Nicole Horne is the CEO of Aesir Corporation in 2001. A ruthless and amoral businesswoman in her late fifties, Horne is responsible for the killing Max Payne's wife and daughter and the production of designer drug valkyr. Due to Horne's wrinkled appearance, she is known as "the witch" and "the hag" until Max Payne uncovers her name.
During 1991, Nicole Horne became involved in Project Valhalla, a research program conducted by the United States Army, to develop a chemical substance to enhance human stamina in order to train improved soldiers with superior endurance and morale. Horne's rival Alfred Woden and his cabal, the Inner Circle, were also involved in the project. The scientific research in Deep Six, a military bunker located under a steel foundry known as Cold Steel, spawned the hallucinogenic agent valkyr, but the experiments proved that valkyr turned test subjects into homicidal, psychotic killers with no sense of reality. In 1995, four years later, the results were considered "unsatisfactory" and Project Valhalla was officially cancelled by the military. However, Horne continued the research unauthorized and took control of the Deep Six facility. A part-time employer of the District Attorney's office named Michelle Payne received an army dossier on Project Valhalla on her desk. Michelle did not realize that the documents were extremely sensitive, assuming that the dossier was "a mix-up at the courier service". However, Horne found out that the project was compromised and decided to silence Michelle by eliminating her. Officially, she authorized a field test to observe and study the Project Valhalla in an urban setting. Three test subjects were injected with high dosages of Valkyr and sent to the Payne residence in New Jersey. In 1997, the psychotic test subjects murder Michelle and her infant daughter, and Max Payne, Michelle's husband and a detective in the New York City Police Department, arrives too late to save his family. Horne personally phones the Payne residence and Max responds to her call, but Horne closes the line, saying that she can not help Max. Max kills the test subjects, whom were believed to be drug abusers addicted to valkyr, and, after his family's funeral, transfers to the Drug Enforcement Agency to solve the Valkyr Case.
In the next three years, Horne becomes a more and more influential figure. She delivers valkyr to the Punchinello crime syndicate, the largest Mafia family in New York, and allows the mobsters to promote the substance as the newest designer drug for the drug addicts. Horne manipulates Don Angelo Punchinello, the head of the Punchinello crime family, but Punchinello never discoveres Horne's name or identity, believing her to be a government official. Alfred Woden and the Inner Circle attempt to expose Horne's illegal activities, but she blackmail the Inner Circle into silence with a sex tape bought from Candy Dawn, a prostitute who taped her encounters with Woden. In publicity, Horne is known as the President of Aesir Corporation, the company noted for its phenomenal success story. Horne places her penthouse and workplace on Aesir Plaza, a skyscraper located in Manhattan. She installs extensive surveillance systems on the building and hires an army of security guards to secure her safety. Horne is often seen with the "Killer Suits", well-trained bodyguards and agents with sunglasses and black tuxedos. According to Woden, Horne has "more than half the city in her pocket."
Battling Max Payne
In 2001, when Max Payne, an undercover DEA agent in the Punchinello crime family, is framed for the murder of his partner Alex Balder, he starts his one-man war against the Mafia in the worst blizzard of the century. One of the mobsters killed during Max's rampage is Rico Muerte, a Chicago gangster hired by Horne to assassinate the Mayor of New York, who was trying to stop the valkyr problem. To erase all evidence connecting her to Valkyr and the Punchinello crime family, Horne has to eliminate Angelo Punchinello and destroy Cold Steel. She and the Killer Suits arrive on an armed helicopter at the Punchinello manor, where Max has killed the guards and was interrogating Punchinello. The Killer Suits storm the Don's office, executing Punchinello. Max is caught by the Killer Suits, and Horne injects him with an overdose of valkyr. As Max helplessly lies on the floor, Horne orders the Killer Suits to take her to Cold Steel. Afterwards, the Punchinello manor is burned to the ground and Max is framed for the arson. With Punchinello dead, Horne orders the Killer Suits to commence Operation Dead Eyes, which is aimed for exterminating all personnel involved in the valkyr production and decimating the Deep Six bunker. The mercenaries, hired by the Aesir Corporation, eliminate the chemists in Deep Six and the Killer Suits activate the self-destruction system installed on the bunker, but Max is able to uncover the truth behind Horne's involvement on Project Valhalla and his family's death. Soon, Max is contacted by Alfred Woden, who introduces him to the Inner Circle in Asgard Hall. Woden promises to prove Max's innocence if Max eliminates Horne. However, Horne sends the Killer Suits and mercenaries to kill the members of the Inner Circle. Both Max and Woden survive the attack.
