Though more than capable of distinguishing himself in any kind of fight, there are many instances where Kenway’s interests are best served by avoiding open conflict. You will often take part in scenarios where stealth is mandatory, or simply leads to a more rewarding outcome.
Low Profile and High Profile
The first lesson you should learn about stealth in Assassin’s Creed IV is that if you can’t stay out of sight, you should at least do your utmost to be as unobtrusive as possible until you can disappear. There is a clear distinction made between the types of actions you can perform. Those that are described as High Profile – such as sprinting, free running and attacking – are likely to draw attention, whereas Low Profile behavior pretty much entails acting like a nondescript citizen. As a general rule of thumb, actions performed while holding the High Profile Button (quite naturally) belong to the High Profile category, and are often incompatible with stealth approaches.
Detection Meters & Enemy Behavior
A distinctive circular icon appears above the heads of potential hostiles – or, if they are currently off-screen, a position on the screen border representing their approximate position – whenever Kenway arouses their suspicion (). These visual indicators are accompanied by distinctive audio prompts, and appear under the following basic conditions:
- If Kenway performs antisocial or extravagant, High Profile actions – such as acts of violence, or theft.
- Whenever Kenway is seen trespassing in a Restricted Area, marked in red on the mini-map, or if his current objective leads him to a place where his presence is not welcome. There is a new (and quite superb) visual cue that you can use to judge if Kenway might be attacked by guards in an area: whenever he is trespassing, he raises his hood.
- If Kenway is known to potential assailants: some missions feature situations where guards will attack without fail once they identify him.
- Special conditions that determine that certain individuals are set at a high state of anxiety or alertness – for example, a target that you must follow as a mission objective.
Detection Meters are extremely easy to interpret.
The color of a Detection Meter is used to indicate whether a hostile can see Kenway: red if he is in their line of sight, changing to yellow when he slips out of view.
The inner circle represents the overall level of suspicion, and will gradually fill as Kenway stands within a hostile’s field of view. Stepping out of sight or hiding will cause it to deplete.
If the central meter fills completely, Kenway is identified and all hostiles within the immediate vicinity will rush to attack. At this stage, the entire Detection Meter will be fully red when enemies can see him, and fully yellow when he is out of view.
The fill rate of the Detection Meter during the initial suspicion phase is determined by Kenway’s actions and the proximity of the guard. High Profile actions such as running and climbing accelerate the process, so it’s usually wise – unless flight is necessary – to use the Fast Walk ability to move out of sight or into a suitable place of concealment. Suspicion rises slowly at a distance, but speeds up significantly when a guard is closer. At very close range, detection can be instantaneous.
- Many potential hostiles are less than vigilant, and will not respond to brief sightings. More dedicated enemies will actively stop their current activity (such as a patrol or guard duty) to investigate a brief glimpse of Kenway. After a pause where they peer in his direction, they will approach him – or, should you wisely move him out of sight, his last known position. As long as they cannot see Kenway, they will return to their original post or patrol.
- In some situations, particularly when Kenway is trespassing, the initial suspicion phase is greatly accelerated – and there are even instances where guards practically attack on sight. In such instances, ensuring that you do not directly enter their field of view is of paramount importance.
- As Detection Meters can be seen through solid surfaces, you can use them to track the movement of an enemy and judge where to hide, or when it is necessary to reposition Kenway to avoid detection.
- During escape sequences, look around carefully before you emerge from your place of concealment. Even though combat may have effectively ended, some enemies in the area may still have partly filled Detection Meters. In these instances, even a brief glimpse will be sufficient for hostilities to be resumed. If you wait, you will eventually see the yellow icon disappear as the enemies in question go about their former business.
The (Low Profile) Fast Walk ability (hold + ) is especially important in stealth situations. This makes Kenway adopt a more purposeful stride than the basic walk, but does not attract any greater degree of attention than his default gait. If you need to move in plain sight to transfer from one place of concealment to another, this is often the best way to do so.
