Fake accents aren’t inherently bad. Much as they’re frequently maligned for promoting stereotypes and denying jobs to foreign actors, they’re sometimes actually quite convincing (if not exactly realistic). And even when they’re not, they can at least be funny or help us suspend our disbelief for a little while – or both, as evidenced by the Red Alert and Assassin’s Creed series (for example). They’re broad and a little silly, sure, but ironic as it is, we’d probably have a hard time taking those characters as seriously without them.
This article isn’t about those fake accents. It’s about shitty ones. We’re talking accents that slip a little too frequently, or are delivered a little too half-assedly, or that are so ridiculous or nebulous that trying to figure them out actually detracts from the experience of playing the game. These aren’t “bad accents” – these are awful accents, and their existence should stand as a stark warning to casting directors and voice talent of what not to do. What follows are the most notable – which is to say excruciating – examples we could dig up.
From: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Attempted accent: American
Actual accent: Strangled Australian
Australian actors typically do pretty well at imitating American accents (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman being a couple of noteworthy examples), but Sam Worthington’s record is a little spotty. He does OK most of the time, but go back and listen to his performance in Avatar again, and you’ll notice little bits of his actual accent poking through his incredulous Marine’s patter.
And that’s fine for a sci-fi movie set 140-odd years in the future. After all, who knows what our accents will sound like by then? It’s when you hear those same slip-ups in a gritty military shooter set during the 1960s that things get weird. As Alaskan special-forces operative Alex Mason, Worthington’s voice is with us for most of the game, providing both narration and in-game dialogue. Most of the time there’s nothing strange about it, but every once in a while Mason develops an oddly foreign twang that, after a while, had us convinced the game’s Big Twist would be that he was a Russian spy the entire time.
Above: The actual Russian spy was voiced by Belarus-born American Gene Farber, and sounded like an American with occasional Russian inflection
Not so! It was just that Worthington’s accent (apparently strained by the prolonged fakery) kept slipping into a tangled mess somewhere between Australian and American. That was, of course, when he wasn’t just speaking with undisguised Australian diction, which happened a few times.
Worthington’s numerous slip-ups and weird pronunciations had the long-term effect of making CoD:BlOps’ campaign into a bizarre mindfuck – just probably not in the way its creators intended.
From: Midnight Club II
Attempted accent: Chola
Actual accent: A Minnesotan trying too hard to fit in around downtown L.A.
The voice of Maria – one of the first racers you throw down against in the free-range street-racer Midnight Club II – is apparently the only role ever performed by actress Melissa Delaney DeValle, so we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that her accent is fake. At the same time, we refuse to believe that an accent this silly is anything but.
Maria starts out as a passable rendition of a tough, urban Latina… until it’s actually time to race. Then her stiff Chicana accent suddenly skyrockets to cartoon-stereotype levels before suddenly veering into a heavy Minnesotan inflection when she yells at you to look out for “the cawp-chawpper!” It’s weird and grating, possibly even to the point of being offensive, but it’s too broad to not be (unintentionally) funny. Funny enough to make Maria stick out as one of the more memorable (if not exactly likable) characters in MCII, anyway.