Driving games can be great. Very little to learn to start, so "put in. hit start. woo!" works well. But to be very good, it takes a lot of practice to really understand the driving physics, your car, the surface you're on, the turning, etc. Driving games have a subtle depth to them.
For the xbox? Midnight Club II is an excellent game, and really set the bar for the xbox. It is a sequel to the PS2 only game, Midnight Club Street Racing. I played MC on the PS2, and it rocked. Very addictive and very fun. Gran Turismo was beautiful, but it didn't "grab" you like MC. MC has attitude. When the second generation came out, and was available for the xbox... I was in line. Okay, virtual line. But still. Big anticipation, and I wasn't disappointed.
MC II is a great looking game, and pushes the envelope. Great jumps. Fast cars. Varied race types. And some wonderful online play.
But the master? Need for Speed: Underground. While it doesn't have the rad jumps of MC, it has the varied races, fast cars, and great scenarios. But it turns up the graphics. A lot. This game is frickin' beautiful. And you get to tweak your car to make it your own. You want baby blue break calipers to match that light pink paint job on your car? No problem. You're a pansy, but no problem.
And the sense of speed. Phoooo. Everybody repeat after me: immersion. Great. One more time: immersion. Good job, people!
This is most apparent in the drag races. When you car hits about 120 mph, the controller starts to shake. The screen starts to shake. Motion blur around the edge of the screen. And wind noise. Whoever thought about wind noise? Well, the NFSU guys did. And it works. As you fly down the streets, up-shifting through the gears, your adrenaline starts to pump. It is really awesome. This game puts you right into the car. No other driving game compares.
There is another point which I found amazing. Say you're flying up a gentle incline and hit an intersection. Well, intersections are always level (think: cross-street can't exactly be driving on an incline). So you have this lip that your car flies off of. No problem, every car game handles this. But NFSU? As you're driving, there is always a background noise of your car tires on the pavement. When you catch air, it disappears. Subtle, but oh so perfect. And when your car hits? SQUEAK! on the springs, with an accompanying SLAM!, and your controller jumps in your hand. You can really feel yourself in the car slamming back to the pavement.
There are so many things in this game to just make it scream. You like cars? Driving games? Speed junkie? This is it. A total must have game.