Games have explored almost every theater of World War II. The "Call of Duty" series mined events in Europe and the Pacific. "Company of Heroes II" let players view the conflict from the Russian side. There's even a what-if scenario in "Wolfenstein: The New Order" that imagines a future where the Nazis were victorious. (It's as frightening as you'd expect.)

But few titles explore the North African conflict as the Allies fought the Axis forces across deserts and arid landscape. That's where "Sniper Elite III" comes in. The latest title from Rebellion Developments puts players in the role of American OSS agent Karl Fairburne as he tries to uncover a Nazi plan for a super weapon.

505 GAMES"Sniper Elite III" brings protagonist Karl Fairburne to the North African conflict of World War II, as he tries to scuttle a Nazi plot
505 GAMES "Sniper Elite III" brings protagonist Karl Fairburne to the North African conflict of World War II, as he tries to scuttle a Nazi plot to develop a super weapon. ( 505 )

Throughout the campaign's eight missions, he will travel through old forts and bases with set missions. In a typical level, players are encouraged to scout an area with binoculars and tag enemies patrolling the battlefield. Knowing where they are, Karl can creep around corners and silently dispatch them.

But as he sneaks around each locale, Karl will uncover side missions and collectibles that will give him experience points to unlock different weapons and items. Unfortunately, these benefits cap out due to a lack of firearm variety and gear.

That's a common theme for "Sniper Elite III." The game has a great foundation, but it stumbles in the execution.

The gameplay borrows a lot from "Splinter Cell," with a forgiving stealth system that lets players recover if they have been detected and play cat-and-mouse with adversaries. But Rebellion gives this game an identity of its own, with an emphasis on sniping targets hundreds of yards away. Players need plenty of patience as they observe Axis soldiers' behaviors and wait for the perfect time to pick them off. That could mean waiting for a plane to fly by to mask the sound of gunfire. Other times, it means players must wait for a foe to meander to a secluded alley so he can be shot without his comrades being aware of it.

It's loads of work, but the payoff is satisfying. When Karl fires a great shot, "Sniper Elite 3" goes into a slow-mo cut scene and follows the arc of the bullet traveling and blowing a hole through its target. There's even a "Mortal Kombat"-like X-ray feature that shows which vital organ is hit. Yes, at times it can be overkill, but it adds a layer of fun and depth.

But what holds back "Sniper Elite III" is its bugs and its story. The artificial intelligence, for example, can inexplicably find players who quietly move through a building. The online mode is a mess with wonky glitches. Meanwhile, Karl has all the charm and appeal of a 1988 Volvo. He's mind-numbingly boring and apparently can't open doors. If only the character and plot in "Snipe Elite III" were as compelling as the gameplay, this tactical shooter would have hit a bull's-eye.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/gcacho.

'Sniper Elite III'

* *

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Rating: Mature