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The Last of Us 2 co-director has villainous surprise appearance in-game

Meet Doctor Uckmann

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A collectible card of Doctor Uckmann (Neil Druckmann) in The Last of Us 2. Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

The Last of Us Part 2 might be known as a heavy game full of brutal moments, but there’s some lightheartedness in there, too. You can, for instance, collect a variety of trading cards that flesh out a world of heroes and villains, including one that may seem familiar to anyone who knows the people who actually worked on the game.

Pictured above, we’ve got “Doctor Uckmann,” a stern-looking, bearded fellow who seems to be a ringer for Neil Druckmann, creative director on The Last of Us Part 2. When you turn the card over and read further, the character’s backstory comes into focus:

Ellie looking at the back of the Doctor Uckmann trading card in The Last of Us 2 Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

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 his work in secret, creating super-AI 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.

It’s obviously a gag, and one of many at that. The Last of Us Part 2 also features cameos from old, dusty PlayStation 3s and a PlayStation Vita, and at one point the survival horror game even name drops an in-universe porn film named after Crash Bandicoot.

All of this to say, you’re not meant to take the trading card completely seriously. At the same time, if you know the development story behind The Last of Us Part 2, the card takes on a slightly different meaning. As reported by Kotaku in early 2020, Naughty Dog apparently pulled long hours to complete the game, reportedly burning out staff members and racking up a high turnover rate. The game is full of small, technical details that were, according to the report, only possible because the studio “built a culture of perfectionism, where games have to be great, no matter the human cost.”

With that context in mind, the card and its mention of Uckmann’s penchant for pushing “human limits” takes on a different tone. You’ll note, however, that the character’s morality bar isn’t fully docked to the left — so, he’s not fully evil. That might explain why Uckmann longs for people to give his subjects some respect; it’s not all selfish!

Possibly, we’re reading too much into the Easter egg. But still, curious that it exists, no?

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