First off this game is more of a driving simulation than the ordinary fun NFS arcade type gameplay. That is why I think there are a lot of negative reviews for this game. With that said, the driving in this game takes time to master because believe me even at the easiest difficulty it's still no walk in the park.
The AI is just simply too good, not just the cars in the top positions in the race, but all of them. So if you find yourself in last place, it would take just as much effort to pass the guy in front of you as it would if your were battling for first. This definitely adds a bit of realism if you are a racing car fanatic.
A great feature in this game is the helmet cam which is a feature I personally love. You really feel as if you are in the car. I just wish would GT puts this feature in their games. I didn't play with a wheel, but I bet it would add even more realism to the game especially playing on the helmet cam.
Graphics wise this game looks very good, but the surrounding environments and the tracks could have looked better. The crashes look awesome and the damage is realistic.
Speaking of crashes, I want to point out the thing that frustrated me the most about this game. At the start of this game, they tell you to respect the other drivers in the race (which is laughable to the seasoned NFS players as we are used to wrecking the other racers/cops whenever we have a chance. Now they really meant it when they said that because if you were to rear end or even slightly touch any of the other racers you would lose control of your car and wipeout 95% of the time. I know this also can happen in real life, but they over-did it here. Also it seems like you would magically stick to the other car like a magnet and you would both wipeout together. And also the steering wheel would lock making it impossible at times to recover from a wipeout. I'm not saying this happens every time, but it happened more than enough times to have me saying w tf!
Now just so you don't think I'm writing a biased review, I am huge racing buff in real life and big car guy. I love the racing game genre. I've played them all, from the sims like Gran Turismo to Forza, heck even PGR, to the arcade titles like Split/Second, Ridge Racer, Test Drive and all the NFS titles. I had played the original NFS:SU and my biggest problem was that it forced you to use the triggers to be gas/brake and the joystick to steer. Maybe I've played too much Gran Turismo but I need my X for gas, Square for brake and D-pad to steer. I was relieved you can change the layout to your liking in this new game. However, it took me a couple tries to navigate the confusing menus in this game. When all was said and done I realized right away that you CANNOT use the D-pad. In Gran Turismo you can keep tapping the D-pad to make tiny course correction but here even a small push equaled a giant lunge from you car. I immediately switched to the joystick and turned on steering assist and this helped alot but sort of felt like cheating. With some practice I was able to turn steering and brake assists off.
Now objectively, the sound effects were amazing. Definitely on par with Gran Turismo. However, there is no music while in a race which was odd. It only comes in at a menu screen. Another annoying feature was Vaugh Gittin Jr. Could someone shut him up please?
Graphically the game was acceptable. Nowhere near as polished as Forza 3 or GT5. Some of the newest NFS titles look better too. NFSMW2 anyone? The lighting effects on the cars made them look cheap and definitely fake.
But the dealbreaker on this game was the most fundamental of all: car handling. While the handling in the original NFS:SU the handling was just annoying, now it's downright obnoxious. Cars are completely uncontrollable and I could only get past the first few races before I gave up and sent it back. Hopefully its most direct competitor, Grid 2, will fair better. I'm trying that next.