I finally played Fourth Edition Thursday night. I must say it wasn't a bad experience. It's not an old school game by any means. I wouldn't DM it myself. But as a player I had fun. I'd play in a campaign. The game system works well. It had rules for everything I did. This is good and bad in my book. I can see how a comprehensive set of rules might limit the DM in certain ways, but it also bring a sort of uniformity so as the players know what to expect from one DM to another. Each character has a lot of options/special abilities to use during play. Some you can use all the time. Some once per encounter. Some once per game day. (It kind of reminds me of a video game in that way.) These options are based on your race, class and level. To me, some of this stuff seemed artificial. I mean there is no basis for a seemingly normal human to have special powers beyond the kin of normal people. So, adventurers are really a cut above the rest of their respective races. This has always been the case in D&D, but now it is accented even more. I don't have a problem with this. I just wanted to note it. I played a first-level dwarven fighter. I think I started out with 33 hit points. 4e character have more hit points than earlier editions. I also found out that monsters have more hit point too. So the characters are tougher, but so are the bad guys.
We played out two enounters over the course of a four-hour session. The second encounter was against three kobolds with slings and three kobolds with shields and swords. Normally a first-level PC will go throught kobolds pretty fast. In this edition it took and average of three blows to put down a single kobold. An old school kobold would go down in one or two. I'd say that monsters are way more dangerous then before. In other words, they have more combat options just like PCs do. The other thing I noted is my dwarf fighter was a better athelete than the dragonborn paladin in the party. We both tried to scale a ten-foot wall (to a ledge). I made it on the second try. I had a D20 +9 to get a 10+ result. The dragonborn had a D20+1 for the same feat. I thought it was slightly odd that a six-foot tall humaniod dragon couldn't get up to a ten-foot tall ledge better than a four foot eight inch dwarf, but hey, that might just be me. With all the options availabvle to PCs and bad guys, it makes combat more complex and thus slower to play out. There are also a lot of special conditions in combat that the DM must keep track of. I can see how this would be cumberson in large combats. We were in smallish combats and it seemed the DM had a job of keeping it all straight. In fact, the DM mentioned the game ran smoother when there were experienced player to help the DM remember all the rules involved.
To sum it up. The game seems playable. More so for the player than the DM. The DM has more to keep track of then ever before. It's a fun game. Not old school by any means. It does seems focused on combat over role-playing. I'd play it again in an instant. I would never EVER DM it. I'd stick with something old school for my own personal DMing and campaign.