I would imagine that you can play some newer games on low settings, as long as they're not resource hogs like Metro2033. On the other hand, I agree with 8vidia, and think you should attempt a graphics card update. I am extremely happy with my 460! Plays the newer games without breakin' a sweat!
First off, consider that I went to my MSI 460 Hawk from an ATI IGP on an AMD 790 chipset, which is like night and day. I played or tested multiple games on the highest settings (no overclock) bouncing between 30 and 80fps, depending on the game of course. Played AvP, GTA EFLC, Kane & Lynch 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Bioshock 2, Just Cause 2, Mafia 2, and a bunch more. In comparison to the existing VGA, I couldn't have asked for anything more. For the money I paid ($250 at the time) it would have been a smarter move to get a 5850, which from everything I read should beat out an OC'ed 460, if it is also OC'ed. But, either way, very happy. Oh, also I play all the games at 1920x1080.
Haven't heard of them having a reputation for this. Newegg shows all their 460 cards with a pretty high user review average. Some people could have different experiences and different situtations, but I base my purchases on the many, not the few. Was your friend specifically talking about the 460 cards or a different series of MSI cards? If you can provide a link substantiating this, I would definitely like to check it out.
Oooooooohhhhhhh, well that's a whole other story. I have a 790 mobo and have had numerous issues, some right out of the box... NIC doesn't "catch" the rj-45 head, errors in couple of the RAM slots which game me some BSODs for a while, and the HDMI port eventually went out on me. Still trucking for now, but I probably won't buy their motherboards again. I've heard/read some comments here and there regarding this same dislike for their mobos, but their vid cards seem to be of a higher quality. My 460 hasn't given me any pains, only pleasures... uhm... that probably sounded a bit odd... eh, who cares.
Can't tell you much in regards to differences in quality or components. Haven't been keeping up on Intel for a while. All I would say is go for the one with the best reviews, components that you care about, and that has the best price. Research 'til you can't take it any more, then buy-buy-buy. Gigabyte and Asus are a good choice.
You should also start a new post under "homebuilt" and you can get more (and better informed) people to help you out. Feeling like we hijacked this guys post. I'll keep my eyes open for it.