While I’ve already spent some time in Medici at this year’s EB Expo, I was limited to competing in a select few challenges that demonstrated some of the Destruction Frenzies and Wingsuit Challenges that are littered throughout the world of Just Cause 3. Recently I had the opportunity to dive further into Rico’s homeland and explore the massive world, work through a couple of missions, and obviously blow up quite a lot of stuff. In short, doing exactly what Just Cause 3 is built to do.

Avalanche Studios’ latest is all about making your own story. While there is a story embedded within Just Cause 3, most of the fun is had when you’re making your way around the massive world of Medici. Modeled around parts of the Caribbean, the world is visually stunning — emanating a real sense of playfulness and creativity.

Medici itself is littered with things to do and explore. Throughout my small journey I came across farms, canyons, gargantuan bridges, and settlements sprawled across the world, each having their own unique flavor. There’re events that randomly happen as you journey through, too, and it wasn’t uncommon to come across rebels having an altercation with the government and that inevitably leading to an all-out shootout.

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Considering the Just Cause series have been all about making your own story and not taking the world too seriously, it was intriguing to watch these events play out. It gave me a real sense of being a part of the world presented in front of me, and watching its inhabitants fight for their own respective privileges of living just gave a sense of depth. It’s commonplace in other open-world games these days, of course, but there’s something unique about Medici and its inhabitants. Unlike other NPCs occupying a world, they’re vying to fight against the government and prove a point, which is an interesting point to tackle considering the society we currently find ourselves in.

Covering around 400 square miles, Medici is spread out into a handful of regions, with each controlled by the military at the beginning of the game. As you make your way through the world you’ll have to overthrow government strongholds and camps to reclaim territory. It’s something very common in games of this type, but what was interesting is that there are separate zones that require taking over before a full region becomes yours.

Within Medici there are separate regions, of which each are consisted of a multitude of different areas and zones that are controlled by the military. To fully reclaim a region, you have to overthrow all of the territories within that select area, which is obviously something that makes sense — but given the gargantuan scale of the open-world, it almost feels intimidating in a way. As I hovered over separate areas of the map and zoomed out, it really gave me a sense of scale of Medici. It’s genuinely massive, and that’s both a good and a bad thing.

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Avalanche are insistent on having the player explore Medici before having the ability to fast travel across the different areas, which is fine — but it’s not fashioned for those that want quick-fire, streamlined gaming sessions. After you’ve reclaimed a territory you unlock a variety of things, including a garage that allows you to claim vehicles littered throughout the world that can then be accessed at any time throughout the game, as well as unlocking that area as a fast travel point. But that’s it, to fast travel to other areas you’ll need to visit that area first and reclaim it. It’s something that has been quite common in open-world games, but considering the scale of Medici it can be cumbersome for those who aren’t keen on exploring, which is probably a very minute minority of players, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.

I did get a chance to jump into Just Cause 3’s story from the beginning, which quite literally started with me on top of a plane with a rocket launcher shooting at the military below, but I didn’t really find that much to attach to as of yet. It was especially amusing to meet some of the game’s cast, whom all have some sort of humor wit to them, but I didn’t spend enough time to really gauge the select niches and beats that will comprise Just Cause 3’s story. But then again, my time was mostly spent enjoying what was on offer, which was more-or-less to make as much trouble in the world as I could.

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This is where Just Cause 3 is at its best, and it’s where the series originally found its fanbase. The game encourages you to go out and enjoy the tropical playground that’s been put before you, and that’s exactly what I did.

Just Cause 3 introduces a plethora of notable changes and additions, of which the most obvious is the wingsuit: Rico’s new go-to piece of gear. The wingsuit itself is especially useful for navigating throughout the world of Medici at high speeds, but it does take some getting used to. Much like the Parachute in Just Cause 2, the wingsuit can also be used to compliment your maneuvers and action plan, albeit only if it’s used correctly. I found that the grappling hook and the parachute — which is slowed down in Just Cause 3 in a move to make the wingsuit a more prominent and effective tool — both compliment the wingsuit in different ways through the use of forward momentum.

One of the other notable additions is the Rebel Drop, which is a way of calling in unlocked weapons and vehicles on the map if you want to resupply or change up your loadout. Instigating a Rebel Drop is determined by if you have a beacon available, which are handheld items that you throw on the ground to signal for the drop. These are a limited quantity and early in the game you can only carry up to three, but they’re replenished at gas stations littered throughout the world. Be wary, though, that if you destroy or lose one of your Rebel Drop weapons or vehicles, you’ll have to wait for a certain period of time before you can call that same weapon or vehicle in again.

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Rebel Drops are handy because they allow you to always plan your moves. Whether it’s taking over a military base, going into a story mission, or doing one of the many challenges in the game, there’s something there for everyone to use, and that gives Just Cause 3 a real sense of freedom of expression.

Just Cause 3 also introduces a perk system that changes up gameplay in fun and interesting ways. Perks are for everything — from on-foot antics, to vehicle upgrades, and weapon modifications, Avalanche have made sure that there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. One of the coolest perks that I used was a combination of nitrous and a spring jump for one of my Rebel Drop vehicles, allowing me to get a speed boost when I was driving through challenges and hopping over cars when I needed to.

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Unlocks for the perk system come by the way of gears, which you earn by completing challenges. Each challenge has a ranking attached to it, which grades you on your performance and then sends those stats off to a leaderboard where you can compare times with both friends and other players online. If you feel particularly challenging, you can also issue a call out: a challenge that will pop up the next time your friend boots up the game asking them to try and beat your score. I didn’t get to try this out while playing, but in the absence of any real multiplayer component to the game this seems like an adequate stopgap.

Perhaps the biggest injustice I felt during my time with Just Cause 3 is exactly the above — there’s no real multiplayer component to it. The world feels absolutely ripe to rip up with friends, and while I enjoyed my time with it by myself, I had a feeling throughout playing of how fun this game would be to explore with a couple of other friends online. Maybe we will see multiplayer introduced down the line, but for now single-player and the online leaderboards seem to the be the main attractions for Rico’s return home.

In saying that, I still had a lot of fun with Just Cause 3. The new additions, features, and the inclusion of the wingsuit make it a lot of fun to play. The game is all about enjoyment, after all, and that’s where Avalanche have firmly planted their feet.

This preview was conducted at Bandai Namco HQ in Sydney.