I often complain about games being “brown”, but I think the real problem is lack of contrast. The original Fallout had quite a bit of brown, rust and gray in it, but the shades stood out from one another. Some colors were more vibrant. Some were less. Some objects were brighter than others. The characters always stood out from the background.
Compare this to Red Faction: Guerrilla and Fallout 3 and note how homogeneous the scene is. Foes blend into the scenery. The colors are all washed out. The lighting – even direct sunlight – is low contrast and color-neutral. And everything blends together into a big smear of beige. The graphics race for photo-realism in games has led us into this cursed situation where games don’t look realistic, they take ages to develop, and in the end they’re wearisome to behold.
Good artists mitigate this. Compare the wastes of Borderlands to Fallout 3. In Borderlands I still get tired of all the beige and rust, but at least you can see what you’re doing.
It is a terrible crime to spend so much on your graphics engine and then put so little care into what you build with it.