I found myself thinking about Chinese Democracy a lot as I slogged through Fallout 76. Remember Chinese Democracy? It was that long-awaited Guns n' Roses album that many assumed would never actually release. Years after the heyday of GnR -- decades after Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion I and II, and long after Slash, Duff, and Matt were gone -- Axl finally got his shit together and released Chinese Democracy.
It sucked. Critics mostly panned it, and GnR fans disparaged it even harder. It was not a good album, but, more importantly, it wasn't what people who loved GnR wanted to hear or were used to hearing. An artist's current works will always be compared against the standard of their past works. That's an inescapable inevitability of the way we process quality.
Fallout 76 is the Chinese Democracy of video games. It's subpar in most ways, but it'll forever carry the burden of being egregiously offensive to anyone who claimed to adore Falloutin the first place. Fallout fans will wistfully remember the old times, much like GnR fans, and wonder if another Fallouttitle will ever recapture those good memories -- because Bethesda has clearly forgotten what made those games special.
At least Chinese Democracy never locked up your CD player, forcing you to turn your car off and on again before continuing down the road.