I actually liked Carbon, probably the last NFS game to have a story backed up racing campaign.
My order of preference for NFS would be:
NFSU1 = NFSMW 2005
NFSU2 = Carbon
NFSMW 2012 = Hot Pursuit 2010 = Shift
ProStreet (only because the handling of the cars sucked arse)
Still playing Rivals atm and the it sucks.
If I threw Grid series into the list above, Grid 1 would be first along with NFSU1 and MW 2005. Grid 2 would be somewhere around Shift 2 ranking as the game was just too easy but some of the tracks were frustrating to drive on towards the last few races (Veyron, pro touge, narrow mountain zig zaggy track, 350km/h = omg).
Agree with you on Rivals. What I hate most about it is the fact that there are very few cars. And the Cop mode absolutely sucks.
Why can't they just create a remake of NFSU/2 with good graphics for current generation consoles? It would make everyone happy.
My order of preference would be:
NFS Hot Pursuit 2002 (the old version, one of the most awesome nfs of all time)
NFS carbon = NFS most wanted (the old one)
NFS hot pursuit 2010
NFS most wanted 2011
Nfs pro street
NFS shift = shift unleashed 2