A helpful Ultra-Nightmare guide that will quickly put you on the right track. Become one of the very few to beat Doom’s legendary perma-death mode!
Ultra-Nightmare Starter Guide
Why try Ultra-Nightmare?
Few people who played DOOM have completed it. Probably less than .1% (and that’s being very conservative). The Devs even said no one on the team could complete it during development. It’s extremely frustrating and rewarding. It adds excitement, tension, and risk to the game. You’ll get way better and enjoy the game more, and DOOM is an amazing game. Nightmare is actually not that hard of a difficulty. If you can beat the game on Nightmare fairly easily, UN could be up your alley. The only difference between the two is that in UN you can’t die, period.
Hard-Learned Lessons and Advice
The following bullets of advice are the “big nuggets” – the main hard-learned lessons from failing over and over and over before eventually succeeding in this mode. I’ve done some of that failing for you. These bullet points are super valuable:
- 01-06 is the hard part.
- Run a parallel Nightmare campaign to practice each level once you get a deep run (06 and on)
- Don’t stand still or walk in a straight line.
- Increase your FOV to around 114 (my preference). This higher FOV gives you some peripheral vision, making your reactions and evasions much better. Don’t go too high on FOV or you’ll misjudge how far things are away.
- Do not go for combat challenges after 03 Foundry unless they are super easy like “Touch the Automap.” These extra challenges cloud your mind and alter your playstyle often resulting in death. They also add play time.
- Some masteries are dangerous and not worth it. Some of these masteries will change your playstyle and preoccupy you. A prime example is Double Trouble for the SSG. 30 double kills will likely get you killed and the benefits aren’t worth it. You also probably won’t get it until 07-09. Double Trouble is awesome, sure, but 30? If it were 10-15 it would be worth it, perhaps.
- Do not go for levers or secrets. Getting half or all secrets in a map only gives you 1 or 2 weapon points which will not make the difference in life or death. Again, they add danger and play time. It’s also frustrating to repeat them after a failed run.
- Do not climb toward demons, generally.
- Do not glory kill unless you are in a dire situation. Try not to. If you love glory kills, just don’t do them in traffic. Most UN players don’t typically glory kill in general.
- The Hologram is OP.
- Get all the argent energies. They aren’t out of the way and are worth it.
- Teach yourself not to self-damage.
- Don’t engage hanging Imps. They are significantly more accurate and will hit you if you approach 99% of the time.
- Take platforming very seriously. Doom is a platforming game, and it’s the worst way to die.
- You need to have an individual key/button for each weapon and practice switching to any gun you think of on command. This makes you damage demons faster. Quick switching is extremely OP. More on this later.
- Bosses have to be thoroughly practiced. Check my video for all the gravestones at the Spider Mastermind. People actually die there.
- Play 2-3 levels at a time, max. Playing a ton of levels back to back puts you on autopilot, often resulting in dangerous play.
- Use and abuse teleports and launch pads.
- Lapping and vaulting around the arena is almost never a bad idea.
- Runes are worth it. Do 7.
- Learning how to instinctively dodge and not take damage is just as important as learning how to deal damage.
- Only pick 1 upgrade per weapon. You might accidentally switch mid fight and blow yourself up. Switching mods mid battle is never better than switching weapons instead.
- Use different rune loadouts for different moments. Vaccuum, Saving Throw, and RGR are good runes for a boss fight, but maybe not for a gore nest.
- You can use the Argent Energy grenade against bosses.
- You’re going to die a lot in 01-06 so you don’t dare die in 07-13.
Quick switching is a dominant strategy in DOOM. It’s common among multiplayer players as well. The idea is to fire one weapon and then immediately switch to another weapon, and so on. For example, when you fire the SSG, there’s animation lag and a long reload animation after the shot that makes using it consecutively very slow. You can instead shoot the SSG and immediately switch to another weapon and fire it immediately, such as the CSG, killing the animation lag. You can even switch back to the SSG after that, ready to fire. This opens up tons of combos, such as RL + SSG, GC + SSG, etc.
This technique demands that you have a key for every weapon in the game. The default 1,2,3,4,5,6… setup is awkward, and using the weapon wheel does make you slower, even if it slows down time to compensate. I’ll show you mine as an example. If you think it’s awful, you can tailor it to your preferences.
