I think you're confusing some things here.
Let's compare the basic rules for charging in 3e[D20SRD] and 4e[DDI]:
- Action type + maximum charging distance:
- 3e: full-round action; up to twice your speed
- 4e: standard action; up to your speed
- Movement restrictions:
- 3e: must move at least 10 ft and each movement must bring you closer to the target
- 4e: must move at least 2 squares and each movement must bring you closer to the target
- Attack restrictions:
- 3e: single attack or bull rush with +2 bonus to the attack/ability check
- 4e: single melee basic attack or bull rush with +1 bonus to the attack
- Other restrictions:
- 3e: no 5 ft step allowed in the same round; -2 penalty to AC until start of next turn
- 4e: turn automatically ends unless you want to take free actions (like e.g. spending an Action Point)
Both variants have advantages and drawbacks. In 3e you can e.g. activate a swift-action item or spell after your charge, while in 4e you're prohibited from using a (comparable) minor action after the charge. In 4e you can spend your move action to shift (= take a 5 ft step) out of a threatened area or get into a better position before the charge, while in 3e you have to accept the AoO or the blocked path/bad attack position.
But the 4e charging rules are certainly not over the top compared to the 3e charging rules. The restriction to a melee basic attack may even leave charge a much worse choice for a non-strength based character, depending on power ("can be used as a melee basic attack" / "can be used as an attack during a charge") and feat (*cough*Melee Training*cough*) selection.
Because melee combatants in 3e were generally based on Strength (ignoring the common exceptions like rogue, bard, ... for a moment) and made only "basic melee attacks" charging was often a good way to close a large distance and still get a powerful attack through. In 4e, however, melee characters are based on a huge variety of attributes (Fighter: Strength; Rogue: Dexterity; Battlemind: Constitution; Swordmage: Intelligence; Avenger: Wisdom; Bard: Charisma) and melee basic attacks are still based on Strength which makes melee basic attacks usually a bad choice for characters not based on Strength.