It seems that PC racing games have reached sort of a plateau, where the developers, instead of concentrating on RACING, is focusing on all sorts of ADDITIONAL mechanics that you need to employ DURING the game to "win", and that's just ridiculous.
Racing games now are very rarely "pure" racing. There's almost always some sort of a 'twist' as the selling point.
The "pure" racers like NFS: Shift and Formula 1 2011 are going for the pure simulation: tire contact patch, squeak of suspension, and more. There are people who love that sort of games, and the really diehard play iRacing.
There are the "arcade" racers like GRID, DiRT, that use looser physics, simpler car control, to get the adrenaline going without thinking too much about spring rates, gear ratios, downforce, and such.
Then there are the "twist" racers... cars with... something.
Nothing wrong with a twist. Pure racing is a bit boring, tell you the truth. However, when the additional mechanics takes over the game and distracts from racing, then the designer have failed.
Example 1: Blur
Blur, for example, is basically "Mario Kart" with real cars. You grab power ups and shoot them at opponents front or back. However, instead of just that, they added some additional minigames DURING the race, i.e. hit this "gate special" and you need to make it through 12 gates (while you're racing other cars) to get popularity bonus.
Instead of racing, this 'racing with weapons' basically turns race into a crapshoot. Skills no longer matter. Even if you are ahead you're one or two weapon hits away from dropping way back into the pack. Even if you are behind if you got lucky with weapon hits you'll be ahead in no time. You call that excitement, I call that "games of chance", instead of games of skill.
Without the weapons, the game is actually quite good, with decent driving model, track, special effects, and so on. However, the weapons added way too much chaos into the game thus negative value of skill.
The game also suffers from "doing-too-much-itis". One of the mechanics they introduced is "fan base", where if you do some special moves, you get additional fans. Except the moves usually involve you 1) pick up a special "fan powerup", and 2) that activates a series of gates, which are active WHILE YOU race. You need to go through ALL of these gates (through the middle, not just clipping them) to fulfill the bonus objective: pleasing the crowd. So not only you have to pick racing line, dodge other cars, AND dodge weapons, deploy defenses, use weapons, but you also have to alter your racing line to go through those gates. There's just too much to do and sensory overload.
Example 2: those ATX / MTX games.
I have played many of those ATX racing games, where you *must* perform stunts to gain nitro, and nitro to go faster. You cannot just 'race'. If you don't do any stunts you get no nitro and you end up in last place. If you do stunts and **** up, you end up in last place any way. You cannot ONLY do stunts either. This is like a "forced marriage" of the two genres where the couple is handcuffed together, neither happy.
The actual mechanics ends up as race, race, stunt!, race race race stunt! repeat ad infinitum. If you integrate the stunt INTO the racing that's fine. But what this feels like is playing Wario brothers... where you play a game, then in the middle of the game you sudden swap to an unrelated minigame, only to switch back to your regular game after a few seconds.
Example 3: Ridge Racer Unbounded
Ridge Racer is all about drifting and the latest version adds a bit of Motor Storm, Burnout, and Split/Second, as well as a bit of NFS: Motor City and Trackmania. It is definitely different, but it is NOT better.
Basically, instead of just racing, your job is now to drift as much as possible, and thus, earn boost. Then use boost strategically to smash through buildings and other stuff to create shortcuts as well as burst of speed to catch up to your opponents. Drift doesn't "just" let you go around corners faster, it also gives you boost! And boost is what lets you do takedowns, instead of just smack other cars like in Burnout.
The problem with this game mechanic is instead of drifting as part of racing, the REWARD system is now a bit out of whack. Basically, if you don't have boost, you can't win. I tried the demo and played half a dozen races. In all but one race I was 11th or 12th out of 12, because I only crashed like 2 special targets during the 2 lap race. In the final race, I crashed 3, and I was up to 9th place. So instead of "racing" as the objective, the way to win is actually to smash static targets while under boost.
Or in other words, instead of racing car to car, the objective of the game is actually "to drift around corners and turn my car into an invincible kamikaze and crash into things as much as possible".