- Pistol – 1
- Combat Shotgun – 2
- Plasma Rifle – 3
- Heavy Assault Rifle – z
- Rocket Launcher – side mouse button 1 (forward button)
- Super Shotgun – LCTRL
- Gauss Cannon – side mouse button 2 (back button)
- Chain Gun – LALT
- Chainsaw – g
- BFG – t
- Equipment – middle mouse button
- Cycle equipment – q
Argent Cell strategies are one of the first choices you’ll be confronted with. I believe there are around 3*10*2 = 60 different ways you could approach filling out the 12 slots. The order in which you choose actually plays a large part in how hard the mode is going to be. I’ve found that if you’re smart with the arsenal, chainsaw, and ammo collection, the Argent Cell order of Health, Health, Health, Health, Ammo, Ammo, Ammo, Ammo, Armor, Armor, Armor, Armor is the best approach.
Why is that? Health is everywhere. It’s easiest to fill. There are even full health installations around the UAC. Armor is rare, low value per pickup, and Megahealths kill its value and even exceed its cap of 150. You’ll feel some pain with this order in 03-04 not getting ammo upgrades, but just use your chainsaw to compensate. Having lots of HP right away will allow for more consistency and remove “Bad luck.” A high health count early on is a backstop. It keeps your run alive. 100HP is a 1- or 2-shot razors edge and you have to get it up ASAP. This upgrade order actually becomes beneficial in levels 5, 6, and 7 because the ammo replenishes and rises mid-level with the upgrade.
Filling out Environmental Resistance ASAP is a great strategy. You don’t want to die so easily by explosion or self-damage. Anything out of your control you want to eliminate. Don’t fill out category 2, it’s worthless. It’s worth getting every elite guard consecutively until you complete nearly 3/4 categories, then you can ignore them for the rest of the campaign. Dexterity 1 is quick weapon switching. I love equipment (The Hologram), so I tend to focus pretty quickly on Equipment System. Another good route is to rush Environmental Resistance and then rush Powerup Effectiveness, as each powerup can eventually refill your health, which adds another layer of protection to the mode.
- Pistol: I personally feel the pistol is useless after 02.
- Combat Shotgun (CSG): The Explosive Shot mod is the way to go. It makes the CSG very dynamic. Allows one-shotting lower-level demons very early on, which is extremely valuable. The other mod is awful in my opinion. It makes the early game much more challenging, and is rendered obsolete by the SSG.
- Heavy Assault Rifle (HAR): The Micro Missiles’ homing quality is valuable and the mod is the easiest to master of them all. Tactical Scope isn’t my preference; long range isn’t an issue in the game in general. I wouldn’t use a weapon that relies on headshots to be effective because you might not make the headshot. The unmodded HAR is straight up awful and should only be used in 01-03.
- Plasma Rifle (PR): The PR is really bad on its own. The rounds are too slow to hit anything that isn’t pursuit-type AI consistently. It does do nice hit stun to pursuit AI early on, such as against the Hell Knight. Stun Bomb is really good for taking out pinkies consistently. Stun bomb + SSG in the back is a way to iron out the randomness and threat of the Pinky, which can cost you 150HP in one charge. Stun bomb + chainsaw is really powerful for Barons as well. The other mod is really good, but leaves you with one less tool against Pinky attacks.
- Rocket Launcher (RL): Top-2 weapon in the game. The Remote Detonation mod lets you damage en masse out of the line of fire or into an area and is easy to master, so I prefer it. This gun should be rushed and maxed on 03. It makes the early game much easier. Opinion on which rocket mod is the best is probably the most split in the community. The big caveat to Remote Detonation is that self-damage is extremely easy if you’re not disciplined. That’s not really an issue for Lock-on Burst.
- Gauss Cannon (GC): Best weapon in the game. Unmodded it one-shots Imps, possessed, soldiers, and security through the shield. With Seige Mode, you can one-shot and even multi-kill Cacodemons, Revenants, and Hell Knights. Irreplaceable.
- Chain Gun (CG): Great weapon to conserve ammo for GC and RL, good against heavies, Cacodemons in particular. Mobile Turret is the best choice. The other mod doesn’t suit the quick switching playstyle at all.
- Super Shotgun (SSG): great for cleaning up staggered demons at close and mid range. Also is the designated Pinky killer. The mastery is dangerous and not worth it on UN.
- BFG: use it to its full capacity. Get all the ammo you can for it. Abusing the BFG makes the end game relatively easy, and is a part of why 07-13 is easier than 01-06. For some reason the BFG has been cast as an “oh sh–” weapon that you only use in a bind. While that is the case at times, you should actually use the BFG all the time, strategically, even when you’re not in trouble.
- Chainsaw: effective early on and later with stun bomb to get ammo. Don’t use it in traffic, just like glory kills.
- Grenade : the Grenade is useful from 01-05 before you get the Hologram. Early on in 01-03 it is comes in handy for evasion or for when you’re overwhelmed with a weak arsenal. However, unlike Doom Eternal, you have to stop firing to throw the Grenade, making it a questionable choice mid to late game.
