'Resident Evil 2' Leon vs. Claire Differences: Which Campaign To Do First

The Resident Evil 2 remake has a fairly short campaign—it took me about eight and a half hours—but it's what you do after beating the campaign that gets interesting, when a wealth of options open up. So while your first big decisions is whether to play Leon or Claire, there's every incentive to go through the campaign again as the other character. Which one you should do first is something of a judgment call. Still, here are the campaign differences—time for a Leon vs. Claire head-to-head.

Here's the thing about Resident Evil 2 campaigns for Leon and Claire: there aren't two campaigns, there are four.

This gets a little complicated. Resident Evil 2 is designed for multiple runs through its campaign, so it can vary depending on whether it's your first or second time through.

Think of it this way:

Leon Campaign A: You pick Leon for your first campaign playthrough

Claire Campaign A: You pick Claire for your first campaign playthrough

Leon Campaign B: You played Claire Campaign A and you're playing as Leon 2nd playthrough

Claire Campaign B: You played Leon Campaign A and you're playing as Claire 2nd playthrough

The differences between A and B campaigns are relatively minor and largely confined to the beginning of the game. To play a "B" campaign, select "New Game [2nd Run]" from the Story menu after beating the campaign the first time.

2nd Run campaigns skip the truck driver and gas station intro, instead starting shortly before the cutscene where Leon meets Claire at the locked gate. As Claire, you're forced to run off and find a different way into the Raccoon City Police Department. It's essentially as if you started the campaign 30 minutes into it, skipping a lot of the exposition and early Raccoon City establishing sequences.

But while the first and second run campaigns differ in how the narrative starts, the real substantial differences are between Leon and Claire's two stories.

Resident Evil 2 Leon vs. Claire: Campaign Differences

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Should you do Claire or Leon's story first in the "Resident Evil 2" remake. Capcom

The two biggest differences between Leon and Claire campaigns are weapons and the characters you'll team up with as you uncover the Umbrella Corporation conspiracy.

Leon starts with the Matilda pistol and gets a W-870 shotgun, Lightning Hawk magnum pistol and the flamethrowing Chemical Thrower over the course of the campaign.

Claire starts with an SLS 60 automatic revolver (it's hard not to fire multiple shots, but that can also make it a powerful head-splitter) with a terrible reload speed, but she soon gets the JMP pistol too. During her campaign she'll pick up the GM 79 Grenade Launcher, MQ 11 SMS and the Spark Shot stun gun.

Leon and Claire's campaigns generally track the same puzzles and environments, but the character's stories diverge at several points throughout. The most important split between the narratives depends on the card suit keys you pick up in the Raccoon City Police Department. Both characters get the spade, club, and diamond keys, but only Claire gets the heart key, which grants access to the Police Chief's Office. This is where Leon and Claire's two stories permanently split.

Some minor spoilers ahead for early in Resident Evil 2, about one-third through Leon and Claire's stories.

In the Police Chief's Office, after solving a puzzle, Claire finds a key card to get out of the parking garage and teams up with Sherry, a young girl related to the Umbrella Corp. scientists who released the t-virus on Raccoon City. Sherry is a playable character and her missions involve stealth.

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Hi Sherry. Capcom

In Leon's campaign, you'll get the parking garage key card from reporter Ben Bertolucci. Instead of meeting Sherry, Leon teams up with Ada Wong, a mysterious woman who claims to be working for the FBI to acquire a sample of the virus creating all the mutations. Ada Wong is also a playable character. Her mission involves some gunplay, but also several cool puzzles solved with her nifty hacking gun.

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Ada Wong's hacking gun in the "Resident Evil 2" remake acts like something out of a "Mission: Impossible" movie. Capcom

Both Leon and Claire's campaigns have other major differences. Leon has an exclusive boss Claire will never encounter (it's impressively cinematic, but unchallenging). In each story the unstoppable Frankensteinian Mr. X, or Tyrant Project, pops up at different times, in different ways. There are a number of other small differences worth experiencing for yourself, but that's the major stuff.

Resident Evil 2 Campaign: Claire or Leon First?

Now here's the judgment call—maybe your decision comes down to weapons. For much of Leon's campaign, you'll use the shotgun, magnum and pistol. Two are precision weapons. Even the shotgun requires some aiming. That said, not much tops Leon's flamethrower for skin-charring, plant-burning fun, though you don't have it for much of the game. With Leon's weapons, Resident Evil 2 feels like a tactical shooter.

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Aiming with the HUD turned off is terrifying. Capcom

Claire's weapon set is, in some ways, trickier. The starting pistol is tough, but a really fun gun because it feels a little out of control when you accidentally unload four shots into some poor, infected construction worker's brain pan. But Claire soon gets some seriously heavy artillery. Her SMG and grenade launcher are both blunt instruments and really fun to play with. Setting Tyrant on fire in a dark hallway is still seared in my mind. With Claire's weapons, Resident Evil 2 feels like an 80s action movie.

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Hell yes. Capcom

Each player also gets an exclusive weapon for two very different final boss encounters. I don't think you'll be disappointed in either one.

Edge: Claire

The other important consideration is the character you'll team up with. Let's make this simple: Ada Wong is better than Sherry. Her hacking missions are some of the most creative sequences in the game. Stealth stinks.

Edge: Leon

There's your toss-up. It depends which matters more: weapons or which side story you want to experience. But—it should be emphasized—while this may be your first major choice after loading Resident Evil 2, the entire game is structured for multiple playthroughs, including a whole screen dedicated to "Results," with your various playthroughs timed, ranked and graded. You can't go wrong. It's all the Resident Evil series at its best.