I've read a lot of backlash about this game that I didn't quite understand at first. That's mainly because I love the Burnout games the most of any racer and this fills my need for them in a big way. Of course I understand NFS fans don't want a Burnout clone but I sure did.
As I read some of the complaints I could say I'd agree with them but I discovered I'm no longer a hardcore gamer. I've moved into the casual gamer territory since I've gotten older and can only play 3-5 hours a week instead of 15-20. *sigh* Ah well. I can see where people would be upset at not earning cars and unlocking them but for someone like me I don't have 50 hours to spend to get the best rides or to pour through hundreds of parts to customize. That's not to say I wouldn't like them but this fits the bill for me.
I also have to laugh when people try to compare this game to realistic racing games when it's apples to oranges. People who like more arcade-style racers don't want the cars to feel insanely realistic, they'd rather drift around corners and do crazy things that wouldn't be possible. Criterion or no Criterion, NFS has always been more of an arcade racer than a realistic one a la GT or Forza.