Near the end of my chat with Just Cause 3 lead designer Francesco Antolini, he utters a phrase that sums the entire game up: “We went a bit over the top.” Considering this is Just Cause, that’s hardly surprising, but by the sounds of it, the third iteration in the popular open world series features more destruction and silliness than even the multiplayer mod for Just Cause 2.

The game is set several years after the events of Just Cause 2, with Rico Rodriguez returning to his fictional Mediterranean homeland of Medici only to find that the island is under the brutal control of a dictator by the name of General Di Ravello. As anyone would, he dons a wingsuit and sets off to C4 the hell out of everything, presumably so Di Ravello has only rubble to rule over.

The Mediterranean is a new environment for the series, and brings with it 4000 square miles of coastal cliffs, crystal blue water, scrub land, forests, and sunflower fields. In a first for Just Cause, much of this vegetation is destructible: Rico can flatten sunflower fields in a car, or level forests using his large arsenal of weapons.

Just Cause 3 is a redlining chaos engine that knows only destruction

The fidelity of the game’s destruction has improved significantly as well. Now dynamic and procedural, it has lead game designer Francesco Antolini promising that the game’s larger targets will never fall to bits the same way twice. The example given is a statue of Di Ravello, which boasts Havok-based physics and can be destroying any number of ways.

An example we see uses the game’s new retracting grapple, with which you can tether any two objects to each other before drawing them together at high velocity for a satisfying double dose of carnage. The craziest part? You can have up to six grapples in play at any one time. The possibilities are truly mind-boggling, especially when aircraft are involved. “We thought that would make things a little more intense – increase the spectacle,” says Antolini.

Traversal is still at the heart of the game though, and Rico’s air travel is aided by a newly-stabilised parachute that is now a viable platform for combat rather than the adrenaline-infused experience from Just Cause 2. There’s more of a sense of control, which allows precision aiming – including aiming of the grapples.

Just Cause 3 is a redlining chaos engine that knows only destruction

The adrenaline junkie experience that was provided by the parachute is now tied in with the wingsuit, which may be used in combination with the grapple to slingshot the player around the island. “It doesn’t make sense, but somehow it feels very sturdy and very realised,” says Antolini with a chuckle.

The franchise’s stunting has also been expanded, so the player can now use any ground moves on all vehicles (except helicopters). Rico can to wing walk and backflip off a jet, for example, and there are 80 air, land, and sea vehicles on which to stunt – all of which feature overhauled driving mechanics. Rico himself moves better too, boasting a total of 4500 animations across all his movements.

Just Cause 3 is a redlining chaos engine that knows only destruction

A final new mechanic is the Rebel Drop, wherein Rico orders weapons and vehicles that appear at his location immediately – just like the GTA cheat code, except it’ll set you back a few in-game bucks. “We looked at what didn’t work and improved it, and looked at what did work and strengthened it,” says Antolini.

Avalanche Studios didn’t take a cue from the last game’s MMO mod though, so there is no live multiplayer, but instead asynchronous challenges with leaderboards, and you can play against the ghosts of your friends. “When it comes to multiplayer we will be happy to support,” Antolini says.

During our hands-off demo we see Rico level increasingly large objects; a gas station, an oil refinery, and finally, a huge suspension bridge. Is there not concern that the player will quickly tire of such things? It all comes down to pacing, says Antolini: “We’re still working on that. It’s a fine balance. We’re trying to interlock a systemic gameplay with mission progression. Let’s see if we manage to find that good spot. Then later: “There is this fine balance between being realistic and being fun.” Thank god they didn’t try to strike it.