It can be a bit of a chore to level up your character in FIFA 12, especially if you want to use him in the competitive realm of online play. No matter which way you slice it, there will be a large time commitment, but if you set up things the right way and pay attention to specific aspects of player creation and tweaking, you can get your pro to a competitive state in a lot less time.
When starting out your pro in FIFA 12, it's probably easiest to focus on the basics of offense. Worrying about leveling up your tackling, defensive positioning and situations like throw-ins are probably best left for later on, a time when your player will be sufficiently capable of passing or shooting the ball once he takes it away.
To begin with, create your pro in whatever way you feel like and head into the arena mode. You'll be able to tweak your player's position, height and weight later, but for now just settle with a forward or midfielder with average height and weight. In the arena you'll be able to quickly accrue attribute points by simply scoring on the goalie and experimenting with the L trigger. As you start scoring goals with the B button, also mix in some right stick moves while holding down the L trigger. Just spazzing out on the right stick will unlock a few accomplishments right away, and you can grab additional points by trying out a fake shot (hold shoot and then hit pass before the animation finishes) and volleying it to yourself (L trigger + down-up motion w/ right thumbstick) for a goal.
Before you know it, you'll have unlocked a reasonable amount of the accomplishments through the arena mode. You'll gain a feel for the finesse shots and free kicks, and only a few of the accomplishments for this mode (scoring off the post, chipping the goalie) will take longer than your initial 10-15 minutes.
Accelerating the Process
The first thing you'll want to do when leaving the arena is set the difficulty to “World Class.” Since most of the attribute unlocks require this level of play (or close to it), it's best just to do this up front. From here, though, things will get easier. You can pick any team you want to go up against for an exhibition match, but ideally you should download a custom team from EA's website (easportsworld.com). There are plenty of so-called “boosting” teams on here, but all you're really doing is just playing against a team with short, slow, incapable players.
If you want to unlock your accomplishments honorably, you can do so by playing against an established team. Personally, I find playing against a weaker team to gain unlocks no different than users playing five-minute periods on low difficulty to get unlocks in NHL 12, but not everyone may feel the same about this. You still have to log a good deal of time to earn these points either way, and this method will only get you so far.
Once you've got your opposition selected, you can adjust the gameplay sliders even further. I'd recommend making the other team quite slow and unresponsive, enabling you to dispossess them and score at will. Many of the offensive accomplishments are focused on finesse shots, quick passes, through passes and lobs, so you'll want to mix up your attack accordingly. A quick way to get the finesse pass unlocks, for instance, just requires you drop back to the defensive side of the pitch. From here, just hit the pass button (w/ finesse modifier) as you're running away from a defender, and then instantly call for the ball back — a simple, little backheel pass. Do this a few times, and you've got some attribute points for your passing.
That said, many accomplishments will require human competition or cooperation, as crosses, headers, volleys, corners and assists will all be required to get a good chunk of your attributes. Some of these can happen over time during these “exhibition” sessions, but playing on an organized online team will help this along as well.
Tweaking Your Attributes
While you can't change your attributes directly in FIFA 12, you can tweak player and position settings. This will alter the dispersal of points that you currently have. Changing your player's height and weight directly correlates to how much speed and strength he'll have, and adjusting your specific player position will also prioritize attribute points into key categories.
It's hard to find the right balance, but you certainly want to have some size if you're playing more of a defensive or deep midfielder role. This is important because a certain level of strength is needed to push attackers off of the ball. Just the same, you'll want to consider this when making a striker or attacking midfielder, as a smaller frame will give a player speed and agility, but it will leave him susceptible to abuse from crafty — and much larger — defenders.
The player position type can actually have a dramatic impact on how your character will play. Your overall point total for your virtual pro will be changed when you shift player types, but what you want to focus on are the point totals for key categories. For example, a “finisher” striker will be someone who is a lot better at putting the ball in the net from inside the penalty area, with harder shot power and better finesse. A “creator,” on the other hand, will still have a good shot but will excel at crosses and throughs. Some players may find that kind of setup actually preferable, as you can manually compensate some of your shooting much better than you can with the precision or placement of your passes.
Unlocking traits happens organically, just like attribute points, in FIFA 12. These function like Call of Duty-esque “perks” to your created character. Some of them are quite situational, such as the “long throw-in” trait, which will allow you to launch the ball as far as the penalty area in the offensive zone. Others traits, like “second wind,” have more immediate impacts. The second wind awards you with a huge stamina boost late in the game, usually when losing, which will mean you can go all out on the attack and try some crazy rushes, even when the other team is tired.
You can only pick five traits at once, so it's good to focus on the ones that are going to benefit you're play style specifically. In other words, don't bother with the “early crosser” trait if you're going to be playing for headers in the penalty area. You're going to be the one going for the ball, not the one delivering it. In that scenario, make sure to enable the “diving header” and “bicycle kick” traits.
For strikers, you'll want to focus on “finesse shot” and “outside foot shot,” as these will allow you to make skilled finesse kicks that have a much better chance at beating the goalie, especially from just outside the penalty area. Traits such as the “penalty kick stutter” can add a bit of flair to your PKs, but I wouldn't call it a high priority.
By no means are the previous steps the only way to level up your virtual pro. You'll certainly have to tailor your settings and character traits to find the right rhythm to get quick unlocks. At the end of the day, FIFA 12 rewards you for playing the game, but hopefully this method will make the attribute-unlocking process a bit less arduous.