I'm not a newcomer to the Need for Speed series. My first introduction to this game series was Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed. It was great. Well done physics engine, an impressive damage modeling system, great graphics (for the time). I missed the Hot Pursuit iterations, but I heard really good things about them. I loved NFS: Underground and Underground 2. Skip forward a few years and one of the launch titles for the Xbox360 was Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I bought it based on the past few games in the series and the glory of an open-ended racing world.
Suffice it to say, Most Wanted kicked all kinds of butt.
This was, however, to be the peak of the series. After that, it all starts to go downhill.
NFS: Carbon had some redeeming qualities, namely a car lineup that was rather impressive, and it introduced the autosculpt feature (not cool enough to carry the game however).
NFS: Pro Street removed the free-roaming city and the "realistic physics" were a joke.
Now, we have the promised return of the open city with more miles of road than any previous installment. We are also told about the improved damage modeling and physics from Pro Street will be included. What we got wasn't nearly as fun or fulfilling as Most Wanted, and only slightly better than Carbon.
That's not to say it doesn't have good things about it. The graphics are impressive and the car roster has some of my favorites that I wouldn't have expected (Ford Cosworths kick so much behind).
I have a laundry list of little nitpicky things (lack of a static garage in each different city, moronic civilian AI driving, lack of a compelling story) that I don't have space enough to get into too much detail about here(I have a full review here: singleplayermode.blogspot) but I really think the people over at Black Box ran into the same demon as Carbon: the urge to release a game, finished or not.