Although I'm not usually a fan of racing games, I've gotten years of fun from this one. The game captures a huge chunk of California scenery from snowy peaks to seaside carnivals, and every area is a slightly different challenge.
Effectively, there's multiple single player game styles:
-race against the clock with a specific car
-bust speeders by smashing them with your car or various devices such as spike strips or roadblocks
-A straight, no-frills street race
-Racing, but with "wreck 'em" devices
-Avoid the cops (sometimes with toys)
Overall, the game is a thrill, flying along through beautiful scenery, keeping one eye on civilian traffic, one eye on your competition, and your third eye :) on the map to look for shortcuts. Didn't enjoy physics in school? Don't worry, because neither did the the NFS designers...you carom off guard rails and torture your $250,000 cars with no loss of speed or acceleration.
-Lots of menu screens. This is partly due to the console nature of the game, with limited key options requiring multiple menus.
-Lots of intermissions. I'm guessing that the game needed to showcase each car in its stable as part of some contract, so you have to watch or skip lots of "car porn" shots of the camera lovingly sweeping around some fiberglass extravagance while a sultry female voice talks about "curves" and "power." (Hmmm...is this a con?)
-Spiky difficulty. Time tests are by far the hardest modes, whereas it's pretty easy to get gold against five AI cars in street races. Particularly tetchy are the cop time tests, where even the slightest brush with an obstacle costs you two seconds. Plus, the cars you are forced to drive often wallow like pigs as you try to take a tight curve or thread some needle.
- Great value for your money. Get it on sale for less than a movie ticket, and it's an excellent deal.
-A true thrill. Every time a "Fast & Furious" movie comes out, I get an overwhelming urge to play this game again. It really captures the over the top fun of the fantasy street race, where you tear around like a demon in unrealistically light traffic, bashing cars, going offroad to shave a few seconds.
-A good family game (for kids over about 8-9). I wouldn't use this to teach my kids to drive, but there's no cursing, the crashes are cartoony and bloodless, and everyone walks away at the end, even if the car looks like used aluminum foil. My 8 year old didn't care for the races, but loved to pick a car and just free-drive the countryside.
-Beautiful graphics. Seacrest county is a buffet of Southern/Central California terrain, and there's a lot of little details which really make it shine (tractors, observatories, redwood trees, desert vistas). [***Caveat*** Without a little tweaking the lack of in-game anti-aliasing and anisotropy will gradually drive you insane. However, you can fix all that by adjusting your graphics card settings out of game.]
-Cool multiplayer. I never played online against random opponents, but my 12 year old son got a huge kick out of spike-stripping his old man, or forcing my Lamborghini to crash into an oncoming pickup truck.
Why have an expensive mid-life crisis when you can spend a few bucks on this game to drive ridiculously overpriced cars at absurd speeds in a consequence-free environment? Sure, by day you're a cubicle farmer, or working check-out at Whole Foods, but in the evening, you're a live-dangerously street racer who thumbs his nose at the cops. You know you want to :)