A great game, but not the "Ultimate Racing Simulator"
The graphic quality of the game is flawless with highly detailed trackside objects, other cars and even irregularities in the tarmac itself. The sound quality is also fantastic, with the player able to hear exhaust crackles and pops when changing down gears and other effects such as breaking glass or scraping bodywork.
There is also a realistic damage engine which shows various bumps and scrapes which the player has picked up, and the damage decreases the car's performance.
The feature of the game which made it for me is the online capabilities, in that it is easy to go online and search out other players to play with, and the sheer volume of cars and tracks available mean that the player is always discovering new aspects of the cars and tracks.
The much-vaunted career mode had the capability to be very good but with the other weaknesses of the game actually appears to be no more than a gimmick. The game will not allow you to race more than 2-4 laps in any given career race and so such comments from your race engineer as "its the last lap, its all or nothing now" have no credence as the race has barely begun. If a player had the ability to choose, say, a 20 lap race, the career mode would be more realistic. Also, there is no way to qualify - you are simply placed somewhere on the grid - so more often than not your character, as a "promising young racing driver", is starting 9th of 12 on the grid, and is expected to win the race over three laps. Clearly in real life this is unlikely.
The second weak point is the AI. Each time an AI car is passed they seem to suddenly drop off from the rest of the field. This can result in situations where, say, four cars ahead of the player (in 5th) are bunched up in a pack, but the other cars behind are equally spaced at gaps of around 5 seconds. This does not model real life, and is therefore in contradiction with its tagline as the "Ultimate Racing Simulator".
The third weak area is the handling of the cars. There are two handling modes, "Simulation" and "Pro-Simulation". "Simulation" handling results in arcade-style steering and the ability to accelerate, brake and take corners at a far higher speed than in real life. "Pro-Simulation", on the other hand results in very nervous steering and cars that are simply impossible to control. It seems very amateurish compared to, say, Papyrus' NASCAR games.
The Bottom Line
While the game does have its good points, do not be fooled into believing that it is the "Ultimate Racing Simulator". In my opinion it is simply an arcade racer dressed up with a flawed career mode and a damage model. However, this game does have more longevity online and can be the source of many fun races.
My verdict: 3/5.