Treyarch is changing up its game significantly with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. In the past, the studio has handled games set in earlier timeframes, while Infinity Ward took on more contemporary settings. Black Ops 2 breaks with that formula, moving from the Cold War-era setting in the first installment to one based in 2025.

The studio isn’t just copying and pasting earlier mechanics and adding modern weapons. Instead, the team has taken a look at some of the fundamental elements of the series—including character customization and killstreaks—making some significant tweaks. We got our hands on the game’s multiplayer, and had a chance to see how those changes affect the bottom line.

I made a point of visiting the create-a-class section before each of the matches began. Over the course of the evening I found a build that seemed to work pretty well for my playstyle: An offshoot of the operative class with a submachine gun as my primary weapon. I chose to forgo a sidearm in favor of a Wildcard that enabled me to equip my weapon with three attachments—a millimeter wave scanner optic, quick-loading ammo, and a modified barrel for longer range. I added shock charges and grenades to my kit, as well as a few extras such as Ghost, a skill that let me remain hidden from UAVs as long as I kept moving.

I tried a variety of other builds, including some based on machine guns and shotguns, but I kept coming back to my operative. Messing around with the create-a-class system is a lot of fun, and the new Pick 10 system is intuitive and easy to navigate. It’s much too early to tell how players will take to it, but it does seem to have a tremendous amount of promise.

We were able to play in four different maps, which provided a nice selection of sizes, locations, and terrain. Just as importantly, we got to check out a variety of modes both old and new. Here’s my breakdown of each of the maps, including details on modes and other highlights.

Yemen is arguably the most traditional Call of Duty map that we saw over the evening. It’s a relatively tight map set in an urban Middle Eastern environment. Here, I was able to play the new Hardpoint mode. If you’ve ever played a king of the hill in an FPS before, you have a good sense of what you’re up against here. Players race to take control of an outlined area, slowly filling up a meter as they defend it. Once it’s taken, the zone moves to another location, and the cycle continues.

This map was a great showcase for Hardpoint, and it really outlined the variety in the map—something that seems a little counterintuitive considering its focus on alleyways and buildings. For instance, the Hardpoint would occasionally pop up in an open market-type area. The shop stalls provided a decent amount of cover during battles, but I generally felt exposed. Another point I saw a few times was inside a building overlooking that same market area. That spot was much easier to defend, though attackers weren’t completely powerless. A doorway and open window were ripe for grenade trickshots, which were typically quite effective unless defenders took cover behind a prominent column in the room.

Yemen provided one of the most memorable moments from my session. I walked into an alley right as an opponent tossed a smoke grenade. In previous games, I know this situation wouldn’t have ended well. Fortunately, my Milimeter Wave Scanner provided an outline of the offender as he blindly fired in my direction. I was able to pinpoint him quickly and score a relatively easy 100 points.

The Turbine map is also set in Yemen, but it’s completely in both geography and features. Turbine is set in a wind farm, with the remains of crashed aircraft scattered nearby. The rocky terrain features numerous hidey holes, ledges, and tunnels. Treyarch pointed out that this was the most open of the maps on display, but that it didn’t necessarily feel that way.

This map was the venue for a multiteam death match. In multiteam matches, players can choose between six different factions in any combination they want—within the 18-player cap. In the matches I played, teams were split into four groups of three. The deathmatches I played were functionally identical to previous deathmatches, with one main difference: There are more bad guys to shoot at. It was interesting to see each team’s tactics (or lack thereof) in action. Some trios split up and lone-wolfed it. Others stuck together in roving bands. Teams who stuck together and coordinated their actions were definitely more effective. This was also where I saw my first uber-weapon, the Death Machine. The portable Gatling gun chewed me up more times than I’d like to admit.

Of the four maps I played throughout the evening, Cargo was my favorite. The setting wasn’t especially interesting—a seaside dock in Singapore, filled with cranes and cargo containers—but I loved the way it was incorporated into gameplay. Througout matches, cranes would lift individual crates or set them down. That camping spot you’ve learned to love? It might not still be around if you make a quick lap around the map. There were also a few crane-control stations, which were great sniper perches. I was able to hold one position for a while, after dropping a shock charge on the staircase behind me for insurance. When an enemy inevitably charged me, he was temporarily incapacitated by the nonlethal electric shock. Well, it’s nonlethal by itself. You’re immobilized by the charge, and you can imagine how that scenario is likely to play out.

Aftermath was the last of the four maps in rotation, set in the aftermath (get it?!) of a drone attack in Los Angeles. The area is appropriately ruined, with buildings missing entire faces, and emergency vehicles dotting the landscape. As with Turbine, the level featured a fair amount of verticality. The most memorable I spent here was in a classic match of domination.

As I bounded toward each of the three zones, doing my best to either capture positions or defend the ones we had, I was struck by how well the map was designed. I didn’t run into any dead ends or frustrating choke points. Instead, areas flowed into the next, featuring alternate paths that seemed to anticipate my intentions. My appreciation for the level design didn’t guarantee any kind of victory (we lost in a heartbreaking 196-200 squeaker), but it made the loss much more palatable.

I was able to earn and use the microwave turret during the match, thanks in part to the new scorestreaks system. In contract to traditional killstreaks, scorestreaks are earned by doing a variety of different in-game actions. Obviously, you are still rewarded for shooting goons in their faces. You’re also given points toward earning the attacks and items associated with killstreaks for capturing flags, defending areas, and supporting your teammates. It’s a classic case of encouraging teamwork by tapping into each player’s selfish core, and it works nicely.

Overall, the evening was a lot of fun, filled with victories and losses. That’s ultimately what Call of Duty has been about, and even with the significant tweaks Treyarch is making, that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.