Honestly, I've only played through Final Fantasy XIII twice but I'd still consider it one of the better Final Fantasy games... loved the story, the characters, the flashy battle system, and the music is top notch.
Never really did understand all the hate, although I remember back in the day people going from being 100% all for it, to absolutely despising it once it was announced for the X360 too, not sure if that had anything to do with it in the grand scheme of things but definitely in the communities I was part of, it did.
Also yes, it's pretty fucking linear for the first half of the game, and it does hold your hand and limit you in a lot of ways, for example what you can do with your party... and I guess people were/are still sour about that too, but it never bothered me one bit since I was riding the story wave and loved every second of it! Besides, the game does eventually open up and let you do everything, so... meh.
TL;DR Loved the game when I first played it, played it for a second time when it came out on PC too, still loved it then, the gameplay still held up and still will today, the story was interesting and great, music is top tier... I 100% recommend you giving it a go, fuck the haters and go for it!