I totally agree about the story in 2 and 3. I don't know why so many people seem to like the story in GoW3 so much. Maybe GoW3 was the first/only one they've played. Can't really say about the story in Ascension as I haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet, but the demo was great.
Haven't beaten it yet, but from what I played it is the remarkable GoW experience I know and love. Glad to see some positive feedback, I thought I was the only one! GoW 2 is probably my favorite too, by a small margin though because all of the games were great imo.