- Spoiler: show
Even though I still like this game a lot, I think my feelings on this game have dampened a bit coming back to it. While on the one hand it feels like a magnum opus of the series, it also feels a lot less focused than previous games too, often leading to a fair degree of nonsense to put up with. Traffic cars popping up out of nowhere, AI opponents doing nonsensical things and spawning in the wrong direction in Road Rage events, stuff like that.
And I have kind of mixed feelings on the open world too. On the one hand, it does feel like a really well designed playground for driving like a loony, with lots of fun twisty roads and shortcuts and such, with practically every corner being unique. But at other times it doesn't quite nail the layout, leading to enough rough edges for it to be a noticeable irritation. Visual readability can also be an issue as well, with a lot of the environments being similar looking grey concrete blocks. And driving at night makes things even harder. A feature which was incidentally patched in to the original version of this game post-release.
But the races are still generally fun, and the feel of the cars is still tight as anything, and a gold standard for arcade racers. Or at least, it is once you get in to the latter half of the game. I remember this game having a lot of post-credits content, but I didn't realise it was practically half the game. And honestly I found the first half to be underwhelming this time through, as most of the cars didn't feel great to drive. Then suddenly after the credits roll for the first time, the game clicks in a way that it didn't do before when you get access to the higher end vehicles. It makes me wonder with how controversial this game can be within the fanbase, if a lot of that animosity could be explained by people only playing to the first "ending" and not realising what they were missing.