There are four tests that comprise the main 3DMark benchmark, all of which are brand-new. The first graphics test is called "Jane Nash" and shows a woman escaping a "mad scientist lair". Water effects abound, as do not-so-subtle advertisements for Sapphire. Jane also appears to be a hologram, since she glows in a completely unnatural way - but we would assume that the glowing serves as a good way to stress your GPU. The water effects also look nice, but the bad guys with their "orange camouflage" are even worse than Glow-bug Jane… and they subscribe to the Storm Trooper school of battle tactics, clearly incapable of hitting the broad side of a barn. They were probably too busy checking out Jane's assets….
The second graphics test is "New Calico" and it involves spaceships, asteroids, and an impressive looking planetary bombardment sequence. Perhaps it's intended as a follow-up to the "Proxycon" benchmarks from earlier 3DMark releases; that doesn't matter too much, though, as most users are simply interested in the final performance score. While it doesn't appear to be as stressful as the Jane Nash demo, we actually think the graphics and effects are better in this benchmark.
The two CPU benchmarks use similar looking scenes of differing complexity, showing a bunch of small stunt airplanes flying around a scene. One focuses on AI performance and the other looks at physics processing capabilities. PhysX hardware should improve performance on the latter, although without an appropriate system we were not yet able to verify this. Not that it matters much; improving a benchmark score is one thing, whereas improving gaming performance is a different matter. To date, only a few titles (including Unreal Tournament 3) support PhysX, and nothing we've played actually requires it. Besides the four major benchmarks, Futuremark includes six other "Feature Tests" that look at things like texturing performance, particle simulations, cloth rendering, and ray tracing among other things. These feature tests do not influence the final score, similar to what we've seen with previous 3DMark test suites.
Update #3: For those interested in viewing the first benchmark without going to the trouble of downloading and installing 3DMark Vantage, we've captured the content for a video. The frame rates are a bit choppy from the capturing process, but you can at least get some idea of what the benchmark looks like in action.