- Hologram: Irreplaceable. It makes every battle easier because it constantly takes at least a few demons off your trail. Combining it with teleports, lunch pads, and vaulting is an even greater advantage. It shoots at demons, doing no damage, but in turn reveals demon locations. With the Equipment Power rune and the Equipment System Praetor upgrades, it’s game-breakingly good and renders the Grenade obsolete. Drop Holograms in an elevated, central location if possible, or at least a location with high visibility.
- Argent Grenade: This grenade is good for bosses in my opinion, since Grenades and Holograms don’t really affect bosses much. If you’re busting it out in the thick of battle to get health or even armor back it can actually be more trouble than it’s worth. It has outstanding synergy with Rich Get Richer and Equipment Power, but you have to be very smart about it.
Ammo Boost is really good. It helps compensate the HP-first Praetor upgrades. You can master it by Lazarus Labs to get random BFG drops. These actually happen quite often. Vacuum is good for boss battles because it sucks a lot of health if you need it when mastered. I’m a huge hologram user, so Equipment Power is really good for me. Mastering it is easy, and it gives you armor through the Argent Energy Grenade. That perk can be paired with Rich Get Richer to consistently get infinite ammo through 100+ armor. I think there’s no shame in getting Saving Throw. It’s useful in boss battles because some of the other runes don’t really do anything during a boss battle. Glory kill runes are generally bad because you don’t want to incentivize glory killing on UN.
There’s a demon threat hierarchy that you need to develop. You’ll see standard players leave a Cacodemon on the map, or not kill Lost Souls on sight, for example. They’ll let Summoners woosh around unopposed while they glory kill Imps. For UN, it goes something like this:
1. Urgent Threats: Lost Soul, Cacodemon, Baron of Hell, Summoner
2. High Threats: Cyber Mancubus, Spectre, Pinky
3. Threats: Hell Knight, Revenant, Mancubus, Possessed Security
4. Fodder+: Hell Razer, Possessed Soldier, Imp, Possessed Engineer
5. Fodder: Possessed, Unwilling
The Gauss Cannon with Seige Mode is so useful that it can one-shot 82% of demon types (100% under Quad Damage):
- The unmodded Gauss Cannon one-shots: Possessed, Unwilling, Hell Razer, Possessed Soldier, Imp, Possessed Engineer, Possessed Security, and Lost Soul (Technically).
- Gauss Cannon Seige Mode one-shots (and multi-kills): Cacodemon, Summoner, Revenant, and Hell Knight. You can include the Pinky/Spectre if shot in the back.
In Ultra-Nightmare, I view the run as two parts: 01-06 and 07-13. The first half is much harder, where you should be doing most of your dying and learning.
You can just run to the end of the level and ignore almost all demons after the first canyon arena. I’ve done this level in 3:30. This one is just a formality as a runner, and it doesn’t really factor into level discussions. There’s no risk because there’s no setback. Get the two dolls for the weapon point.
Upgrade your CSG Explosive Shot with Speedy Recovery. It is easy and worth it to complete all the combat challenges. The gore nest outside the elevator is actually one of the hardest battles in the game. Stay up on the catwalk and drop down just for health and ammo. I think it’s worth it to go back and get the PR and HAR and mod one of them, plus the two Elite Guards. Outside the airlock, it’s best to just run through, hop up the side vents, and drop down the hatch, ignoring the mayhem outside. It’s too hard, so just run past it. Get used to hearing S. Hayden’s monologue as a runner. You’ll grow to hate it.
Worthwhile combat challenges: kill 2 Possessed with one CSG shot, perform 5 different glory kills on Possessed, find three secrets (you should get this naturally just by getting all the Praetor tokens and the Plasma Rifle)
“You may not agree with our research, but know this: we exploited Hell and its resources because it was in mankind’s best interest to do so. What you now see in this facility is the cost of progress. Hmph. But none of that matters now.”
This is the level most runners hit a wall and quit. There’s a sharp increase in difficulty and complexity. Get the RL and max mod it with the upgrade module. You can actually chainsaw every Hell Knight on this map except the surprise and turbine ones with the gas cans. Lava, Yellow, Blue, Foundry is a good Gore Nest order. Complete all combat challenges, they’re easy and worth it. There are plenty of cans to blow up possessed, and plenty of soldiers to death from above. The dolls are not out of the way at all. Don’t run along the catwalks in the turbine room. Stay down low most of the time. Save your rockets for the turbine room and 2nd wave.
