You aren’t wrong, though I love the game in most respects, and can tolerate the story. There are, for me, some fundamental problems with the main story, mostly around the concept of time and the lack of player agency.
In the micro sense, you have tons of agency. You can do damn near anything, for as long as you want. That though clashes powerfully with the main story’s key point, the ticking time bomb in your head and the need to find a solution, fast. In addition, the main quest lines all feature events that are, in terms of the game’s story arc, very much time-specific. Things are going to happen, in the game world’s narrative at least, at a certain time no matter what. But you, as the player, can galivant all over the place taking as much time as you like to level up and shiv scabs to your heart’s content. Everything will hold in place until you trigger it.
The DLC, which is fabulous I think, certainly does not help in this respect. In this run I took off for Dogtown before doing the parade thing, and before the op with Panam to secure the VIP dude. I can spend as much time as I want tooling around playing street vigilante/rogue catburglar and…everything waits for me.
Now, this is great from a pure gameplay perspective. I hate games where they make me rush through cool stuff to meet the narrative time line. OTOH, the way this game handles this is really weird, because it undermines the drama and pathos that the main story can sometimes generate.
And we aren’t even getting to the fact that no matter what you do all it really does is give you a choice of how to die/cease to exist/whatever, not a chance to actually “win.” While a novel or a film I think can pull that off, with the emotional impact of a doomed character, games are much harder arenas for that sort of story telling IMO.
However, I gotta say, the gameplay here is so good and the environments are so good that it’s worth just hand-waving the story stuff away.