The combat in Crysis 3 is broken thanks to the Predator Bow. It’s a one-hit kill weapon with nearly unlimited ammo that you can shoot while camouflaged. This makes the whole game very easy, too easy for a $60 shooter. It doesn’t provide the expected level of challenge, and there’s no compelling story to make my quick progress worthwhile, yet Crysis 3 is still satisfying. I enjoy playing it, I get pleasure out of playing it, but not when I play it as a shooter. Crysis 3 is only good when I approach it as a stealth game.
I only realized that Crysis 3 was a stealth game when I started playing on the hardest difficulty. My ability to kill remained unchanged but it became much easier for me to die. This kind of combat balance is more appropriate in a stealth game than in a shooter game.
Unlike a shooter, the challenge and fun of a stealth game doesn’t stem from player skill. It’s not about speed or the dexterity of our fingers on the controller. The challenge and fun of stealth games is more mental than physical. They’re about creating an effective plan of attack and executing that plan to perfection. That’s why stealth games are best played on the hardest difficulty (in my opinion). The difficulty setting isn’t for combat as much as it is our room for error.
“Easy,” “Medium,” and “Hard” only affect combat tangentially. Our “stealth kill” abilities are still instant weapons of death on every difficulty level, so we’re the same overpowered killing machine on “Hard” that we are on “Easy.” The only thing that changes is how much wiggle room we have between the success and failure of a plan. On “Hard” you have no room for error: Since you’re weaker and enemies are stronger, if you’re caught, you’re killed. On “Easy” you have plenty of room for error: Since you’re stronger and enemies are weaker, if you’re caught, you can run away, kill everyone, or just tease them until you get bored and reset the plan.
Crysis 3 is not a very good shooter since the Predator Bow removes any of the skill and controller dexterity needed to be a successful killer. I can literally stand around in the open and shoot at guys who are also standing around in the open. It’s easy, but it’s only easy as long as I stay in Stealth mode. The moment I’m exposed, I’ll likely die (at least, on the hardest difficulty). My survival therefore depends on good planning. I always make sure to have a path of retreat, some form of cover I can duck behind to recharge my suit battery while staying out of sight. Progressing through a level means moving from cover to cover, killing everyone along the way while never becoming too gung-ho. Crysis 3 encourages you to go for the slow, meticulous kill, which seems antithetical to most shooters today that encourage you to rush the enemy.
Crysis 2 encouraged me to rush the enemy. Since I couldn’t shoot while in Stealth mode, I used that ability to close the distance between me and the bad guys before suddenly turning on Armor and taking them all by surprise in a sudden, powerful rush of violence. I needed to be skilled to survive, and as such, Crysis 2 was a great shooter.
Crysis 3, on the other hand, is a broken shooter, but it’s a pretty good stealth game.