I never played the first two, but after all the hype I eventually got the 3rd game.
I love the arcade-ish feel to the game. No stupid simulation stuff, just pure drive and wreck fun. Thumbs up to the guy who thought making a game based on wrecking was a good idea.
Granted the wrecking aspect does make a "race" feel a bit weird in the game. But hey that's not why I play Burnout.