It's a grind, a repetitive grind and the only way you would get through it with pure fun is by messing about with friends. After going to the other provinices you start to see the same buildings just in a desert of snow area. Yes it is a bad thing but many people allow it a pass as it's designed to by a co-op heavy game. For me that doesn't excuse the repetition or the lack of AI customisation. Games should give players the choice despite on its creative targets. Ghost Recon pretty much forces you to play co-op if you want a better experience, terrible AI just to add to this point.
First impressions are always the key factor in media, you pick up a book, the blurb needs to be engaging, trailers for films and so on. With games, when you get straight into it, the first thing many people do is look at the game. The story has just started, the gameplay is just teaching you, that hasn't yet taken off until your right into the game. As for aesthetics, that is what it's going to be from start to finish. A game doesn't pick up graphics as the game goes on like every other feature the game has. It's the first thing a game shows you, what it looks like. That's the first impression for most people.
For me as I've explained here, I understand game heuristics, logics and behaviour so I know not to judge it straight away hence why I plat/100% a game first for fair critical judgement. The first thing people see is the animations and graphics, anything visual. And because that's on a bad, it's already taken many people's judgement over the game. There will be people out there who will either ignore or look at other aspects of the game to fairly see if it's all shit or just the animations side/ VO.
As you said, if people are loving the game, then there must be other aspects that do shine out but in this day and age, people point out the flaws (which is good) but without any fair judgement on things that are good. I expect the game to work and look decent for this day and age AAA. So I'm not going to scream over gameplay if the gameplay is generic but works, but if it excels then it's be noted.
The only negative critic for horizon gave it 50 and after reading her points on the game, she didn't choose to listen to the game nor play enough for a fair critical judgement. She complained that there were no story about the focuses and where they came from. Now that clearly tells me she never completed the game or skipped the cutscenes as it definitely does tell you. Also in the start of the game during loading, it says you're in the future (if the robot animals were a big enough clue) so it's obvious how people turned primitive from our age.
When I get round to Mass Effect, I'll judge it on it's game alone. People are on the bandwagon for the sake of it.