This here guide contains all you need to know to get the most out of your pickups.
First and foremost, you need to understand the track you are racing and the amount of pickups there are. Thinking forward is priority number 1. This encompasses track length, style, amount of pickups you can reasonably get, and of course which lap you are on.
Track Length, Amount of Pickups:
If you have a good amount of knowledge about the track you are racing on, you can memorize where the pickups are. This is really important in case you need to Fish for the one you need, as you might not initially end up with what you want. Pretty self-explanatory: longer track = more pickups.
Track Style, and the Lap you are on:
These aspects lead to situational options that may not be available on all given tracks. Track style, as in "are there any blind corners for possible oil placement?" or cliffs for game-winning shockwaves. Always be aware of which lap you are on, and plan your moves accordingly!
Secondly, you need, of course, to understand what each Pickup does or can do. For organizing purposes, I will divide them into 3 different categories depending on their purpose.
1. Offensive pickups
Firework / Firework Pack
Useful for sniping people at long straights, or sending lightweight cars flying. They Lock on to their targets within a distance of 25 meters. With that said, they are mostly unpredictable and can't completely be relied on when racing online, because even the most minimal amount of lag can mess with them, resulting in a phantom hit. A lesser known tech about pickups is that if not locked on, they fire in an arc, and can still interact with the opponent even from a distance of 30 meters. However, your car needs to be lined up with theirs in order for the blast to get in range, and that is why this is a highly situational tactic. If you manage to influence their car even with just a little nudge, it can be enough to ruin a player's rhythm.
Balloons are the less reliable cousins of the fireworks, however, they are way more interesting. Balloons can not lock on to the enemies making the aim a little harder, but they pack a bigger punch. They fly in a straight line, but have a smaller range, only reaching 20 meters at their most, making them harder to hit. However, hitting someone with even one balloon in the right spot can be more devastating than a thousand rockets. Keep in mind that they are volatile, that means going in close range with them is pretty much a kamikaze move, as it will most likely end up in both you and your opponent spinning out.
2. Defensive pickups
Using the oil slick is pretty self explanatory, like most defensive pickups, so I'm just going to write about the classic behaviors you should avoid. If you want to maximize the advantage you can get with the oil, be perceptive. Having a chokepoint on a track doesn't necessarily mean the oil will be useful, because if you place it in a long straight (for example the chokepoints in Freestoyle 2), players can drive through it with 0 problems. Also, putting oils before corners is annoying, but the most effective spot is usually after the corner where people would already be trying to focus on the next turn. Use blind spots to your advantage when placing oils. Oils last for roughly 30 seconds, so on shorter tracks be mindful of where you put yours, as it might obstruct you.
The fake pickup should only be used at a place where it isn't obvious. For example, placing it next to some already existing pickups, or replacing one is very effective. Your main goal is going to be to replace this pickup as soon as you can, since it isn't a failsafe solution to get rid of your opponents. If an opponent is too close to you (as in his front bumper can reach your trunk) DO NOT use the fake, because the game can not place the pickup inside another car, so it will instead place it inside your car, resulting in you blowing up and complaining about a not-so-obvious game mechanic.
Regarded by many as the most useless pickup, the ball bearing has never been popular, even though there are many situational uses for it. It carries your momentum, so in emergency situations (for example getting zapped), you can still drop it down for a quick boost. It can also be used to block oncoming rockets, though you need great reflexes for that. The ball stays out for 30 seconds, but you can never actually rely on it blocking more than 2 people. Drop it in the tunnel, or other super tight chokepoints.
3. Multitools (Pickups that can be used both Offensively and Defensively)
Without a doubt the most useful pickup in the game. It does NOT have a hitbox, so it can only collide with terrain, but its forcefield can interact with cars even 2 meters away from the center of the shockwave. It has a range of a WHOPPING 65 METERS. It can potentially cover the whole road in Toys In The Hood 1. If an enemy is behind you within 2 meters, you can hit him with the shockwave. Because nothing can mess up its direction, and it can even bounce off walls. Feel free to use it in corners to really mess everyone up.
The most notorious pickup, known for breaking hearts and lightbulbs alike. Most times it will be used as a self defense mechanism, but the offensive uses can not be ignored when evaluating this pickup. Has the heaviest impact as a first pick up. Can be counteracted with the Battery. Never throw this pickup away in the top 3 places, unless you are ready to deal with the consequences.
Always test out how your choice of car works with battery, to avoid unpleasant surprises. Cancel out zaps if needed, if a map has an easy to reach star, you could even hold on to it to get that extra advantage. It lasts 8 seconds. Go fast with it.
Not a direct way to gain meters on every track, but definitely useful for forcing players to use their pickups on each other whilst they are zapped. Use it when you can wreak the most havoc.
The fuse timer is 10 seconds, so ACT QUICK! Just like everything you learn in this guide, pass it on!
At last but not least, you need to understand the pickup values, what chance you have of getting each pickup in each position.
I hope this guide helped you understand the basics of pickup management and what each pickup does. See you guys in the lobby.
Original text by Andor Corrections by URV