|“||Mr. Payne, it's time to show you the benefits of my brew. Be a good boy now.||„|
|~ Nicole Horne|
Nicole Horne (also known as: The Witch) is the main antagonist of Max Payne. She is a cold-hearted, sadistic, and unethical psychopath businesswoman, who is responsible for not only the crisis in the game, but is directly responsible for the all the tragedy in Max Payne's life as well she serves as the CEO of her company Aesir Corporation.
Nicole is the Chief Executive Officer of the Aesir Corporation, and one of the most powerful women in New York City. As the CEO she orchestrated mass development of a hallucinogenic drug known as Valkyr. The drug was initially produced to be a performance enhancer, meant to be used by the U.S. Military, but the drug had dangerous side effects. The test subjects turned out to be lunatic killers and the project was officially cancelled. Despite of it, Horne illegally countinuned the production of the substance. She blackmailed the former members of the project into silence and aswell used a powerful mafia crime family from New York for the distrubution of Valkyr.
Before the events of the game. Max's wife Michelle, who works at DA's office, discovered information about the drug and its ties to the Aesir Corporation, and began investigating it. Infuriated, Nicole sent an overdosed group of drug addicts to butcher Michelle and her daughter at the Payne residence, in New Jersey.
Max, an NYPD cop, had arrived home from work to discover his home had been broken into. Max's first encounter with Nicole happened over the phone, as Nicole calls the Payne residence and informs Max she can't help him. Max ends up killing the addicts, but his wife and daughter are already shot to death.
Three years later, Max starts investigated Valkyr with the DEA with his friend Alex Balder. During their undercover work, Alex is killed, and the NYPD believe Max is the killer.
Max discovers that Mafia kingpin, Don Punchinello is behind the murder and is the one attempting to frame Max. When Max raids Punchinello's home, Punchinello pleads for his life saying that he was just doing what Horne had ordered him to do. Seconds later, Horne's personal army, known as the Killer Suits, breaks in and kills Punchinello, and capture Max. Nicole injects Max with a large dose of Valkyr in an sadistic attempt to kill him. Max after a strong hallucination however, survives.
Afterwards Max investigates a facility, which Horne referred to as "Cold Steel". During the infiltration, it is revealed, that Cold Steel is the place where Valkyr is being produced. Max also learns, that his family was killed due to the DA leak, which the leadership covered as an authorised a "field test" at Max's old adress in New Jersey. Due to Max's investigations, Horne orders the descruction of Cold Steel to cover up possible connections to Aesir Corporation.
Max, after escaping from Cold Steel, confronts one of his parnters at the DEA, who uses the codname "B.B.". Instuling him as the "Backstabbing Bastard", Max actually finds out, that B.B. is Horne's minion and that she used the corrupt DEA agent to frame Payne for the death of Alex Balder. Although B.B. attempts to flee, Max Payne ultimately kills Nicole's operative. Afterwards, Max receives a call from Alfred Wooden, who invites him to a meeting, promising, to reveal who Horne really is.
During the meeting with Wooden, Max discovers Horne's true identity and that she is the one pulling all the strings and blackmailing many officials in the New York area to keep her business successful - including Wooden and his associates, who were all former members of the project. He also discovers that Nicole was the one, who authorised the Valkyr field test, which resulted in his family's demise. Wooden tells Max, that if he assassinates Horne, he will make all the framed charges on Payne go away. Shortly, a raid takes place by Horne's henchmen, in the hope of killing Max and Wooden. The attempt fails, both of them manages to get away unharmed.
Max Payne, with nothing to lose, heads straight to the Aesir Plaza and storms it. As Max pursues Nicole on to a rooftop in the city, Nicole attempts to escape in her helicopter. Max shoots the wires holding up a massive antenna. The antenna falls onto the Chopper resulting in the end of Nicole Horne's evil empire.
- Nicole Horne may well be one of the most evil antagonists in video game history. She will stop at nothing to keep her unethical and illegal business flourishing, even if it means killing innocent people and children. She also has no compassion for even her own minions, seeing them as simply pawns and killing them if she deems it necessary.
- Nicole Horne was keeping a very low profile throughout her conspiration. Even Don Punchinello (Horne's minion) didn't know exactly who she was, beleiving her to be a goverment official.
- Horne was so powerful, that she even ordered the assassination of the major of New York; however, the order never seemed to get the green light.
- Nicole Horne has many similarities to Darth Sidious. Beside both being rich, sophisticated geniuses, both are sadistic monsters who have no sense of right and wrong, who manipulate and kill their underlings in order to achieve their evil goals. Both keep their own involvement hidden in their own schemes, and let their pawns take the fall when necessary. They also both have their own personal armies of completely obediant soilders.
- Nicole Horne also similar with Jack Napier from Tim Burton's Batman as in spite of being dead, both Nicole and Napier's actions in murdering the protagonist's loved ones continue to haunt them (Max Payne still held much sorrow for not being able to save his loved ones from Horne's men whereas Bruce Wayne aka. Batman would continue to have bad memories of Jack Napier slaying his parents for several years).