I've been playing this game for several days now and have a few comments. I agree that the game deserves a 9.0 rating that The Official Xbox Magazine gave it... well... sort of.
Yes, the game is visually stunning and is very enjoyable as a racing game. The overall feel of the game is incredible, controls are very responsive and well laid out. The performance on Xbox Live is pretty good as well, have seen little to no lag issues.
Now, once you get online, there's a couple of bone headed things that I just can't understand the thinking behind why the developer would have chosen to do. First and foremost is the fact that you can only speak to the racer directly in front of you and directly behind you. What the h*ll is up with that? You might as well just not have voice enabled. It's impossible to have any sort of coherent conversation. Let's say someone says something about how impressive of a wreck you just had, but since someone else just passed you, their comments get cut off mid-sentence. That is just plain stupid. This problem alone is, honestly, enough to probably cause me to stop playing the game in a very short period of time... because of this, I feel that the replay value is severely diminished.
The next problem is with the wireframe racing when you want to race with more than 4 people. That in of itself wouldn't be a problem, however, about 2/3rds of the unlockables is different skins for the cars. What's the point of being able to unlock all the skins if no one can see them? I can understand the thinking for having wireframes possibly solving the problem of dealing with the damage model on 16 cars in the same race. But, why not just turn off the damage model and see the default skin for the car? I think that would have been much better than wireframes (which looks completely silly) and allow you to see the different skins (which appears to be a huge part of the game). Also, not being able to collide in races with more than 4 people is disappointing as well. Again, what's the point of racing against someone else if your basically racing by yourself against some ghosts. Project Gotham Racing 2 allows you to race against ghosts... but that's in single player. What's the point of racing in a game with others if none of the other vehicles effect the racing conditions? I'm racing against other people because I want the interaction... Not looking for dirtry racing per say, just that I'm racing against other humans for the randomness that can only occur when racing against others.
Single player, the game is freakin' incredible. Well deserving of the 9.0 it received. I do however think that it fell short on the Xbox Live game play; which, unfortunately, is probably the highest rated feature on my list for games that I play. At $50+ bucks a pop for a game, I want replay value... that doesn't appear to be the case with this game. Such a disappointment... and now I have to wait another 4+ months before any of the games I'm really wanting to come out. I was hoping this game would last a couple of months... oh well... guess I'll have to just play Halo (PC), FarCry (PC), Rainbow Six 3 and Project Gotham Racing 2 (for the millionth time) until something else comes out that looks half-way decent.
On another note, there also appears to be a quality control issue with the mfg of the disc... some people are experiencing problems with the game in first generation Xbox units.