Personally, I respect both the 2005 and the 2012 Most Wanted titles. From racking up bounties to meeting certain criteria to challenge a blacklist member, i found Most Wanted to be a monumental entry to the Need For Speed Franchise.
When it comes to storylines in racing games, they are more or less of an afterthought to me (i don't know how one could base a story around circuit races or point-to-point races), but with the 2005 most wanted i was blown away. The storyline, which had you working up the blacklist 15 to reclaim your BMW M3 that Razor sabotaged and stole from you early in the game, had an incredible hook that made you keep playing. I also saw how the story and the racing meshed together as you had to win a certain number of races and engage in police chases to raise your bounty to challenge easch blacklist member. The gameplay is what really counts when it comes to evaluating games, but when a story is incorporated and flows well with the gameplay, it is worth mentioning.
Most Wanted 2012 incorporated elements from the Burnout series (as Criterion is now the main developer of the Need for Speed franchise) while staying true to the Need for Speed format and I found it to be a good update to the original. There is no storyline or any incentive to get one motivated to challenge the 10 (5 less than last time) blacklist members; you just arrive in Fairhaven and meet a certain criteria to challenge each member. I loosely consider this a spin-off of Burnout Paradise from 2008 as the 2012 most wanted incorporated BP's gameplay elements (i.e:sandbox style gameplay and when taking down police cars as well as your own rivals.)
All in all, both the 2005 and 2012 most wanted titles are still great titles in my opinion. Sure, the 2012 most wanted is missing much of what made the original fun, but i find it to be a great entry by Criterion.
Those who think that NFS Shift is a ripoff of Forza, there's some things you need to know:
1) The crashes in NFS Shift are more overexaggerated than in Forza.
2) The physics in NFS Shift are wonky at times, while the physics in Forza are more accurate and believable.
3) NFS Shift rewards are based on Precision (nailing turns correctly, etc.) and Aggressive driving. Forza rewards you on such things as difficulty and racing line.
4) NFS Shift: you're levelling up only on driver level. Forza: you're levelling up on both driver level and car level to get a discount on other cars and upgrades.
5) NFS Shift: Bare-bones career mode based on working your way up through tiers. Forza: Season Play and Event List.
6) Forza has car classes while NFS Shift has a modest car selection.
If there's anything i'm missing, comment below