Having no other choice but to fulfil Woden's request, Max storms Aesir Plaza, killing dozens of Horne's security guards and Killer Suits. Mona Sax, an assassin hired by Horne, is sent to eliminate Max, but Mona sides with him and is shot for her betrayal. However, she survives. After deactivating the security locks, Max reaches the penthouse and meets Horne face-to-face. Horne ridicules Max's stubbornness and blames his wife for the course of events that eventually brought Max to Aesir Plaza. The NYPD is en route to Aesir Plaza to apprehend Max, but Horne states that Max would be dead before the police arrives at the building. As Max pursues Horne through the penthouse, Horne speaks on the intercom, asserting that Max is doomed not to succeed. At the rooftop, Horne boards the helicopter, but Max shoots the wires supporting a broadcast antenna. The antenna collapses, crushing the helicopter and killing Horne. Then, the helipad plummets to the ground, destroying the remainders of Horne's helicopter. With Horne dead, Max's journey across the city is finally over.
- "Gentlemen we are done here, take me to Cold Steel."
- ―Horne at the Punchinello manor
- "All this, because your wife stuck her nose into things that were none of her business. It's ridiculous that you've made it this far. You won't be alive when they get here."
- ―Nicole Horne, taunting Max for the final battle, at Aesir Plaza.
- "Is this the Payne residence?"
- ―Nicole Horne
- "How sweet, I get to kill two birds with one stone."
- ―Nicole Horne
- "Mr. Payne it's time to show you the benefit of my brew. Be a good boy now."
- ―Nicole Horne, about to inject Max with the valkyr drug
Behind the scenes
- Nicole Horne serves as the main antagonist of the first game.
- In the "Previously on Max Payne" feature in Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, Max states that Horne was a member of the Inner Circle, contradicting the original game in which the Inner Circle was a secret society acting against Horne and Aesir Corporation. In the first level, "Prologue (The Darkness Inside)", a hallucinating Max hears Horne's words "Is this the Payne residence?" on the answering machine. It is revealed by Vladimir Lem that Alfred Woden sent the Project Valhalla files to Michelle Payne's desk in order to intimidate Horne.
- As the original Max Payne included numerous references to the Norse mythology, Horne is identified with Hel, goddess of the underworld (Helheim, "house of Hel"). In the opening segment of the graphic novel in the final level, Pain and Suffering, Horne is called the "queen of the underworld" as Max loads his Colt Commando in the elevator.
- In the bonus features for Alan Wake, Sam Lake explains that his mother was in Max Payne as the face model for Nicole Horne.
- It's worth noting, that Horne can be seen using a 9mm Uzi in the grapic novel, although her weapon of choice is an Ingram during the battles of the game.
- In Max Payne 3, Nicole's mausoleum can be seen at the Golgotha Cemetery.
- Max Payne
- Max Payne 2 ("Previously on Max Payne" graphic novel, also voice in flashbacks)
- Max Payne 3 (grave only)
- Max Payne 3 multiplayer (Classic Character Pack)
|Max Payne • Alex Balder • B.B. • Jim Bravura • Vincent Gognitti • Nicole Horne • Mona Sax • Vladimir Lem • Jack Lupino • Michelle Payne • Angelo Punchinello • Alfred Woden