When first purchasing this game, I couldn't wait to have a go, especially for what had taken so long to release. After waiting ages to install and then update, started a quick arcade game and thought, "hmmm ... is that it..?"
A few weeks later, I'd forgotten about the hype and decided to sit down and start going through the levels. After few hours and 5/6 levels in, this is when the game starts to shine and you really start to appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this game. The physics and handling of each and every car is simply superb. Upgrading the cars engine, handling and transmission is noticeable with every single adjustment. If you finish 2nd and don't have enough power to take 1st, then upgrade the engine, change tyres or exhaust until you can take 1st. With a GT force steering wheel, it is quite simply the best gaming experience you will ever have at home. This is as close to the real thing you will find, the repsonse on the feedback is amazing, especially when you spin out or loose control.
The graphics are excellent, sharp and clear, people saying they are like ps2 are not being realistic. Music & menu system plus loading times are fine, don't seem to have a problem with it. Yes, there are a couple of awkward menu functions, like going back a few levels to tune up the car, but its nothing as bad as 'server not responding' and your game is disconnected, like some games (COD).
The negative reviews could be from people who are either young or have never driven a car, because if they had, they would appreciate how realistic the physics of the game are. If you want to enjoy spinning out a Ferrari onto a grass verge then powering out of the skid, throwing a Toyota MR2 round the bends or racing a hot hatch over gravel and tarmac.. then this game is for you.
All in all, if you have the time to sit down with a force feedback wheel and forget all the hype, then you'll love this game, it's highly addictive and thoroughly enjoyable.
EDIT: It depends what view you use when playing this game. With the speedo and rev counter view the game is faster and realistic. When playing with car view, it's dull and boring...and pretty much rubbish.