Cheaters

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First-person shooters may have originated on the PC, but for many years they've been most-played on game consoles. PC gamers typically use their mouse and keyboard to play the games, while console gamers are expected to use the standard controller the system ships with. Playing FPS games on a gamepad is sub-optimal, as the analog stick is a relative input device, and modern games ship with many technologies to assist players using pads.

Some console games have official support for mouse and keyboard input. Usually, that includes separate queues for pad players and keyboard players, or some other option to allow folks twiddling sticks to be set apart from the ones wrangling a mouse. However, certain unscrupulous fellows use specialized devices to jump into what are supposed to be controller-only games using a mouse and keyboard.

This isn't actually a new phenomenon. Devices like the XIM Apex and Cronus Zen (pictured above) have existed for quite some time; your author recalls hearing about them in the Xbox 360's heyday of the late 2000s. However, gamers have grown fed up with trick-shotting mouse players in their console games, and both Activision and Ubisoft have decided to take action.

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The FragFX Shark 360. Used to pop many a zombie head in Resident Evil.

Your author purchased a similar device many years ago, the SplitFish FragFX Shark 360. It included a "nunchuck" with the left-hand buttons and an analog stick for movement, as well as a wireless mouse with Xbox buttons on the side. It was a great device for playing Resident Evil 5 and 6 as well as Lost Planet 2, but I never even considered taking it into online play. It's not hard to imagine how easy it would have been to pull off headshots in Halo SWAT.

It's easy to look at these devices and think they're harmless. After all, what's wrong with using the input device you want to use? One of the big features of the XIM and Cronus devices is that they allow you to bring over your Xbox pad to your PlayStation (or vice versa), and if that were all they did, that might be forgivable.

A video demonstrating XIM Apex recoil compensation and aim assist.

Instead, these devices have evolved into complete input massagers, capable of not only allowing you to use a mouse and keyboard on pad-only games, but also adding anti-recoil functions, and even programmable macros. Because these devices emulate an official controller, all of the aim assist functions intended for pad players are still active when using a mouse and keyboard, too.

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Image: Ubisoft

Unsurprisingly, Ubisoft and Activision refer to XIM and Cronus devices as "cheat devices", and both companies have been taking steps to deal with them. In Rainbow Six Siege, if you trip Ubisoft's new MouseTrap detection software (released yesterday), you might see the warning above which promises continually-increased input lag while playing with an "unsupported device" attached to your system.

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Image: Activision

Activision is taking a more direct approach in Call of Duty Warzone 2.0 and Modern Warfare 2. If the company's home-grown Ricochet anti-cheat software detects the use of such a device, it will issue a warning to the player using the game's notification system. If that warning isn't heeded, the player could be banned from online play.

Meanwhile, over in Bungie-land, the developer of Destiny 2 is also looking into the use of these devices. The company told The Verge back in February that it was "currently investigating" third-party input devices, but as of yet it doesn't seem to have taken any action.