Line of Sight
Guards can only see Kenway if he moves into their line of sight. This invisible yet predictable cone of vision extends in the direction they are facing, but is interrupted by solid obstacles (). Guards are not generally blessed with great peripheral vision, and will usually disregard Kenway if he is over 25 meters away.
In missions where Kenway is required to follow targets and keep them within sight, different rules apply. In such instances, it isn’t his actual field of vision that is taken into account: the only concern is that you maintain “visual” contact by positioning the camera with , irrespective of what Kenway himself can see.
When in close proximity to two or more civilians, Kenway will automatically “Blend” in with them, enabling him to hide in plain sight (). In bustling urban areas, Blending is the most common and effortless method of avoiding detection. The process of entering and exiting a Blend situation is always accompanied by visual and audio effects.
- During a Blend, a distinct visual pattern appears on the ground to indicate the borders of the effect. The color of Kenway and any citizens that he is actively Blending with is also adjusted, which can be useful when you attempt to make seamless transitions from one group to another on a busy street.
- Kenway must be standing still or walking to Blend. While Blending, he is effectively invisible to most potential enemies and individuals that he must follow or avoid. However, he can still be identified at close range: within a few meters, the subterfuge falls apart instantly.
- Entering a Blend will often allay the suspicions of nearby hostiles, causing active Detection Meters to drain and disappear while Kenway remains concealed. More alert enemies, however, may walk over to investigate. In these instances, you will usually need to quickly move between different groups – or leave the public area in favor of a back alley – to evade the potential assailant.
- When Kenway exits a Blend, there is a short period of grace (approximately two seconds) where he remains invisible. You can exploit this to transfer between different groups of citizens, or move safely out of sight.
- Illegal or reprehensible actions can immediately break a Blend. In open conflict, citizens will often back away or flee from Kenway as he approaches them, which makes Blending impossible.
If you approach and make contact with the edge of any suitably solid corner, Kenway will press his body against it and peer around to regard the area beyond (). This doesn’t render him entirely invisible (anyone approaching from certain angles may see him clearly), but it’s a great way to get a clear look at a street or any other open expanse without moving into plain view. To leave this position, press away from the surface.
When Kenway needs to survey his surroundings without potential interruptions, execute a silent assassination, or escape a pursuing mob, entering a hiding place is often the best course of action. There are many different varieties of hiding place, which we will introduce after these tips and guidelines:
- Direct Kenway into a hiding place to make him disappear. With “soft” hiding places (such as piles of leaves or hay), you can also enter via a Leap of Faith or a standard jump from above.
- If you can break a clear line of sight between Kenway and his pursuers, entering a hiding place and remaining still will usually enable you to end open conflict. If Kenway is seen entering the hiding place, however, he will immediately leap out: you cannot use them while hostile witnesses can see him.
- Handily, hiding places appear as blue dots on the mini-map whenever Kenway is in open conflict.
- Hiding places are also used for some of the most efficient stealth assassination techniques – a topic we’ll come to shortly.
Stalking Zones are areas with plant life – such as patches of undergrowth, foliage or crops – where Kenway can hide (). These are far more common than they were in Assassin’s Creed III, and play a vital part in stealth-based gameplay.
- You must walk, not run, into a Stalking Zone to become concealed. As you cross the boundary where the zone begins, Kenway will automatically adopt a crouching position.
- In many ways, Stalking Zones function in the same way as Blending with civilians. As long as you remain within their boundaries, Kenway is invisible. However, he enters plain sight the moment he stands up, with no “grace” period to move to another place of concealment. For that reason, ensure that unfriendly eyes are facing elsewhere before you emerge.
- Kenway is also invisible to wild animals in Stalking Zones – a feature that becomes essential while hunting.
- Assassinations performed inside Stalking Zones will often go unnoticed unless other hostiles are close at hand to witness the act.