03 is actually one of the most treacherous levels in the game in terms of the environmental hazards (The entire base floor of the level is an inescapable lava pit). The lava gore nest actually has spots where you can not only jump over a rail to your death during combat, but also easily strafe off the path to your death.
Worthwhile combat challenges: kill 3 possessed with one barrel (This can be done at the very beginning next to the Turbine door), Death From Above 3 Possessed Soldiers, find 2 collectibles (They’re not out of the way)
04 Argent Facility
This is the first level where dying is a big setback. The beginning where you first pop outside to loads of demons is tough. Rocket all the cans and move to the pillar and then jump the gap to the right. This puts guard rails and a gap between you and the demons. Remember you can chainsaw the Hell Knights. Be careful on some of the platforming in this level. You’ll see plenty of death markers on these gaps. I’ve personally died on the first jump. Make sure to land firmly before you go and jump. Sometimes if you continue your motion after landing the speed is great enough and the downhill is steep enough to lift you off the ground for a split second, just enough to miss your jump command.
On the first gore nest, just lap the area, shooting rockets at the HKs and barrels. You can actually upgrade your health via argent energy before the battle, or fill it up in the Imp room on the right. The second gore nest upstairs is crowded. You can actually retreat back inside or just lap and shoot cans. In the blue room, chainsaw the Summoner or kill it ASAP.
Worthwhile combat challenges: touch a rune trial stone, touch the Automap
“Carefully remove the hinges…”
05 Argent Tower
Take platforming very seriously. Never jump late on a cycle. The arenas in this level are all circular. Encircle them, grab all the powerups, and use all the launch pads. Get the Hologram. Grab the Megahealth near the last Elite Guard, I forget to in the video. Take the invulnerability up top during the end of the countdown.
06 Kadingir Sanctum
Hardest level in the game by far. If you can beat this level, you can beat UN. It’s that hard. It’s long, chaotic, tough, and dangerous. It’s got it all, traps and platforming included. 06 takes 25-35 minutes! On the second battle chainsaw/kill the summoner right away or you will face the toughest battle in the game. Just watch my video for proof. The summoner summons way too many demons as a consequence. On the third battle (the return to the first), wait for the mass spawn above the skull switch cavern to take the 4x. If you don’t have the 4x for the spawn up top, it’s going to be tough.
The Baron gate trap is hard, just make sure you kill the Lost Souls (then drop a hologram) and immediately run for the 4x by the gate to kill the two Barons. Stand far from the ledge, the Baron across the chasm can actually jump across and warp smash you.
On the final battle, I use the run up at the end to place a holo and spam rockets. Due to design, demons can only approach from one direction, making it a kill zone. Once the demons die down a bit, grab the 4x, head to the cliff and wait for the Barons. Even though it technically isn’t, I feel the completion of 06 Kadingir Sanctum marks the HALFWAY mark of the UN run because it is so long and precarious. The game transitions to being much easier after as your suit continues to improve.
Worthwhile combat challenges: get 4 Praetor tokens, kill 10 demons under powerups. These two will happen naturally.
07 Argent Facility Destroyed
Easiest level in the game due to ample Megahealths (200H/200A) and no hard battles. Watch out for the surprise Cacodemon at the beginning, but that’s all you really need to worry about.
08 Advanced Research Complex
Take the Berserk right away after pulling the first gore nest outside Hayden’s office. I’ve found it to be quicker and safe against the Mancubus/Imps. After it wears out, lap the arena up to the third floor. Going upstairs spreads the demons out and makes the battle much easier. Abuse the BFG in the Lazarus elevator battle. There’s tons of ammo.
09 Lazarus Labs
This level is long. It has a loading screen in the middle. On top of that, it has a boss battle at the end to make it even longer. At the start, get the Megahealth in the vent behind the crates. There’s BFG ammo in the cargo container after the first battle. The labs battle is crowded, use the holo, BFG, and the 4x. In the Pinky room, grab the Megahealth behind the wall on the left. Grab the Haste when the Pinkies spawn, and drop holograms. In the Helix Stone battle run in circles along the terrace. BFG when the Cacodemons spawn. Grab the BFG ammo in the 2nd rune trial room. Fire the BFG right away when you drop into the final cargo hold. Make sure to take the 4x and Haste. There’s a BFG ammo in the cargo hold and in the hallway before the Cyberdemon.
