"...it feels a lot like Lightwave."
Why would it not be so? The team behind Modo is almost the same team that originally developed Lightwave. They left NewTek not a long time ago, and established their own company called Luxology. I guess they've got some rights for the code, since Modo is so alike, and the new version 8.0 of Lightwave was developed by almost entirely new developement team, which claimed to have rewritten the code of Lightwave from the ground up.
Speaking of Modo itself, my impression is that it is nothing more than Lightwave Modeler on very weak steroids. Their new SubDs in the shaded mode bring my P4 2.4G, 1GB RAM, FX1000 system to its knees just like Lightwave's original ones at the quantity of about 50K. There is no renderer, and unlike in Silo (or Hexagon? - don't remember) there is no way to link it to a standalone renderer either. Its export capabilities are limited to OBJ, X3D, ma, LWO and LWO2. There are very few enhancements to UV, and some other tools. The interface is a bit bizzare. On top of that, these new SubDs are useless, cause they can be exported as LWO2 only (Lightwave 8.x format), but Lightwave does not understand them. And they DO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MODO's STABILITY BIG TIME. This stability issue alone forced me to abandon Modo completely.
So, I tend to agree that it's been largely overpriced for what it offers, and put out on the market way too early. I, personally, hate to find myself being a beta tester of a product for which I paid a full price.
sPatch - I'd rather go with the Animation Master. gMax is may be not that bad by itself, but the way it'd been marketed has made it a deadborn project.