Let's change things, because we can.
Excellent sound (with the notable exception of god-awful music for a racing game. This ain't a trance party.)
No free-roam. I know some people like this; I think it's worthless. Even the people I know who claim to like it usually end up jumping to races via the map after limited exploration. It's not worth the effort, and I'm glad it's absent.
Not arcadey enough. If you're going to make an arcade game, make an arcade game. If I want to use weight transfer to invoke oversteer around corners, I'll fire up a game that actually does it justice, like GT5Pro (or GT5 in a week). NFS should be about pedal to the metal, balls out speed, with only the minimum of braking required to prevent collisions. Think Outrun circa 1986.
Rubber-band AI. Nothing removes the thrill of being good like having an AI car come from down 15 seconds behind to knock you out. Likewise, nothing removes the agony of defeat like opponents who inexplicably slow down in the last mile when you're in 4th place. No thrill, no agony, all that's left is a distinct "meh." Two thumbs where the sun don't shine for the continued use of this ridiculous "feature".
I haven't played online, so I can't comment on that, but I will say that online play is never my focus in any game. I prefer predetermined challenges with linear increasing difficulty, not gameplay that varies based on which random stranger I get matched up with online. I have no interest in dealing with inevitable outbursts of nerdrage, poor sportsmanship, and all the other nonsense that goes along with online play.
Overall, the only reason I could recommend this game is that it's one of the few racers available on the PC, which is my platform of choice.