For a racing game that claims to be extreme, this is pretty middle-of-the-road.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is about as vanilla a racer as you can get on any system. Absolutely nothing stands out, yet nothing is really broken, either. The game's real downfall is its incredible lack of scope and ambition.
While the HD console versions revel in vehicular glory, practically force-feeding you high-res models and narrated histories of the featured cars, the Wii version just tosses low-res, low-polygon generic car models at you that happen to feature real brand names and vaguely recognizable body types. But that's as good as it gets. Customization options include changing the paint scheme, upgrading your tires, and adding a spoiler. One wonders if that's all the game's graphics engine can handle.
The bulk of the gameplay is in Career mode: you tackle several cities, completing missions and winning medals in each in an attempt to lure out that city's "boss", who you then complete another mission against. The racing stuff is pretty standard fare, including generic elimination modes (one with eight cars, one with one hundred), a time trial, and an interesting Interceptor mode in which you play as either the cops trying to book a criminal or a criminal trying to evade the law. The boss battles are kind of fun, in that you're given more or less free reign to that city's map as you try to hunt down more checkpoints than your opponent. However, the only real replay value lies in getting better medals with better cars that you can eventually buy.
The game is heavily leveraged on driving like a crazy person, which nets you Bounty points (money). Actual crashes or particularly close calls cause the game to slow down, letting you soak in the fact that the car models don't distort with damage and that the particle effects are dull. You'll crash a lot, even with better cars, because the driving is a little too loose for comfort. The gameplay physics reside somewhere between kart-racer and simulator, as they can vary pretty wildly from car to car. If you're falling behind the pack you can hit the nitrous, but you'll find that while you build up boost strength during drifts, once the NOS is deployed there's no stopping it. While boosts can last a long time, there are virtually no safe straightaways on which to use it effectively; you'll crash into a lot of L-turns at a hilariously high rate of speed. Items litter the track during Career races, but they are almost all defensive and designed to avoid the po-lice, an omnipresent threat that is easily outmaneuvered or smashed into (if they do catch you, you have to restart the race).
You can also play a straight Time Trial race with up to three friends for some split-screen multiplayer, but with each added player, the framerate chugs a little bit more. Other, frankly more fun, racing games on Wii don't have this problem. Another thing Hot Pursuit doesn't have that other Wii racers do is online multiplayer. There are no online options anywhere here, not even leaderboards. The game basically sticks you with a single-player Career mode or lackluster local multiplayer Time Trial.
The game just looks generic and boring. The different cities all do look different, but each course within a given city looks almost exactly the same. The street layouts change, but the backgrounds don't switch up in any meaningful way. All of the cars, except for having (sometimes) recognizable bodies, are flat and dull, lacking any sort of visual panache. In a 100-car elimination race, you won't think of the competition as "other vehicles" so much as “colored blocks I have to pass.” Everything about the presentation is lifeless.
Races also have a tendency to be maddeningly quiet, since there's no announcer and the lame rock ‘n' roll soundtrack really does feel like background noise. It's clearly set at a lower volume than every sound effect on the track, so you just don't notice it after awhile. That's perfectly fine, given the quality of the songs being played; it seems that these are the rock and punk songs that didn't make it into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. To be sure, you can go into the options and turn up/down the sound effects/music, but when set to the same levels, sound effects win out.
Hot Pursuit on Wii doesn't even pretend to try to live up to the standards set by its HD siblings. Avoid this one at all costs. Go play Mario Kart or Excitebots instead.