“The second phase of the Cyberdemon is more dangerous, but 4 BFG rounds can be fired in it”
The Cyberdemon has one attack that is an absolute run ender—the charge beam. The Cyberdemon will charge a beam and track your movement, then lock and fire. A way to dodge it consistently is to strafe one direction, then immediately strafe the other when the beam changes from yellow to red. The first phase of the Cyberdemon is rather easy. There is a single BFG round in its holding cell, so I use one BFG shot and replenish for the next phase. In the second phase, I use the BFG four times with Seige Mode in between. Avoid the raised walls rocket attack in the second phase by firing the BFG at the Cyberdemon before it can raise the walls. I consider the completion of 09 and the Cyberdemon to be the beginning of the END GAME.
Worthwhile combat challenges: kill 10 demons in one shot (Use the BFG right away in the final cargo hold), play the game in the Helix Stone office (You only have to start it up, and you have to go there anyway)
10 Titan’s Realm
One nice thing about Titan’s Realm is you basically can’t die by falling. The Cyber Mancubus on the first set of stairs is extremely dangerous. It’s really good at putting its toxic goo on the ground for you to step in since it’s elevated. In Titan’s Realm you can master Saving Throw in the blood-soaked room before the trap ceiling by shooting a BFG across the room after self-killing in the hall leading up to it by the Automap. Watch me mess it up in the video. Success gives you three lives every level from here on out, effectively ending any challenge of the mode. There’s nothing too crazy about 10, just don’t get smashed by the pillar like I actually did.
11 is easy until you turn the gears. That battle ends with two Barons, so drop a hologram in the middle and use a BFG. Carefully platform. After the battle outside, grab the BFG ammo, and Haste. This trap room is very pracarious, so I run into it with Haste. You can chainsaw the baron around the corner and then face the other behind you. Then there’s two Mancubus on either end. After that, there’s two groups of Invisible Pinkies on either side, BFG worthy. Drop holos and mow them down with the Chain Gun. Try to go into the second phase of the Hell Guard battle with 3 BFG rounds. There’s one in the hall beforehand.
“A BFG round hits one Hell Guard while at the same time the other is hit and stunned by the Gauss Cannon”
The second phase of the Hell Guard battle is the only hard one. Stun the ranged guard (the one that raises its arm) and BFG the other while the ranged guard is stunned. Repeat.
12 Vega Core
So much BFG ammo. You can use the BFG upwards of twelve times on this level. That makes an otherwise difficult two final battles not too bad. There is a Megahealth in the blue keycard room and a BFG in the elevator. The Vega Core arena is pretty hectic, but if you know where the BFG ammo and cores are, it’s actually VERY easy with a 3-5 well-timed BFG rounds across the room. The train station battle is probably the most difficult in the game for most players on any difficulty. It’s probably where the most deaths occur. Starting off with a BFG round to the far end of the room when the train enters is a good idea. Just do laps around the train station, and at some point go fetch the bottom-floor BFG ammo with the Haste when you need them. BFG shots from the bottom floor to the far ceiling work really well. A lot of demons tend to get stuck down there.
13 Argent D’Nur
The four battles of Argen’t D’Nur are nothing special, other than the nerves of “this is it.” If you’re really nervous use Saving Throw the whole time. Beware of the surprise Cacodemons in the platforming section after the first battle. Don’t take Berserks unless you need health. Use your BFG at key times and know where the extra BFGs and Megahealths are. Teleport and use the launch pads. Dropping a hologram in front of a teleport is a great strat. Try to enter the Spider Mastermind with three BFG rounds.
“5 BFG rounds can be shot at the Spider Mastermind”
The Spider Mastermind is legitimately hard and requires preparation. Turn on relevent runes, like Vacuum, Rich Get Richer, or Saving Throw. A good strat is to do damage to it with Rockets/Gauss until it does its first electric attack. This is a free damage moment you’ll want to take advantage of. Hop up on a pillar, and unload your (hopefully mastered) Chain Gun into its face. Don’t ever use the Gauss Cannon on the pillar. As for the other attacks, the laser is singlejump/duck. Don’t double jump around too much because she might hop into the laser pattern while you’re still in the air. When she closes in on you, turn backwards and Gauss Cannon away from her. It’s possible to get cornered if you don’t have this trick in your arsenal. After that first electric attack is over, hit it with a BFG, then another BFG, and another BFG, then a Seige Mode or two. Then hit it with the last two BFG ammo found on the ends of the arena (If you didn’t use them). This method skips some of the harder attacks, particularly the 2nd electricity attack with barbs in the pillar. At the end when it’s mangled and tries to shoot a barbed block, just blow that up or side-step it. You’ll find the ending scene and credits much more rewarding and entertaining to watch this time.
“You’ve won. It’s over. You stopped the invasion and closed the portal—but it’s come at a price.”
This is a recording of one of my full Ultra-Nightmare runs. It was very helpful for me to see how a veteran runner plays and deals with certain situations. Use this video as a reference or guide.