The open city concept is very good, because I found the actual races to be rather repetitive and increasingly unrewarding as they got faster and with that – less precise and technical. The detail of the game world was rather low, but that allowed it to be drawn quickly while driving at high speed, and without pauses for loading (like GTA).
The story should have been deeper, with cutscenes rendered in better quality.
URL races are not the same as circuit races with just the scenery replaced. They have predictable, technical turns, which the player can memorize and take at the highest possible speed, whereas random traffic on circuit races often doesn't allow this, depending on luck.
The reviewer claims that the game doesn't "employ rubber band routines". That is plainly false. AI competitors never fall far behind, and allow themselves to be caught even if they happen to be half a lap ahead. If the player has passed a longer stretch at a good speed, and then slows down to enter a sharp curve, competition will continue to enjoy a speed boost and enter the curve at no speed penalty, and catch up with the player. This is a disadvantage, because it doesn't allow the player to feel when he has driven better and later repeat those sequencies.
The career mode does require that the player wins by a large margin, which requires both exceptional skill and strategic use of nitrous, because simply gaining the lead isn't enough.
The amount of advertising may not be judged as harshly outside America, where these companies aren't present. For example, I was quite certain that Cingular was a fictional company, because I had never heard of it, and was fine with the appearance of that logo. I did wonder why voice calls or voice mail was called "SMS", and was puzzled by the various hardware manufacturers, such as AEM, Apex, or HHS, which didn't influence much if anything in the game mechanics, yet were displayed very prominently.