It's true for me that the recent Need For Speed games peaked with Underground 1 and 2. This iteration retains the freeform city concept, having you roam around discovering the various types of upgrade shop and races to participate in.
The modding of your car has been extended to include direct customisation of body parts, which is a nice touch but ultimately pointless as I found I couldn't be bothered fiddling that much (exceot to create some truly ludicrous-looking car parts for fun!).
Other than this, the only real change in the new game is the "class" system, whereby you choose to participate with Muscle, Tuner, or Exotic cars. Rather than expend the game, this feels more like limitation as you get stuck with a small selection of vehicles based on this choice.
Graphics use more PC power but look no better (the blur and lighting effects are overdone, and simply make the game garish), sound is unchanged, and we're left with a somewhat limited continuation of the franchise rather than a new game. It's fun, but mostly because it's standing on the back of its superior predecessors.
It's a shame, but this looks like it's become another of EA's annually regurgitated cash cows, and I'll be very wary of buying any more.