After playing most of these games I just would like to share my opinion on heat, and what could be done to improve it. My favourite NFS games were NFSU and NFS 2015 and I have owned and played most of the series.
For me vs. payback much better atmosphere, open world is like NFS 2015
Cops are fun and make it challenging to bank your rep if you go above rep level 3
Day and night modes are a good idea
Story and characters are good, although very short
Performance is nice. Smooth 60+ FPS on GTX 1060. Crashed only once. Small issue with black screen occasionally at event start which can normally be fixed by alt and tabbing out and back in.
World looks nice, especially at night
Some of the music is good, some is just annoying, and sometimes you will get the same track play twice in a row. Music at night was much better than in the day for my taste. But it was better than some other racing game music.
Sensation of speed is good once you get above 300 performance level and nice adrenaline rush where you fly between 3 vehicles, though sometimes you can't even see it coming!
Controls are easy to set in my experience, even though I see a lot of posts complaining about them and their default settings. Although I play only on keyboard (I have controllers but only play NFS with keyboard). Changing them from WASD to cursor keys when launching the game was first thing I did.
Car tuning is non existent, although still a step better than the ridiculous card system in Payback and yet to fully experiment in a drift tune how much effect tweaking these parts will have on the handling. If I remember right in NFSU you could only tune your car by changing the parts, and for drift etc putting on lower grade tires and other parts made your build work better. I have not experimented enough to confirm this, but was more looking for the tuning system that was in 2015.
Multiplayer is pointless in my opinion, and seems to be no leader boards etc for events to challenge friends etc (like 2015). Racing with those on your server can be fun though at this early stage people are probably grinding bank and rep so don't accept the challenges. It may be more fun later as that will be the end game I assume.
Drifting is a joke, you can just skid side to side and get your back end over the grass and get the score required 20% into the track. Even though I am not fully powered it is really hard to hold a drift actually around a corner and I basically just start zig zagging all over the track in lots of small drifts. So feels very unrealistic as I am not sliding around the corners, I am just skidding around on the track. The scores are easy to beat but it does not give me that feeling of drifting nicely around corners which is what I enjoy. Probably could be resolved if you could change car settings like 2015.
Hard to get a nice line around a corner with keyboard as you have to tap the steering to stay on your line if its not full swing, not a big issue and I don't think there is anything that can be done about that. Although vs. some other racing games it does feel more jerky, as I play all racing games with keyboard.
If speedlists etc was added, or some way to actually play competitively. Plus more tuning options on the car I would probably buy it. I signed up to Access so that I could try before I buy (and have played since start of early access). I have got to about rep level 30 in my time playing (Origin says 12 hours) and feel like I have experienced much of the game and finished the story.
In the past, things have been changed with later updates that made the game good (I sunk MANY hours into NFS 2015 in drift speedlists after they was added in an update and was in top 10 for a while), although I guess this won't happen quickly. I feel after the 12 hours play time there isn't much more left to do apart from grind rep and bank and update cars. I didn't speed run the story either. Will probably passively play until my access subscription runs out and maybe buy it later if an update makes it worth playing regularly.
So my advice for anyone thinking of buying this. If you want a short story followed by a grind fest with no real gain apart from getting cars to race in random multiplayer races then this is probably for you. If you are expecting an end game and some competitive PvP with leaderboards then this probably isn't for you. Of course updates could change things and put these things in, so if what it is is not acceptable then it is a gamble for if they add better end game content. I feel although it is a nice game on the face of it there are not many hours of game play. I did try looking for a development road map but did not find anything about the future of the game.