I was pleasantly surprised by this game. It has taken the best ingredients from the competition and put them all into one package.
NFS Hot Pursuit 2 has graphics that stand up to the benchmark of GT3 (OK, they're not AS good, but graphically it is the nearest rival that GT3 has amongst PS2 racers), it has the close racing action of TOCA Race Car Driver and it has the arcade fun of Burnout 2 (now, not only can you "steer" your opponents into oncoming traffic, but you can also stuff a pursuing police car into an oncoming truck - infinately more satisfying!!!).
For those of you who like the souping up and tuning options, there is none of that here - just racing action. In a way I think that is a good thing - in GT3 if you wanted your AI opponents to present any sort of challenge in identical cars, you had to de-tune your own car so that it had about 150bhp less and then just outbrake them on corners (whilst trying to hold them up on straights).
Cars are virtually all European (what about the Japanese Honda NSXs, Toyota Supras and Mitsubishi GTOs?) which is a shame, but all the major euro-marques are present in some form.
I still rate GT3 as the best PS2 racer OVERALL, but this is probably the most fun and most easily accessible for novices - just plug and play!