Combat encourages you to utilize your full arsenal, though at the start of the game most enemies simply run at you and indiscriminately suck up any and all bullets. Towards the end of my two-hour session I was up against more intelligent foes, some of whom carried energy shields that needed to be deactivated with EMP grenades.
There's a nice rhythm in cycling through your guns and ammo, and you're able to easily flick between these on a controller by holding down the trigger buttons. The system definitely makes a nice change from the typical FPS mould of having two weapons and so much ammunition you never need to worry.
Health slowly regenerates, and there are consumable healing items, but take too much damage and you'll initiate a defibrillation mini-game - your heart has a fancy computer attached to it, and using a two-step process it massages the vital organ and then shocks it back to life. It'll take a few minutes to recharge after each use, so if you die again you'll have to load the nearest checkpoint.
Back with Hagar, your first task is to clear out a pack of bandits from a nearby ruined hotel, and you're allowed to borrow an ATV for the task. Driving seems slightly more tuned and responsive from when I last played the game; that or the handling model of the ATV is easier to get to grips with than your customisable buggy, which is unlocked a couple of hours into the game.
The hotel is stocked with the Ghost clan, and they like to contort themselves to manoeuvre the environment - hanging off beams, leaping over cover, and darting out of the way. I'd love to see what the faction's entrance criteria are. They're a bit creepy, but they fall down after you blast them with a few bullets. I generally found myself firing off a couple more than required for good measure.
Whereas the outside sprawl is big enough to be daunting - criticism of id Tech 4's inability to render large outside areas clearly hit a nerve with the Texan developer - the inside of the hotel, and many of RAGE's indoor zones, will be immediately familiar to anyone who remembered skulking through DOOM's corridors all the way back in 1993.
A few more quests later - realigning a radio tower, warning nearby camps of mutants, working with the Outrigger settlement to provide the Hagar camp with some much-needed supplies, plundering a garage, destroying a barricade - and your time with Hagar comes to an end.
What follows is a journey to Wellspring, a dense, complex town riddled with its own problems, and the beginning of RAGE's second chapter. That, sadly, will have to wait until October.
RAGE is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on October 7 2011.