Summary: This not an arcade racer like most NFS games. This is much closer to racing sim game like Forza. The graphics are amazing. The races are REALLY intense. They are hard, and you have to drive very well, and realistically. I have picked up too many bad habits from arcade racers, and had trouble adjusting to this game. You can NOT be as "physical" with the car and other racers as crashes and loss of control is much more realistic here. This game has a great career mode.
Summary: NFS shift 2 is a great racer,it has lots of vehicles,upgrades and a good variety of tracks.alot better then forza motorsport.(garfield cutepie Hotpursuit is a cop chasing racer and shift 2 is a standard racer.Both good games)
Summary: Shift 1 was EA's attempt branch off NFS into a driving simulator and it was met with quite a good success where there was a focus on simulation, but it was balanced well with arcadey feel which helped it make its mark. Shift 2 pretty much in every way does this better, with more tracks, more conditions, and now with autolog where your performance is automatically measured with your friends to encourage social networking.
Summary: Nothing to say about the multiplayer ? I agree with most of the other stuff you wrote, although you can address almost all the handling issues by modifying the cars set-up after you have bought the parts that allow specific area tweaking.