I personally enjoy the creeping in of RPG elements in games that traditionally don't make use of them. What I however do not understand is how that has anything to do with the lack of modtools or whatever.
Recently I've been playing a bit of an indie game called Killing Floor, which apparently started out as a mod for UT2k4. This is quite an enjoyable cheap little game with a handful of different classes and a handful of levels for each. Make headshots, and become better with precision weapons, that sort of thing. It gives a nice sense of perpetuity and progress to playing the game. Not sure how much I'll enjoy it once I hit max level. Chances are I'll shelve it, but hey, I enjoyed it while it lasted and it cost 1/4th what a AAA game that would've not last me 8 hours would have.