I bought D&D4 today. I skimmed the books this afternoon, and found a few neat features: multiclassing is mostly out. Chaotic Good, True Neutral, and Lawful Evil are out. LG, G, E, and CE are the remaining alignments. Unaligned characters are allowed. Skills are binary: Trained or untrained. All characters have a BAB progression (in 3E terms) of 1/2. That is, you roll d20+Level/2+StrengthBonus to hit. You hit if you beat their 10+Armor+Level/2. Saving throws work similarly, and touch-like attacks are now simply vs. Reflex instead of vs. AC. Grappling is greatly simplified. Attacks of opportunity are greatly simplified, while retraining the ability for a character to control some territory.
Rolling of stats is strongly discouraged. Most characters are expected to have stats of 16/14/13/12/11/10. There’s a point-build system that can’t actually create that mix; the closest it comes is 16/15/13/12/11/10.
It took me about an hour to duplicate Belkar Bitterleaf. I did make him a pure Rogue, though. There’s plenty of choice involved in a first level character: race and class, stat allocation, one feat from a list of a few dozen, four skills from a list of twenty or so, a class style (strong rogue or sneaky rogue, in this case), two at-will powers (your basic attacks), a once/encounter power, and a once/day power. Equipment finishes off the character and he’s ready to play.
I suspect that I could bang out an adventuring party in about two hours total, assuming everybody had read the book or played previous incarnations of D&D. That would leave a few hours for a sample adventure.
Update: Also, prestige classes are mostly gone: you have a general class levels 1-10, a focused class within the base cloass 11-20, and an Epic Destiny not-necessarily-related to your class from 21-30. That Epic Destiny includes an ascension/immortality/endgame scenario.
Two downsides: First, there is no simple option. You can’t just hand someone a Barbarian and tell them to Rage in combat. Every class has spells, powers, or something else to pick.
Second, a bunch of old favorites are gone. I didn’t see “Magic Circle against Whatever” here, or really any domination/mind-control powers at all. I may find them on a deeper reading, but there’s definitely a reduction to one plane of effect. That will dramatically simplify the strategy, but the tactical game may work out OK.