The Last of Us 2 makes bizarre nod to Naughty Dog crunch

The Last of Us 2 has an absolute ton of collectibles. Some of them fill out the world, others are just silly, and a couple seemingly acknowledge Naughty Dog’s notorious knack for crunch. Two of the game’s Marvel Universe-esque collectible cards mention two of the main minds behind The Last of Us and contain some interesting descriptions.

The Last of Us 2 makes bizarre nod to Naughty Dog crunch

The first stars Doctor Uckmann, an obvious nod to the game’s creative director and Naughty Dog vice president, Neil Druckmann. The description is as follows:

“Once a well-respected researcher, Doctor Uckmann’s questionable experiments in the realm of pushing human limits saw him ostracized from the scientific community. Even the morally-compromised Laurent Foucault of SPARK Laboratories found his work dubious. Undeterred, Uckmann continued to do his bidding and protect his research while he and The New Dogs stage high-tech heists to fund it all. Constantly moving his lab location so no one can find him, he longs for the day where his subjects will be treated as equals.”

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While the final parts are appear like typical comic villain backstory, the first sentence of “pushing human limits” is quite peculiar. Naughty Dog has come under fire (as have many other studios) in the recent months as a brutal report from March 2020 detailed the studio’s grim working conditions. Employees were pressured to work egregious hours to hit the quality level that the developer was known for.

The Last of Us 2 makes bizarre nod to Naughty Dog crunch

Another one of the cards also contains another reference to Naughty Dog’s infamous crunch practices. The card in question is a goofy parody of ex-Naughty Dog employee and game director of The Last of Us Bruce Straley. Straley’s card is under the name Randy Styles and mentions crunch but with slightly less edge.

“Once, he was Doctor Uckmann’s research partner, working late nights to develop all manner of technology for the betterment of mankind, until one day, he just vanished!” reads part of the card’s description.

Straley left the studio in September 2017 following a sabbatical he took after Uncharted 4‘s release (which he also directed). As noted in reporter Jason Scherier’s Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Druckmann’s collaborative partner was notorious for working long hours and even rented a second apartment near the studio to cut down on the commute.

Given all this context, it’s bizarre to reference the working conditions like that (even if accidentally) in the game, especially since the studio hasn’t committed to easing up. Druckmann did, however, praise the game’s animators two days after the damning report dropped but did so without mentioning the crunch that was the focal point of that report.