I'd almost completely disagree. VATS is just a tactical paused combat mode, and using it is hardly a guarantee of success. How could it possibly feel like a cheat mode?
Replay value - this game has so many multiple paths to quest completion it almost beggars belief, and a not insignificant number of them depend on your character stats. There are more than a few quest outcomes which make pretty big changes to the gameworld/landscape, which one may or may not get depending on their char build, actions and dialogue choices, and I'm not just talking about a certain Megaton questline - though talking of that... do you know it's even possible to have the whole thing called off by making Mr Burke fall in love with you? Depends, again, on your char build, gender, speech stat and perks. If successful he'll send you love letters. That's just one of many possible outcomes of one particular chapter in the game and it barely scratches the surface. It has so much depth, I honestly can't fathom why anyone would decry it for lack of replay value.
And if you don't think levelling up the weapons skills gains you much, I invite you to wander into Evergreen Mills or take on a Deathclaw with a non-combat char.