AMD Might Have Overlooked A Major Flaw Within Its Anti-Lag+ Feature & It Is Getting Gamers Banned In eSports Titles

AMD recently released its Anti-Lag+ feature which is meant to improve latency in games but it can also get you banned from your favorite eSports title.

AMD Anti-Lag+ Is Getting Gamers Banned From eSports Titles: A Genuine Oversight or Something More Serious?

Update#2: AMD has officially rolled back the Anti-Lag+ feature from all supported games in the latest driver release. More here.

Update #1: EA has started an official investigation into the issues related to player bans within Apex Legends. The company has so far not officially stated Anti-Lag+ to be the primary cause yet but that seems very well to be the case here.

AMD’s Anti-Lag+ is a feature that is embedded within the Radeon Adrenalin Edition drivers and can be toggled on or off through the driver suite. The implementation is directly targeted at the NVIDIA Reflex technology which is similar in the sense that it also helps reduce system latencies, especially when frame generation is enabled within games. But these two technologies can also be enabled in non-frame generation scenarios to improve overall frame pacing and latencies in unoptimized titles that are an abundant occurrence on PCs these days.

Image Source: AMD

However, yesterday, we saw the very first reports and also the first confirmation that the AMD Anti Lag+ suite is not only modifying game files, but it is modifying them in such a way that can lead to permanent bans. Valve officially confirmed Anti-Lag+ as the main culprit behind why so many users were getting VAC banned on Steam while playing the game.

All players had one thing in common which was the use of Anti-Lag+ and running the game on an AMD Radeon RX 7000 GPU. The AMD Radeon RX 7000 GPUs with RDNA 3 architecture are the only cards that support Anti-Lag+.

So why is this happening?

You see, the AMD Anti-Lag+ solution is implemented on the driver side rather than within the game modules. So when you enable Anti-Lag+ for a certain game, the driver will inject it directly into the DLL files which is also how cheaters and hackers modify the game files to gain an advantage over other players.

Since Counter Strike 2 is a major competitive title, Valve’s Anti-Cheat system, commonly known as VAC, is easily triggered and flags the tampering by the driver as a cheat which leads to a player ban.

AMD’s Approach To Integrate Anti-Lag+ Might Be Entirely Broken For eSports Titles

So let’s take a more in-depth look at how AMD embeds Anti-Lag+ within a game. The process used is referred to as detour function calls which is a common external injection methodology. These external injection methodologies are fraught with pitfalls, including:

  • Integration is less reliable as reverse engineering creates assumptions about how the game engine works resulting in suboptimal or inconsistent latency reduction
  • Can trigger Anti-Cheat systems and result in bans for detouring input and core engine libraries
  • Can conflict with other core game systems (hit registration, simulation timing, etc) and result in stutter or crashes
  • Can be broken when the game updates
Image Source: AMD

Once again, while all of this won’t be a major issue for single-player games, they are a major issue for esports and online competitive titles where the use of latency-reducing techniques makes more sense. Now Valve has announced that they are waiting for an update from AMD. Valve is currently trying to work fast in reverting the bans that had taken place due to this issue while AMD has gone ahead and removed the driver link entirely from its website. So the next question is whether AMD can work on an update to fix this issue.

It does sound like a solution would be unlikely since cheats are often inserted into a game as external injection methodologies, the same as Anti-Lag +. It essentially opens up a back door for cheaters. Anti-cheat software looks for external injection methodologies to detect cheats. If they look for the ‘Anti Lag +’ dll and allow it in as an exception ( not a cheat), it opens a backdoor for other cheaters to just rename their cheat files. So this will likely mean Counter Strike 2 will just be removed from the Anti-Lag+ compatibility list.

What about other competitive eSports games?

Currently, AMD has a list of six eSports and online titles that feature some form of Anti-Cheat implementation similar to VAC. These titles include:

  • Counter-Strike 2 (Affected – Bans)
  • Apex Legends (Affected – Bans)
  • Overwatch 2
  • Fortnite
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (Affected – Crashes)
  • PUBG: Battlegrounds

Of the six titles, there are currently three titles in which players are experiencing widespread bans along with crashes and the problem stems from the use of AMD Radeon RX 7000 GPUs and the associated Anti-Lag+ feature.

So far, only Valve has officially acknowledged this issue to be related to AMD’s Anti-Lag+ but over at the AMD & EA Support page, there are widespread bans occurring within Apex Legends too & almost the entirety of gamers who are facing these issues are running Radeon RX 7000 GPUs. In fact, one gamer said that he got banned after using Anti-Lag+ while others also reported the use of Anti-Lag & Anti-Lag+ while playing the game.

Image Source: EA Forums

As you can see above, it looks like at least one other anti-cheat software is targeting and banning gamers who are using Anti-Lag+ in a competitive game besides Counter-Strike 2. But there’s some thing else that users are asking.

Note – We have already reached out to Epic Games for a comment on the issues being faced by Apex Legends players.

Why isn’t the other camp affected?

It is easy to compare AMD’s Anti-Lag+ and NVIDIA’s Reflex in the functionality they offer but the way they work is very different. As you have read above, Anti-Lag+ is injected at the driver level while NVIDIA’s Reflex is native to the game’s code. Each implementation of NVIDIA Reflex is done through working with the game dev and both parties (NVIDIA & Developer) ensure that not only does the technology work as intended (which is to ensure substantial latency savings) but also to ensure native integration while is compiled within the game code.

With NVIDIA Reflex, gamers can enjoy lower latencies in games and especially esports competitive titles without concerns that come with an external injection and function detouring. Following are some of the benefits and drawbacks of each method:

Native Game Integration

  • Pros
    • Best possible latency reduction
    • Works well with all game systems (Motion, Action, frame pacing, etc)
    • Does not risk Anti-Cheat bans
    • Game updates won’t break functionality
  • Cons
    • Requires working partnership between tech and game developer
    • Support game library might be lower

DLL Injection/Detouring

  • Pros
    • Can integrate new titles quicker without developer interaction
  • Cons
    • Integration is less reliable as reverse engineering creates assumptions about how the game engine works
    • Non-optimal latency reduction
    • Can trigger Anti-Cheat systems and result in bans for detouring input and core engine libraries
    • Can conflict with other core game systems
    • Can cause game instability
    • Can be broken when the game updates

In the end, it looks like this was more than just an oversight. NVIDIA has previously called out AMD for using gamers to QA and Beta test their driver releases and what’s happening right now looks to be very much the case. A company as big as AMD, which makes GPUs that are used in competitive tournaments, cannot overlook the simple fact that modifying a game’s libraries or files can lead to a permanent ban.

While I wouldn’t say that the Anti-Lag+ technology isn’t useful since I have tried it out myself and it works well in single-player games, the current implementation within online titles is simply broken and needs to be reevaluated by AMD to be used with such titles.

On their part, AMD has made the following statement:

AMD has been alerted to an issue in which garners playing Counter-Strike 2 (CS2) with AMD Anti-Lag+ technology enabled on Radeon TM graphics are inadvertently triggering a Valve Anti-Cheat System Ban (VAC Ban). AMD is engaged with Valve to address the issue and will provide more details as they become available. AMD recommends gamers who are using AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition driver 23.10.1 do not enable Anti-Lag+ technology in CS2 until further notice.

via AMD

Gamers have already paid the price of getting their accounts banned and if AMD had done some sort of early internal evaluation themselves, then all of this talk wouldn’t have been necessary. We hope that the company resolves this issue and works on delivering a better experience to its large fanbase who are running Radeon GPUs and just want to enjoy the latest competitive games with the latest technologies.

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