I am in disagreement. I wouldnt name ME3 GOTY, it had a fair few flaws, but I wouldnt dream of calling it terrible.
I guess its an "each to their own"-scenario, like so much is. I almost disagree with everything the OP lists in the first post.
- The crucible - granted, shoehorned into the ending and its execution was terrible, I'll agree to that this much.
- Cerberus was always evil, their methods were always questionable, I hated having to be FORCED to work for/with them in ME2 and it was fairly easy to determine then that Cerberus was going down the path it was going, especielly at ME2's ending. Hell anyone even remotely familiar with indoctrination should probably have seen TIM's fate coming. And that's my big problem with the Cerberus situation: It was too predictable. So probably the direct opposite of what the OP thinks.
- Im not sure what you mean TIM is detrimental to the plot, he acts as a "variation enemy" in addition to the reapers and imo keep things interesting. At worst to me it may seem "small potatoes" to battle some rogue human organisation when the fleets of galactic annihilation squid synths are roaming around, but I suppose indotrination is the real enemy there.
- Liara actually has a fairly well-described transition from the innocent scientist to the cold shadow broker. There's a fair few conversations and material covering this, mostly because she's the "writers pet" and everything. I wouldnt call her transition sudden or ill-described, she's not Anakin.
- I'll agree to a certain extent of the "secondary" squad mates given less importance. And with "secondary" I mean everyone not part of your crew in ME3. The fact that very few except the "good oldies" of the ME2 crew came back is something I never really had much of a personal problem with because I like Garrus, Liara, Tali and Kaidan/Ashley more then any of the other crew members, perhaps as a result of ME1 nostalgia. Still I can completly understand that people's attachments to these ME2 crewmembers being ignored and them being sidelined to the extent they were was upsetting. I for example really liked Zaeed, and he was given like 10 lines of dialouge in entire ME3.
- There are few things I could disagree more on however then the gameplay in ME3 being shitty. ME1's gameplay was, imo, very flawed, ME2's was refined but oh so VERY far from perfection. ME3's gameplay to me was outright bloody excellent. Every fight was entertaining, the mechanics are well done and well balanced, there IS variation(especielly if you, you know, take your own initiatives to try different methods, skills and weapons rather then run around with that certain rifle nonstop) and the action was intense. The combination of abilities and weapons was flawlessly done.
Thank GOD for no vehicles, because that was imo the friggin' achilles heel nightmare of the ME series, Thank GOD for no hacking minigames as that was imo just bloody annoying and -absolutly- eliminated the pacing of the game. Like they said in the LOTSB DLC in ME2: "Remember when you could just slap omnigel on everything? Man those security upgrades made a lot of people unhappy."
- As for the sidequests: I loved the progress from "Absolutly useless bloody sidequests about finding information for some Krogan if there are fish in the presidium lakes" to the standard "find various object of importance that somehow ends up ending the crucible project or aid your fleet strength". In ME3, almost every sidequest is relevant to the war effort and the crucible project, and that is a massive improvement imo. Most of these quests are streamlined and I dont mind that. The "big" side quests(Examples: Rachni Queen, Tuchanka Bomb, Grissom Academy, Cerberus Scientists etc etc) are also made MUCH better and are far more fun to play then the crap side missions of ME2. Yes im especielly thinking about such missions as "keep feeding that energy battery to the broken heavy mech for 5000 minerals" or "Lets run around and fight mercs because hey, mercs are bad! Screw our primary mission."
In ME2 almost every sidemission felt like taking a massive detour from what Shep's actually suppose to do. In ME3, it doesnt.
In almost every way but the ending and the treatment of "secondary" crew members, I found ME3 an improvement to ME2 and ME1. The question on my mind has more been "Was ME3 the best in the series?" rather then "Was ME3 shit?" Because imo ME3 was -definetly- not shit.
I agreed and even joined in on some of the outrage of ME3 when it was fresh off the shelves. I too was fairly upset at the complete crap of an ending, but it balanced out because the extended ending was released FOR FREE. It didnt solve all of the ME3 ending issues, but it solved enough for me to get the "terribad" stamp rubbed off it. Seeing that this 1% of the game was the big stain on an otherwise almost flawless masterpiece, I was content.
Add to this ME3s excellent and VERY entertaining multiplayer. Only bad thing about is that it used to(but not anymore) be required to get the best ending possible for ME3 SP campaign(even if you only needed to play like...3-5 games to get it). ME3's multiplayer added hours upon hours of entertaining gameplay that is absolutly awesome with friends, and ontop of this, there are constant big FREE dlc released for the ME3 multiplayer. Singleplayer may be ME3's soul, but I'll be damned if the multiplayer hasnt raised ME3s bar a bit higher because of being able to experience its highly entertaining gameplay with friends.
In the end, despite all its shortcomings, I'll say ME3 was one of the better game experiences I've had in 2012. Perhaps not a massive achievement seeing as there's been a lot of dissapointing titles this year, but I found Bioware redeemed and improved their title enough for me to continue loving the franchise.
With all this being said, I wont question or hate or argue over why some people dislike ME3 so much, because its the ENDING to one of the most personal and interesting game series there has ever been(And im not counting ME4 into this equation until more information is released on that). I dont think it would've mattered if the game was near perfect, because it has that nature about it, that personal nature, that makes everyone have a different experience with a different set of expectations and how they thought things would/should end up. ME3 lined up well enough for me, it didnt for a fair few others.
I found 99% of the experience perfect and as they say: You cant please everyone.
I cant help but wonder however, if we'd still be having these countless ME3 debates about how the entire game sucked etc if they hadnt botched the ending.