Balistics and explosions look ugly as hell
I did not play any of the alpha's. So, I only have limited viewing so far. I sort of agree with your assessment.
A key ingredient to a successful video game is the animations and sound feedback players get.
One reason I say Quake 3 was the best FPS ever was it felt "right". Between the sounds and actions on the screen you could get immersed easily. As an example, switching to Unreal Tournament felt disconnected to things that were happening. This is why I say Robotron, Super Mario, Quake 3, Coh2 are the best of their genres. And a major reason the Nintendo WII was so successful. It ditched super high res ultra realism for the immersion and instant feedback our bodies enjoy the most from well designed video games.
In my mind, vCoh had the much better physics than Coh2. This made things feel more real. Many of the physics reactions in Coh2 are broken and really do not look or feel good. Things either don't react realistically or are so broken they fly off the screen in weird displays. I really, really, miss vCoh physics. It was half the fun for me.
I have not seen enough of Coh3 to form an opinion. The building animations look fun. We shall see.
Coh2 makes up for its bad physics engine with better sound. I feel much more tuned in to the clanks, plinks, and booms of Coh2. When you hear a sound it feels real and you can identify what is happening easily.
Having not played Coh3, I do not know how good the sound feedback is.
Coh2 has an edge over vCoh here. But again there are a few broken animations that make it not great. The texture resolutions and design are much better. It looks much more advanced and realistic. But many people still like the vCoh visual style with its blurry, dark, and gritty looking textures. I miss some of the buildings in vCoh but overall feel Coh2 is much better.
Coh3 has upped the ante again in the texture quality department. The textures are higher resolution and have more variety. And we finally have more real-world objects, so we don't have to see a piano and bathtub in the middle of an open field anymore. But again, the higher res textures have people saying it looks like a mobile game and they do not like it.
Where Coh3 seems to have fallen backwards is the smoke, tracer, etc animations. They look less realistic to me.
I do not pay attention to unit animations much. But from what I have seen things feel slightly sped up and janky.
I really like much of Coh3s advancements but feel personally like some things have gone backwards.
That said, I think most players reading this have 1000's of hours in game and will need some time playing to get used to Coh3. I don't think you can really make an assessment until you have played 100 hours to tune your bodies anticipations to the new sounds and animations. When I went from vCoh to Coh2 it was a shock to the system. It took a little while before I could really feel how much better Coh2 was. Coh3 may be the same way, you may play it and find after some time you really like it.